Making Your Way Through Michael’s: Build a Basic Art Kit

I’m just going to assume that you don’t go to craft stores as often as I do.  When I walk in, they shout, “Kerry!” like “Norm!” on Cheers. And it’s really hard for me to not go up and down every single aisle every time I go.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a craft store looking for a certain item, gone straight to that item, picked it up, walked to the cashier and purchased it.  The focus and discipline that would take! I can’t even.

But it occurs to me that most people might walk into a craft store, like our local Michael’s, and feel overwhelmed. So, I thought I’d create a guide to help you navigate the store and put together a basic art kit. Afterall, I want everyone to have some art supplies in their home to keep that creativity going.

Let’s start with paint.  There are some high-quality paints like Golden brand that are great for artists who are selling their work.  But for a basic set that is still good quality, I suggest the Deco Art paints in aisle 65. Another option is an Artist’s Loft set of 12 for $13.49.

You don’t need to buy paint brushes individually.  Find the Craftsmart set of 18 brushes on the endcap of the aisle near the paints.  This way you’ll get a variety of shapes, sizes and bristles all at once. It’s $8.99.

I can see how the paper section (aisle 58) could be very overwhelming. So, here’s the deal:  Canson and Strathmore are nice brands, but you don’t need to start there in the beginning.  Again, Artist’s Loft is great. If a pad says “Sketch” the paper is quite thin and really only good for pencil drawing.  Paper goes by what is called “weight.” Sketch paper is 50-pound. By comparison, Drawing paper is 70-pound, meaning stronger.  This could handle markers better. I personally buy Watercolor or Mixed Media paper, between 90 – 140-pound, as it’s much heavier and can withstand all the paint and collage I do.  Lastly, you can pick the size of the paper you want and whether the pages pull out or stay in a spiral-bound pad.

If you’d like to paint on canvas, check out Artist’s Loft canvases, which are often packaged in multiples called “Value Packs.”  Many are located on the far-left wall of the store and come in three levels of quality: 1) academic, 2) artist and 3) professional.  It is a matter of preference really, but beginners can start with the first level.

Lastly, I can’t help but share with you my favorite aisle: #93. Brands like Recollection, Tim Holtz and Art-C get my creative juices flowing.  Art journals, stamps, and embellishments, oh my!

This summer, I hope you’ll put together an art kit for yourself and your children, and I hope that this little guide through the Gainesville Michael’s will make you feel less daunted by a store full of possibilities.

Other fun supplies for your art kit:

    • Permanent markers, aisle 59. I can never get enough of them!
    • Mod Podge, near the markers. Perfect for collaging.  If you purchase some, buy a sponge brush.
    • Unfinished wooden items to paint. These are inexpensive enough to have fun giving them a go.  
    • Washi tape. Fun to use as borders on pictures, comes in lots of themes and patterns and can’t be passed up at $0.33 each.  
  • Stickers, aisle 90. These come in themes from pizza to Paris, hockey to horses.
Kerry Molina
About Kerry Molina 10 Articles
An artist, writer, teacher, and tutor, as well as the owner of Yellow Brick Road Studio and Enrichment Workshops, Kerry Molina was voted Lifestyle’s 2018 Best Local Artist. She holds a BA in Art History from Ithaca College and an MA in Museum Studies from The George Washington University.  She resides in Gainesville with her husband, two children, and two cats.


  1. Great guide for all of us would-be artists…from beginner to those with more experience. It should assist us in buying smart as apposed to buying on a whim!

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