Advice on Setting Up a Home Studio

Published Sep. 11th 2008


Art studios are often very personal spaces, and as such, they tend to be as unique as the artists who work in them. In my opinion, however, most studios will need the same basic necessities no matter what your personal preferences are.

The following list contains six “must-haves” geared toward a painter’s studio, but the majority of these suggestions should still work for any artist’s studio. For those of you just now thinking about setting up your own home studio, here’s what you’ll need:

1. Work Surface

Unless you have mastered the art of telekinesis, a work surface is the most essential part of your studio. Your work surface can be low-tech (simply having enough space to work on the floor), it can be traditional (an artist’s easel) or it can be high-tech (like an expensive drafting table).

There are many different types of easels, from simple table-top easels which can cost as little as ten dollars, to large, $1000 studio easels. The most important thing to consider when picking an easel is the size and weight of your largest canvases. Common type of studio easels are either A-frame or H-frame.

A-frame easels are good for smaller studios as they are able to fit snugly in the corner of a room. This said, they are more limiting to the size and weight of canvas you use.

H-frame easels are larger, heavier, and sturdier than most A-frames. They allow for bigger canvases as well as forward-tilt and crank adjustments—which may be overkill for smaller studios, of course.

2. Storage space

Every artist needs space to store art supplies. I don’t recommend going to an art store and buying a special art storage bin. . . they’re overpriced. Instead, use a tackle box or even a set of tupperware. Old bookcases or shelves make excellent storage, too.

You might also like to have a small table or cart of some sort to hold the brushes and paints you’re using for a current piece.

Storage for finished paintings doesn’t need to be in your studio. Put them in another room of your house, or even on the walls.

3. Good lighting

Natural light is the best light to paint by, so rooms with large windows make the best studios. However if you don’t have large windows, or you want to paint at night, you’ll still want to have the best lighting available.

Above all else, do NOT use incandescent lighting in your studio! Incandescent lights are those horrible yellow lights that we all grew up with (and many of us still use).

I recommend “color-corrected” fluorescent bulbs – the light is much whiter and mimics natural light more closely. Also, do not under any circumstance buy halogen bulbs. While great for photography (when used in short intervals) they will get extremely hot and can cause serious damage to your paint, your models, your props, and anything else in your studio.

4. Ventilation

Good ventilation is especially important for oil painters, but even if you don’t deal with fumes every day, it never hurts to have fresh air in your studio.

All you’ll need are a few windows with screens and a couple of cheap box fans to help circulate the air.

5. Running water

Clean up is always easiest when there’s running water in the studio. Paper towels, sponges, and other cleaning supplies close at hand are also a good idea.

6. Floor Covering

Last but not least, every artist needs a floor covering of some sort. I prefer a reusable drop cloth made of denim or even low-grade canvas. (After a few years of use, you can always stretch it and call it modern art.)

Hopefully these basics will give you a jumping-off point to create your own home studio. After that, the customization is up to you!

For further reading, check out Zach Risso’s excellent art blog, The Capital A.

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