The Pros and Cons of DIY Mixed-Media Art Tools

Do you make your own mixed-media art tools? Or do you prefer to purchase stamps, stencils, screen designs, background papers, and so on created by others?

make your own stencils for mixed media
Linda Blinn shows how to make and use your own
stencils and masks in her "Make it Graphic" video.

If you're like me (and I think most beginner- to intermediate-level artists), the answer is probably, "Yes." In other words, you make some and you purchase some. There are advantages to both.

Pros of purchasing:

Precision. If you want a stamp, stencil, etc., with perfectly straight or smooth lines and a perfect repeat, a laser-cut tool is the way to go.

Convenience. Need a frog stamp? A diamond-pattern background stencil? A floral screen? Chances are you can find one online or at your local craft store and there will be several to choose from.

Educational shorthand. When you're new to the concepts of layering, creating backgrounds, placing focal images, playing with scale, etc., it can be very helpful to rely on premade designs. By playing with these tools over and over again you can focus on the concepts and learn the design ropes.

Cost. If you are trying out a new technique, such as screen printing, it often makes more sense to buy pre-made screens. That way, if you decide the technique is not for you, you haven't invested a lot of money in the basic materials.

Pros of DIY:

create your own print screens
Margaret Applin shows how to create your own printing screens with digital design.

Copyright issues. Most commercial tools come with a disclaimer. They are for personal use only and can't be sold as part of a finished work of art. Even if you might never get caught or risk prosecution, it's unethical to pass someone else's designs off as your own.

Confidence building. In the process of making your own tools you also learn about the techniques you'll use with them. Your experiments will help you learn the ins and outs of using your tools and what works best for you.

Cost. Yep, this one again. Once you know you want to delve into a technique fully, it's almost always less expensive to make tools than to buy them in a store, even if there is some investment up front.

Creative expression. Learning to make your own tools gives you the ability to create an image or motif exactly the way you want it (size, shape, scale, etc.). Plus, you will be making something original that is unique. Any "imperfection" shows the hand of the artist-that's you!

Experienced artists who make their own tools are almost always happy to share their tips and techniques. With a subscription to the Craft Daily website, you can stream video tutorials where you can learn to make your own stamps, stencils and masks, backgrounds, screens, templates, book-making jigs, and more. Learn all about it today.

P.S. Do you make your own art tools? If so, what? If not, why not? Leave a comment below.


Blog, Mixed-Media Supplies


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