Painting – Setting Up Your Workspace

So you’ve decided to start your first painting.  If you read my last post, you should have the basic supplies needed to get going.

I will be going over how you can setup your work area to optimize your time and keep the mess to a minimum.  Again, with anything that has to do with painting, or Art in general, the is no wrong way to do anything.  I will go over and explain what I do and the reasons I do it.


When choosing and area to create your artwork there are several things that you should consider.  The most important thing is that you are comfortable.  I choose to paint in my office where it is generally quiet and I am not interrupted that often.  Make sure that you have plenty of room and that there is not that much clutter.  There is 


nothing worse than knocking over and spilling the water that you use to clean your brushes.

Make sure that the area is well-lit.  Having a well-lit area where you work will allow you to better see the paint that you are putting on your canvas.  A well-lit area will allow you to make sure that you are properly mixing your colors to the shade that you want.  Personally I use cool white LED bulbs in the area that I paint.  They tend to give off a more blueish hue rather than the amber hue of soft white or daylight bulbs.


Yes, painting is messy.  You will spill or splatter the paints.  I paint on a laminate floor so that I can just clean any of my spills with a damp cloth.  If you do not have a cleanable surface where you paint, you may want to spread out a drop cloth.  You can pick up thin mil plastic drop cloths that are relatively inexpensive at your local hardware store.  If your area has a ceramic tile floor, keep in mind that even acrylic paint will stain the grout and it will not come out with soap and water.

You will also get paint on your clothing.  No matter how hard you try, it is going to happen.  There are several ways to remedy this.  I will wear an old t-shirt and sweatpants when I paint.  This way, I am not worried if I get anything on them.  You can also wear an apron.  Any cheap apron will do.  If you want to go all out, you can find painter’s smocks at Art and Craft Supply Stores (i.e. Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc.).  A smock can be expensive, but in the long run, it is cheaper than having to replace your clothing.

Make sure to use a surface that may be stained.  Some acrylic paints, even though they are supposed to be washable, may stain some surfaces.  If you are not sure about your surface, use a disposable plastic tablecloth.


Once you have your environment set, it is now time to setup your work area. If you follow this blog, you will read me say this over and over, but… This is the way that I do this. There is no wrong way to do this. I am only writing this as a guide. Set up your work area in a manner that is most convenient for you.

The first thing that I will do when setting up my work area is to make sure that I have all of the supplies that I will need.

  • Paint
  • Canvas
  • Brushes
  • Rinsing Water
  • Paper Towels
  • Surface to mix paints

If I plan on using an easel, I will have that too.

I am right-handed, so I generally place my canvas/easel to the left and all of the other supplies to the right. I will place the rinsing water, furthest away, this will help prevent you from knocking it over anytime that you reach for something (Yes, I’ve knocked the water over many times.).

I will either place the paper towels behind the other supplies or place it on the floor beside me, again, so I am not constantly knocking them over (Yes, knocking over a roll of paper towels will also cause your rinsing water to spill… I learned this the hard way.).

I will generally keep the paint and brushes behind the surface in which I am using to mix my colors… Again, this helps to prevent a mess by knocking something over.

You may want a garbage can and a wet cloth close to your workspace so that you are able to clean up any messes that you may make quickly.


Once you have painted a couple of times, cleanup will be easy.  You will develop your own routine that suits your needs.  As a guide and hopefully a way to help you, this is how I clean up and store my supplies once I have finished my work.


I make sure that all of my brushes have been thoroughly cleaned… A CLEAN BRUSH IS A HAPPY BRUSH.  When cleaning the paint out of your brushes, be careful of the sink that you use.  You may stain certain types of sinks with the pigment from the paint. Also, be careful of the temperature of the water that you use.  Some cheaper brushes bristles are held on with very inexpensive glue.  Very warm water will cause the glue to loosen and the bristles will fall out.  Make sure that you also dry your brushes.  If all of the paint is not cleaned from your brush, it will dry stiff and you will be throwing it in the trash.  I generally store all of my brushes in an old McDonald’s 32oz plastic soda cup.


I will then make sure that all of the covers on my paint have been tightly closed.  Acrylic paint dries very quickly and if any air is allowed into the container, it will dry solid.  Making sure that the lids are properly closed prevents them from spilling during storage and transport (Yes, I’ve done that and it creates a terrible mess.).  I will then store all of my paints in a 3-4 quart storage container that I picked up at a local “Dollar” store.

If you use a disposable product to mix your paints, you can just throw it in the garbage.  If you use a pallet to mix your paints, make sure to wash it with warm, soapy water, just as you would do with your brushes.


I will take my finished work and let it completely dry in a cool, well-ventilated area.  Remember, acrylic paint dries fairly quickly, so it should not take long.  Once the paint is dry, I will spray the canvas with a thin coat of sealer to prevent any possible stains or the paint running if the canvas were to mistakingly get wet.


As for the rest of the materials.  You can ball up and throw away the drop cloth, table cloth and dirty paper towels.  Dump the dirty rinsing water down the drain or in the toilet… Again, be careful because the pigment in the paint may stain some materials. Acrylic paint is non-toxic (the ones that I use are), so they are safe for the garbage.

I hope that this post helps.  Like I wrote, this is how I set up my work area.  You may want to set your’s differently.  Again there is no wrong way to do this.