What do you need for your first painting class?

I have been teaching beginners how to paint since 1989. Nothing is more exciting than the enthusiasm of new painters! I want to nurture their budding artistic talents, guide their growth as artists, and help them go their own way.

I am often asked, “What do I need for my first class?” This question is very important because the right teacher and supplies can significantly impact your success as a decorative painter.


The most important thing for your first class is your teacher. You will want to look around for a teacher with experience who is patient and loves to paint. He or she should teach you all about brush care, surface preparation, basic brush strokes, and basic painting techniques and allow you to feel free to experiment with your artwork. You should never be told, “You’re not doing that right”; there should only be “Please, let me show you again”.


A good teacher should not make you go out and spend $100’s of dollars on supplies. Yes, you will spend more initially, but every new hobby or craft will require some basic supplies to get you started. So here is a basic list of supplies that will help you get started and not break your budget. 1. Good Quality Brushes – Your brushes are the most important tool of decorative painting. Look for high-quality brushes whether you will be painting with acrylics, oils or watercolours. Ask your teacher or painting shop owner what brand of brushes she/he recommends. Don’t always rely on the brush knowledge of sales clerks in the big craft stores; they may not know. I don’t know how many times I have helped out new painters in selecting brushes while I was shopping at a large store.

My experience is with acrylic paint, so here are the brushes I would recommend to get started with. Several brushes are available – flat, round, liner – and come in many sizes, lengths and bristle content. Flat brushes have the ferrule (metal part of brush that holds the bristles) pressed flat, and in the round and liner brushes, the ferrule is round.

Brushes for acrylics: I recommend bristles made of synthetic hair.

They hold their shapes very well and are great for stroke work. Make sure that the bristles are not bent or curled. Here are the sizes I recommend for those of you just starting out. #12 or #10 flat – You will use these for base coating and for floating. #4 flat – for basecoating in smaller areas. #5 and #2 round – for stroke and other detail work. #4 filbert – for leaves, flower petals and comma strokes. #10/0 liner – for linework. Stippler brush – these are round brushes that have stiff bristles or you can use old scruffy brushes as well.

Needed supplies: 220 and/or 400 grit sandpaper – for smoothing rough surfaces.

Graphite or white chalk transfer paper – you can make your own if you are on a tight budget. Palette – you can use paper palettes, a tile, Formica, wax paper, deli paper any surface that will allow you to put your paint on and use it for blending and mixing. Tracing paper – to trace your pattern. Stylus – for transferring designs and for painting dots. Water container – an old margarine tub will do nicely. Pencil – for taking notes. Paper towels or old cloth towels. All-purpose sealer varnish – water-based for acrylics, oil-based for oils, plain bar soap – to clean brushes. (beginner lesson on brush cleaning) paint (if the teacher does not supply it)

Optional supplies: Brush Stroke Basics practice sheets – to learn and practice the basic brush strokes.

I developed these sheets so my students could practice at home. (click here to order) Pop Your Top bottle opener – save your nails! (click here to order) 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch flat brush – for base coating and floating large projects. Extender – to extend the drying time of the paint. Mop brush – used for softening and blending. Brush cleaner palette knife – for mixing paint. Chalk pencil – for free handling patterns on the project. Baby wipes – for wiping up little mistakes. Wet palette – to keep mixed colours moist for the next time you paint.

In summary, the most important things you will need for a solid painting foundation are a great teacher and good quality brushes; the rest will fall into place. Also, please remember that there are good and not-so-good painting days. Keep trying and keep practising. Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher to show you a stroke or technique over again. You are paying her/him to teach you; never be afraid to ask for help.

I wish you great beginnings and even greater success.

All the Best!!!

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