Is Painting an Expensive Hobby? Numbers You Need to Know


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If you’re looking for a new hobby, you may have considered painting. It’s relaxing, let’s you express your creative side, and gives you a beautiful end result. Personally, I think that painting is a real winner as far as hobbies go. But, is it a real winner for your bank account? Is painting an expensive hobby?

Painting is an expensive hobby in the beginning when an artist needs to initially buy all of the needed supplies including paints, canvases, and brushes. Overtime, painting expenses can be reduced by using lower quality materials and taking advantage of sales.

When starting any new hobby, there will always be costs for new materials. Unless you have old painting supplies lying around, you will at least need to purchase paints, brushes, and canvases.

As we’ll talk about in this post, you can lessen the burden of these costs by being selective about where you buy your materials.

Overtime, you’ll need to replenish your canvases and paints as you use them. This can get expensive as well.

But, don’t give up now and resign to the fact that painting is an expensive hobby. While there will be costs, it can be one of the cheaper hobbies you can adopt. 

We’ll not only dive into the initial startup costs on painting, but also the ongoing costs you’ll have with this new hobby.

well used collection of paint brushes
My collection of adored and well-used paint brushes!

How Much Do Painting Supplies Cost?

We’re going to explore the range of prices for the supplies you’ll need to take up a painting hobby. We’ll be using Dick Blick Art Supplies and Amazon as a reference point, as they are universally known and used.

As we’ll talk about later on, you may be able to find deals at your local art stores, which are great to support! The numbers below will give you a general idea of what to expect when you walk in the dorr, depending on the prices in the area you live in.

The Cost of Paint

The biggest factor determining your paint costs is the type of paint you decide to use. Oils, acrylics, and watercolors all vary in price, with oils being on the higher end of the price spectrum. 

The quality of paint you choose will also impact how much you’ll spend. 

Important note: later on in this post, we’ll talk about buying high quality materials that may last longer than low quality materials, ultimately saving you money in the long run.

Ok, let’s dive into the numbers relating to paint.

The Cost of Acrylic Paint

You can buy acrylic paint in sets, or in individual tubes. 

Let’s look at paint tubes first. The cost of individual tubes can range from $5-$15 each depending on the color a brand you purchase. Here are some examples:

Acrylic Basics Acrylic Tubes: about $5 per 118ml tube

Golden Fluid Acrylic Tubes: about $15 per 118ml tube

Liquitex Professional Acrylic Tubes: about $15 per 138ml tube

Again, these numbers will vary depending on the color you choose. They will also vary depending on any sales that are running. 

Personally, I love the Acrylic Basics brand. They’re affordable, yet still give you great results. If you want something more professional though, you can go for the higher quality brands. 

Let’s say that you’ll want at least 5 tubes of paint colors to get started. Here will be your general range of costs.

The price for 5 tubes of acrylic paint at about 118ml each ranges from about $25-$75

The frequency you’ll need to replace these tubes depends on how much you paint. If you paint a lot, you may need to replenish your paint tubes every month, which will make the $25-$75 a recurring monthly cost. 

If you don’t paint a lot, you may only spend $5-$15 here or there as you run out of paint.

Now, let’s look at acrylic paint sets. When you buy a paint set, the tubes will usually be smaller, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Acrylic Basics Set of 8, 22ml Tubes: about $20

liquitex basics acrylic paint
I LOVE the Basics brand!

Golden Fluid Set of 8, 20ml Tubes: about $27

Liquitex Professional Set of 6, 22ml Tubes: about $20

Amsterdam Standard Series Set of 6, 20ml Tubes: about $15

Acrylic paint sets vary a LOT in terms of the number of tubes included and how big they are but, here’s a general range.

The price for a paint set of 6-8 acrylic paints between 20-22ml each ranges from about $15-$30

It’s also important to compare the differences in the paint tube sizes when you buy them individually vs a set. 

Let’s look at an example. 

Acrylic Basics 5 Individual Tubes = $25 for a total of 590ml of paint.

Acrylic Basics 8 Tube Set = $20 for a total of 176ml of paint

As you can see, you get a LOT more paint when you buy individual tubes. Even though you’re paying $5 more, you are getting over 400ml of additional paint. 

On the other hand, the set gives you more color options. So, when making your decision, you’ll want to weigh the amount of paint you want vs. the colors you need.

Personally, I have collected a lot of cheap paint sets that I use to experiment and make fun little projects with. 

paitn sets with dog
Oliver is interested in taking up painting as a hobby too 🙂

The Cost of Oil Paint

Oil paint is more expensive than acrylic paint. There is also a HUGE range of costs depending on the brand you get. We’ll be looking at the more common brands here, but realize that these prices are going to swing wildly.

Let’s look at the cost of oil paint tubes first.

Blick Studio Oil Paint Tubes: about $7 per 200ml tube

Utrecht Oil Paint Tubes: about $13 per 150ml tube

Gamblin Oil Paint Tubes: about $40 per 150ml tube

The price for 5 tubes of oil paint at about 150-200ml each ranges from about $35-$200

Even though oils are more expensive than acrylics, given how long they take to dry, you can often get more use out of each layer of paint (source). This means that you might be able to stretch your oil paints out longer than your acrylics, which could save you some minimal costs.

Now, let’s look at acrylic paint sets.

Blick Studio Oil Paint Set of 10, 40ml Tubes: about $27

Gamblin Oil Paint Set of 9, 37ml Tubes: about $70

Utrecht Oil Paint Set of 10, 37ml Tubes: about $100

The price for a paint set of 9-10 oil paints between 37-40ml each ranges from about $27-$100

Here’s a comparison between buying tubes vs. buying a set.

Let’s look at an example. 

Utrecht 5 Individual Tubes = $65 for a total of 750ml of paint.

Utrecht 10 Tube Set = $100 for a total of 370ml of paint

That’s a drastic difference in price between the individual tubes of oil paint and the set when you consider how many ml of paint you get. 

Again, it’s important to compare different brands and how much paint they offer for the price, as it can be a wide range.

can an oil painting get wet?
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The Cost of Watercolor Paint

Watercolor paints come in a couple of different forms, including tubes, tube sets, and pre-formed palettes. My personal preference is tubes and tube sets. While the pre-formed palettes can be dirt cheap, they’re often lacking in the quality and quantity you’d want.

So, we’re going to focus on the tubes and tube sets.

Important note: you’ve already noticed the size differences between paint tubes. Well, you’ll REALLY notice it with watercolor paints. 

But, keep in mind that a little bit of watercolor paint goes a LONG way. You don’t need 200ml of watercolor paint in the same way you need 200ml of acrylic paint. While these will seem like small numbers, it’s actually a decent amount of watercolor paint.

Blick Artists’ Watercolor Tubes: about $5 per 40ml tube

Utrecht Watercolor Tubes: about $15 per 40ml

Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolor Tubes: about $15 per 37ml tube

The price for 5 tubes of watercolor paint at about 37-40ml each ranges from about $25-$75

At these prices, watercolors and acrylics are basically in the same price range. Remember that your watercolor paints will last longer, so don’t be too concerned about the smaller tube sizes.

Let’s take a look at watercolor tubes now.

Blick Artists’ Watercolor Paint Set of 5, 40ml Tubes: about $25

Utrecht Watercolor Paint Set of 6, 14ml Tubes: about $50

Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolor Paint Set of 12, 5ml Tubes: about $87

The price for a paint set of 5-12 oil paints between 5-40ml each ranges from about $25-$87

As you can see, this is a big range. Again, what you choose will depend on the quality and amounts of paint you need.

Here’s the comparison of the watercolor tubes vs. sets to make your choice a little easier.

Utrecht 5 Individual Tubes = $75 for a total of 200ml of watercolor paint.

Utrecht 6 Tube Set = $50 for a total of 84ml of watercolor paint

If you’re looking to start a painting hobby, you’ll most likely consider acrylics, oils, and watercolors. No matter which option you pick, here is the range of costs to expect:

The general cost of paint will range between $25-$100+ depending on the brand and type of paint you purchase.

Paint isn’t the only thing You’ll need though. Let’s look at what you’ll need to pay for paint brushes.

how to watercolor pencil drawings
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The Cost of Paint Brushes

Choosing high quality brushes will benefit you in the long run. While they will be more expensive, they will work better and last longer than cheaper options. If you do have more money to spend, brushes are where you’ll want to spend it.

While paints and canvases are important, they’re consumable. Once you’ve finished a painting, you’ll need more paint and additional canvases. However, if you treat your paint brushes well, they will last you a long time.

the cost of paint brushes
Paint brushes are SO fun to collect!

That’s why it can be a smart idea to invest in good brushes from the beginning so that you can make the most out of them over the course of your new painting hobby.

That said, we’ll be looking at the range of paintbrushes, from extremely cheap to high end. At the end of the day, it’s important to make your own decision based on your budget and needs.

Like paints, you can either buy paint brushes individually, or in sets. For individual brushes, be aware that prices increase DRAMATICALLY as the brushes get bigger. A small brush may only be $5, but a bigger brush in the same family could be $60.

We’re going to go with a medium size brush in this example so that we can hit a middle range price, but just be aware of how much the prices can swing depending on the size of the brush.

You’ll also notice price differences between synthetic and natural hair brushes. Natural hair brushes tend to be more expensive, but that’s not always the case depending on the brand you get.

To simplify things, we’re going to compare the individual brushes and the pack brushes for only two brands. This will give you a good idea of the costs and options available without getting overwhelmed. 

Blick Academic Synthetic Golden Taklon Brush Round, Size 10: about $9

Blick Academic Sable Brush Round, Size 10: about $35

Da Vinci Nova Synthetic Brush Round, Size 10: about $10

Da Vinci Maestro 2 Hog Bristle Brush Round Size 10: about $23

In general, a natural hair brush will cost you more than a synthetic one. The price for brushes in general can range from $2-$70 depending on the brand, type, and size of brush you get.

Now that we’ve looked at individual brushes, let’s look at brush sets.

Blick Academic Synthetic Golden Taklon Brushes Set of 6: about $25

Blick Academic Sable Brushes Set of 5: about $45

Da Vinci Nova Synthetic Brushes Set of 5: about $26

Da Vinci Maestro 2 Hog Bristle Set of 5: about $40

In general, natural hair brush sets will cost you more than synthetic sets. The price for sets in general can range from $25-$45 depending on the brand and types of brushes you get.

You can find brush sets for less than $10 on Amazon, or into the hundreds of dollars. It really varies depending on what you’re looking for.

For someone starting off with painting, the examples listed above are what I would recommend. They are high quality and will last you a while, but won’t break the bank.

Lastly, let’s talk about canvases.

The Cost of Canvases and Paper

If you thought there was a wide range of prices in brushes, you’ll really be surprised by how different the costs of canvases and painting surfaces can be. 

To add to the complication, you have a lot of different options as far as painting surfaces go: canvases, papers, woods, and more. Here are general price ranges for a number of options.

Stretched canvases can range from $2-$400+ depending on the brand and size. The cheaper canvases will generally be smaller, while the multi-hundred dollar canvases will be very large.

If you want to go big, but don’t have a few hundred dollars to spend on a canvas, you may want to look into paper. Also, if you plan to do watercolors, you’ll want to look at papers as well.

In addition to being cheaper, papers come in pads. Instead of buying 1 canvas that you can only use once, pads come with multiple pieces of paper that you can use for many different painting projects.

Painting and watercolor papers can range from $3-$30 depending on the brand and size. The smaller pads of paper will generally be smaller, while the bigger size pads of paper will generally be more expensive.

The Total Cost of Starting a Painting Hobby

There will be additional odds and ends that you’ll need when starting a painting hobby but, in general, the main costs you’ll have are for paints, brushes, and canvases/paper.

bags of paint tubes
Be careful! You might end up with a big collection of paint tubes!

As you’ve seen, there can be a wide range of costs depending on the supplies you’re purchasing. That said, if we add up our numbers, here’s a general range to expect. 

To get started with a painting hobby, $70 is a good lower end to budget for. This will allow you to get good quality supplies that cover your needs. On the high end, it would be easy to spend $300+ on nice supplies and large canvases.

You will also have ongoing costs that are determined by how quickly you use your materials. 

Painting is a great hobby for anyone looking for an outlet for their creativity. While there are costs involved, painting isn’t considered to be an overly expensive hobby, especially in comparison to other hobbies you could choose.

Keep an eye out for sales at your local art store and you’ll be able to get supplies for lower prices. Most importantly, have fun!

Diana Fitts

Diana has been an artist for over 25 years and has training in drawing, painting, digital drawing and graphic design. Diana's latest obsession is digitally drawing with Procreate and creating t-shirt designs with Canva. Diana has experience selling her art across a number of platforms and loves helping other artists learn how to make money from their art as well.

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