10+ Savvy Ideas for Creating on a Budget

It’s easy to get distracted by all the amazing art supplies lining the walls of every craft store.

It’s easy to believe that without investing in all of those materials, you will never create great art.

I, for one, have been lured by the colorful, textured and liquid delights lining the shelves of art supply stores.  Self-control is not easy when I walk into a Dick Blick!

But that’s a belief I want to change. Creativity is not about having fancy paper, or expensive paint, or the latest marker on the market. Creativity is about making something, simply because you feel drawn to do so.  And the beauty of creating mixed-media is that anything has the potential to become a creative supply.

Don’t believe me?

Well, sit down, pour yourself  a cup of tea - I suggest Chai, and let's dive into my tips for creating on a budget.

Look at what you already have.

Our homes are filled with creative opportunities.

Substrates: Junk mail and cardboard packaging are great surfaces for your art, as are catalog pages (I love using Anthropologie catalogs in my art). If you’re an art journaler, you could bind your own books using all of these bits and pieces, or recycle an old book or diary. One of my favorite handmade journals is created with old book covers. 

Collage fodder: Collect things from your everyday life. Used stamps, receipts, gift wrap, old greeting cards, leaflets, postcards, images or words snipped from packaging, junk mail, and magazines… the list goes on!  Just about everything is fair game in my book.  If I "think" I might use it, I save it!

Printmaking: Look at the different tools that surround you that could create interesting patterns in your work. Cardboard tubes and old bottle lids are great for making circles.  I use an old metal ring that used to live on an overhead light in my studio.  It kept falling on me while I was working and it finally dawned on me that it would be perfect for creating arty circles.

Mesh bags (like the kind you get fruit it) can be used as stencils, as can pretty much anything with holes in. Look at anything that could leave interesting impressions.

Textiles: Different kinds of yarn, string and twine can be great additions to your mixed media projects. You can also chop up old pieces of clothing (those that are beyond repair) for fabric. I removed the trim from an old t-shirt and stitched it onto my art apron.  Take apart broken pieces of costume jewelry and use them as embellishments. Seriously, your imagination is your only limit when it comes to your creative tools!

Adhesives: Duct tape, electrical tape, fabric tape, masking tape, painter’s tape… it all has a different look, and could all be incorporated into your mixed-media projects.

Office supplies: Don't even get me started on file folders!  I love me some of those!!!  Mark-making tools can be found on every desk across the country - ballpoint pens, a Number 2 pencil, and colored highlighters. Ring reinforcers, neon post-its, sticker labels, newsprint paper, paper clips and staples could also be used in your art.

Seriously, your imagination is your only limit when it comes to your creative tools!
— Roben-Marie

Make your own.

Spray ink: Grab yourself an empty spray bottle and dilute ink, liquid watercolor, or craft paint. You can then use these to create fun, colorful backgrounds to work on.

Stamps: Carve intricate designs into wood, erasers and rubber, or snip shapes from fun foam to create simple handmade stamps. These work really well when dipped into craft paint - but don’t forget to wash them afterwards!

Stencils: Grab a craft knife and cut designs into pieces of card stock or acetate, then spray using your DIY spray inks.

Embellishments: Doodle onto scraps of interesting paper, or print using your handmade stamps, then cut around your shapes, these can then be added to your mixed media creations as embellishments.

Shop smart.

  • Shop at big chain stores, and rummage through the discount bins.

  • Coupons are your friend.

  • Explore thrift stores and flea markets.

  • Look online - you can often find heavy discounts on craft supplies there.

  • If you really want to try a fancy new supply, buy one or two of your favorite colors to experiment with first. You can always add to the collection later.

I want you to see that if you look at your surroundings with new eyes, you will find inspiration. You will find supplies to use in your artwork, and you will unleash your creativity, without bankrupting yourself in the process.

I’ve also found that using free or cheap supplies gives you permission to play. You stop worrying about “wasting” your nice paper, or paints, or markers.

Instead the focus is on the process, and that’s how it should be.

What are your favorite ways to create on a budget?  What is your favorite find or tip or trick? I would love to hear your ideas!

Have a blessed day!