Working on a Budget? 5 Unexpected Art Supplies and Tools that Cost Less than a Dollar

5 unexpected art supplies

One of my favorite books growing up was called Christina Katerina and the box. The book takes us though the adventures Christina Katerina has with a huge refrigerator box. She turns it into a castle, a clubhouse, a car and more till it finally has to be thrown away. Then she moves on to another item to be saved from the trash!

This is the kind of crafting I have always enjoyed and loved. There is a certain amount of problem solving and creative thinking needed when you work with green or recyclable items. One my biggest fears is that as an industry we’re moving towards consumerism and moving away from creativity. When old book paper became trendy manafacturers started printing old book paper and artists and crafters started buying. Instead of saving thousands of books from landfills and reusing those in arts and crafts projects, instead more trees were cut down to print paper that looked like old book paper. Don’t get me wrong – I am all for good arts and crafts supplies but I do think that as artists and crafters we should be making a lot of green choices while we create.

Supply No 1: Old Books as Art Journals

That is why I fell in love with the concept of altered books and I have turned several old books into scrapbooks and recently even art journals.

Art journalling requires us to use robust paper and I find that if you glue down 3-4 pages of a hardbound book found at the thrift store you will have a very strong base for your mixed media art journal. The spread above was done using watercolors, Faber Castell Gelatos and stamps. The paper withstood all the mediums pretty well and I will continue to use it for other art experiments too!

Supply No 2: Soda Cans as Aluminum Sheets

I bought myself a die-cutting machine while I was battling with numbers through my Masters in Operations Research. I needed some creative time to clear my mind and be able to survive all that math. I played a lot with my machine and found that it cut through quite a lot of stuff.

The highlight of my die-cutting career was finding out that I could run soda cans – cut and flattened into a sheet – though the machine and both cut shapes and emboss them! My joy knew no bounds – no more buying sheets of expensive craft aluminum.

Please be careful when cutting soda cans – always work with strong rubber gloves on.

Bonus Tip – Sharpie markers and Alcohol Inks work like a charm and color the tin amazingly well!

Supply No 3: Corrugated Card Boxes as a Chipboard Substitute

Yup there is a little bit of Christina Katerina in me too! I think a box holds many secrets and possibilities and I have a weak spot for them. So much so that my family members send boxes full of boxes to me and I have to ask them to stop 🙂

Corrugated card boxes make create mixed media supplies. I use them to create book covers, surfaces to create larger pieces of art and again to run through my die-cutting machine to create dimensional shapes. Corrugated card can take a lot of abuse so you can collage on it – add modelling paste and more.

Supply No 4: Funky Foam for Stamps

Funky foam is available everywhere, in different colors and thicknesses too. I love buying it from the Dollar Store and turning it into fun stamps to use in my art journalling and mixed media work.

You can find pre-cut foam sheets very easily or you can draw and cut out a design yourself. The foam sheets are very easily cut using scissors.

These shapes can be glued onto old jar lids or other recycled bases using some strong glue and turned into fun stamps. In the picture on the right you can see I used an old wood block and a jar lid to mount my stamps. The wood block is amazing since it was 6 sides and will allow me to create 6 different stamps!

This is also a great project to do with kids!

Supply No 5: Old Credit Cards as Burnishing and Painting Tools

I have been using old credit cards to help me in painting large sheets of paper and making sure there are no wrinkles in my collage pieces.

I use acrylic paints over large areas to get backgrounds ready for my mixed media work and these cards have been huge time savers.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and will try out these fun tools yourself!

Leave a comment below and tell me about your favorite art supply or tool that costs less than a dollar.

Never Miss Another Creative Tip!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

21 thoughts on “Working on a Budget? 5 Unexpected Art Supplies and Tools that Cost Less than a Dollar

  1. Barbara Burgess says:

    I have not gotten into journaling just yet. I do mixed media on some of my cards. I just got the set of Ken Oliver Color Burst and I am having a lot of fun with them. Good luck with your classes. Hope you are successful with it. I enjoyed your video about doodling. I am a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZTÂŽ) and I don’t doodle but the basic concept of tangling is the deconstruction of patterns.
    Barb B, CZT

  2. Suella says:

    All great ideas. I’m pretty good about reusing things, but was reminded by your comments about burnishing with credit cards was helpful. I suggest the shiny foil insides of things like potatochip packets here in the UK can be useful.

    And finding all sorts of textures in packaging, bottle caps, and found objects run over in the parking lot or street are also helpful.

    • Mahe Zehra says:

      I love the texture tools found around the house as well! I especially like Gelli printing with found texture tools 🙂

  3. Margaret says:

    Amazing tips especially the credit card tip. I have followed all your books and love all your tips and ideas. Thank you so much.

  4. Lizzy Doodles says:

    Some other things I love to use are #6 plastic which can be used as shrinkie dink for charms, etc. and other kinds of smooth slightly thick plastics from packaging to make stencils. flat styrofoam from egg cartons or meat trays, etc. can be drawn on or cut into and used as texture for gelli printing. And you can buy one of those sticky lint roller brushes from the dollar store and stick foam or other things to make a rolling stamp.

  5. Christine Chipman says:

    I’d like to do your Zentangle Art Course, but I was wondering if you can watch the videos more than once if you pay for the course, or can you only watch them once. I’d like to be able to watch them more than once in case I don’t quite get the idea the first time.

  6. Samantha says:

    Hi my name is Samantha and your courses are really helpful, unique and easy to understand. hoping for more better courses in future.

Leave a Reply