"Know Your Materials, Inspire Your World."

oil paint on glass paletteWelcome to the Muse Art and Design “Know Your Materials” blog!

With so many different kinds and brands of art supplies available, selecting materials to make art can be a confusing and overwhelming experience.  That’s why Muse Art and Design offers artists more than aisles full of supplies.  Our staff of artists have experience using the supplies we stock and have specialized knowledge of a wide variety of materials and techniques, from traditional to new innovations. You’ll always find a fellow artist working at Muse who’s glad to talk to you about your art and help you find solutions to get the results you want.

To help you get the most from the materials you use for making art, our blog contains articles about:

  • art materials and techniques
  • artists and art organizations in the Portland region
  • motivation and inspiration for artists
  • announcement and coverage of local art-related events
  • answers to commonly asked questions
  • fun facts, quizzes, quotes, and contests

Choosing Brushes

By Muse | November 17, 2014
Thanks to Muse for writing today's post

by Jolie Guillebeau For painters, the tool that matters most is a good brush. Paint can be adjusted to get the right consistency, canvases or paper can be gessoed, sanded, or sized,...
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charcoal: powdered, compressed, willow and vine

By Muse | November 10, 2014
Thanks to Muse for writing today's post

There are three main kinds of charcoal: powdered, compressed, and willow or vine. Powdered charcoal is the most basic type because it is an ingredient in compressed charcoal. Powdered charcoal is well suited to ‘toning’ large areas of a surface, but can also be very messy. Compressed charcoal...
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paints: opaque vs. transparent

By Muse | November 3, 2014
Thanks to Muse for writing today's post

The opacity or hiding strength of a paint describes how it interacts with light. Opaque paints are more reflective (not to be confused with "shiny"). They cover and hide what’s under them. Transparent (or translucent) paints allow more light to pass through them. They are ‘see...
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artists’ paints: series numbers

By Muse | October 27, 2014
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Paint manufacturers generally group their selection of artist-grade paints into 5 or 6 distinct series, according to the cost of the pigments used in each color of paint. These series are marked on the tube, generally with numbers (series 1, series 2, etc.). Paints with lower...
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paper: what is vellum?

By Muse | October 20, 2014
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Although most people have a specific idea of what they are looking for when they ask for "vellum," the term vellum is actually used describe a variety of different types of paper. Some vellum papers are heavy, while others are thin and transparent. What these papers...
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how dangerous is oil paint?

By Muse | October 13, 2014
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People frequently express an unfounded concern that painting with oils is dangerous and toxic. They’d like to experiment with oils but are nervous that oils are environmentally hazardous and a danger to their health. These concerns are based largely on common misconceptions. There is nothing inherently toxic...
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choosing a sketchbook: binding and perforation

By Muse | October 6, 2014
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There are three primary types of sketchbook binding: hard-bound, spiral-bound and tape-bound. Hard-bound sketchbooks have a hard cover and a sewn joint, just like a hard-bound book. These sketchbooks generally contain medium weight paper, about 70 lb. Hard-bound sketchbooks are the toughest and sometimes the expensive. They...
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choosing a sketchbook: paper quality

By Muse | September 29, 2014
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Along with paper weight and surface, there are a number of additional factors that differentiate sketchbook papers for different uses or preferences. Some papers, advertised as "green" or environmentally friendly, are made of recycled materials or fibers that do not come from trees. These papers are sometimes...
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choosing a sketchbook: sizes

By Muse | September 22, 2014
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Sketchbooks come in a variety of sizes from very large to very small. Smaller sketchbooks are often hard-bound and sometimes have an elastic band to hold them closed.  Sketchbooks larger than 11"x14" are often called sketchpads and are often spiral or tape-bound. When it comes to larger and...
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choosing a sketchbook: surfaces and weights

By Muse | September 15, 2014
Thanks to Muse for writing today's post

For artists, sketchbooks are essential. They provide an easy place to record ideas, make studies, and experiment with new techniques. Sometimes sketchbooks themselves are treated as finished pieces of art. Typically, however, sketchbooks are personal journals or archives that artists can refer back to in order...
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