As an artist, I totally understand the challenge of income. I get it. Not only do most artists not make much money, it seems that even the cheapest art supplies will break the bank.
After quitting my job as a technician at apple, I had to stretch my art supply fund as much as possible. Getting work as an artist is inconsistent at best, which means most artists need to be rather strategic about what supplies to buy and when.
For those just starting out, I can't tell you how much of a difference quality materials make(in most cases). I invested in new COPIC liner pens and I now can't believe I ever put up with my old Microns. If art is a profession and not a chosen hobby, invest in quality supplies. I can't stress that enough.
So, what supplies do I use?
For my primary focus which is watercolor, DaVinci is my go-to brand. This is mostly because I prefer liquid watercolor as opposed to little watercolor bricks. I think my next investment will be some metallic bricks, though.
For liner pens and markers, COPIC(not the ciao version, I prefer has proven to be the best for me.
My pencil use is a little more erratic. I have a subscription to ArtSnacks, an awesome little project that sends me new and fun art supplies once every month. This last box included a really really awesome mechanical pencil I am really enjoying. For my more figurative work, I love using the extra wide mechanical pencils for more loose strokes. For sketches on a smaller scale, I will use that mechanical pencil I received from ArtSnacks. For really refined work, I use a superfine mechanical pencil. When I need the feel of a real wooden pencil, I love my Palomino Blackwings. They glide so well, and they are just really fun to use.
What about Acrylic? I have a confession to make. My use of acrylic paint is pretty limited, so I am really only using it for small accent portions of paintings. I find that getting the slightly cheap-o liquitex works just fine for me. For those artists using acrylic more heavily, nicer brands would be a sound investment.
I decided that I have an unfair bias toward my own art supply choices, so I came up with some little tests to determine the superior brands.
First, I tested my watercolors. I tried several different kinds, including the cheaper Reeves brand in yellow ochre, M. Graham & Co. Artists' Watercolor in yellow ochre, Da Vinci Professional quality Watercolor in green gold (I haven't purchased yellow ochre, I tend to fill in the blanks of my collection with the M. Graham paints that I have already), and a generic yellow watercolor brick.
The results were mostly not surprising. The Reeves brand came out of the tube like cottage cheese, and the color saturation wasn't fabulous. It would take a lot more work to get even color. The M. Graham performed much better, coming out of the tube glossy and saturated. It lost the saturation slightly after about an inch. The Da Vinci didn't let me down, with a stripe of perfectly even color across the test paper. Last of course was the brick of generic watercolor (I honestly don't remember the brand), which performed pretty much as I expected. It produced decent saturation but took multiple brush strokes to make it across the page. The dried pigment seemed to slurp up the water much faster. To be fair, I am sure that a better quality watercolor brick would produce better results.
Now, on to the liner pens. This was pretty interesting. Prismacolor pens and markers, by reputation, supposedly bleed into the paper worse than most other brands. To make the results abundantly clear, I used a very absorbent watercolor paper. The prismacolor and copic held up really well, the micron was not fabulous. It bled with just a bit of water despite it's waterproof labeling. Here is the pre-water rundown. I don't really know why I somehow didn't include the prismacolor or this one...
I am going to end this one on the art markers. I went over them with the blending pen, and it seems like I got similar results with both. I do however find the copic ones keep their color saturation better, and they are easier to blend. They last forever and just seem to somehow outperform my prismacolors when I am trying to get something done.
I know I'm not the first person to get pumped and motivated by something and then completely lose steam. So I think that is all for now.