There are literally thousands of choices of tools and "must-haves" in the art world and that includes painting. It can be a little overwhelming trying to decide what you really need when presented with hundreds of choices down every aisle of an art supply store. Here are the five things that I consider "must-haves" for every painter's toolbox.
1. A divided trough - this is a square container divided in the middle. One side has a flat bottom, the other a ridged one. The ridged side is for cleaning the brushes, the other side is for wetting them. Around the rim of the trough are holes of varying sizes to keep brushes in when not in use or drying. The brushes are cleaner rubbed against the ridges than they would be with a swish in a bowl or jar, and the container holds enough water that you don't run out during a crucial point in your project. Also, the plastic has a coating that makes it extremely easy to clean.
2. Paints in primary colors (red, yellow, blue), black, and white. You can learn to mix the others if you have these basics. Of course, you are free to purchase as many as you like. I find the two ounce sizes of colors work well but I always purchase a large bottle of white - I use it for so many things.
3. As mentioned, large bottle of white paint (or tube if that is your preference) is a must. Lighten colors, use as highlight, to cover mistakes, watered down it makes a great wash over newsprint or photocopied photos. If you are painting on wood, it makes a great base coat so that the colored paints do not seep into the wood as easily.
4. A variety of brushes including a mop brush, fan brush, fine liner, round tip and a square tip. You can have a pretty decent supply of brushes for short money, but if you are going to spend serious cash on any particular brush - make it your fine liner. This is the one that you do not want losing bristles or hairs while you are trying to do fine detail work.
5. Surface coverage. Painting is a messy business. If you are using a floor easel, you should cover the floor beneath with some type of dropcloth. I find the plastic table cloths at the buck store a great deal but they can be slippery. An old blanket works well on the floor too. For table tops - the aforementioned plastic tablecloths work great. If you have a smaller project plastic placemats work great. Be sure to save a set just for your artwork - then you do not have to worry about staining them.
These are some of my favorites, what are your must-haves? Pop on over to the forums and let me know!