Paint Like Bob Ross on a Budget


Mia Burkholder

This Bob Ross-inspired painting was created by me using acrylics, one brush, and a palette knife.

Mia Burkholder

In times of trouble, we often turn to our friends, our hobbies, and nature. There is only one man who brings all of these things together, and his name is Bob Ross. However, painting along with Bob can easily break the bank. Don’t fear, for there are a few ways that can save you hundreds of dollars on your painting adventure.


Use a smaller canvas

In every episode of “The Joy of Painting,” Bob Ross uses an 18-by-24-inch stretched canvas. For a few square inches (and dollars) less, use a canvas with the same side ratio. A 12-by-16-inch stretched canvas offers the same shape and quality while being more mobile, and easier to paint on, without an easel or a large amount of space.

Buy six 12-by-16-inch stretched canvases for less than the price of two 18-by-24-inch canvases from the same brand, saving $6 per canvas.


Paint with acrylics

The iconic art style of Bob Ross is most easily achieved by using oil paints, but not everyone can afford to spend $11 per color on Bob’s licensed paints—especially when he uses over ten colors per painting. For half the cost, use acrylic paints instead. Brands such as Liquitex and Artist’s Loft offer acrylic paints with matching names and colors as the ones he uses in his TV show. The major difference between acrylics and oil paints is the drying time. To make acrylics act like oils, use a slow-drying medium like the one here. Before priming your canvas, mix together one part paint with one part slow drying medium and a few drops of water. If, at any point, your colors won’t mix on the canvas, lightly spray the canvas with water to re-activate the paint. 

Save $7 per color when you buy Artist’s Loft acrylics instead of Bob Ross’s licensed oil paints, an average of $70, or save $6 per color when you buy Liquitex Basics Acrylics, an average of $60.

Mia Burkholder
My family had a painting party where we all painted Bob Ross’s barn scene with acrylics.

Use a makeshift paint palette

You don’t need a paint palette. You just don’t! Instead of shelling out over $50 for a flat piece of plastic, use paper plates. Feeling fancy? Use plastic plates instead—they are reusable and will work better when misting your paints with water.

Get 100 palettes in the form of paper plates for almost $30 less than Bob Ross’s licensed paint palette.


Buy only the brushes you need

Bob uses the same four brushes for the majority of his paintings: a 2-inch flat brush, a 1-inch flat brush, a fan brush, and a palette knife. All of these brushes can be found at craft stores for a much lower price than the one offered through his official website. They may not be star quality, but we can’t all (afford to) be Bob Ross. If using a smaller canvas, don’t bother purchasing a 2-inch flat brush; whenever it is called for, use a 1-inch flat brush instead. Similarly, when Bob calls for a round brush for his stippling technique to create bushes and trees, use your 1-inch flat brush instead, but with the same technique. You may need to move the brush a little bit more to create the necessary shape, but it works just as well.

Bob Ross’s brush set costs nearly $60, while you can find each of these brushes for less than $5 at Michael’s, saving you more than $30. 


The tips above save you over a hundred dollars. Although the results may not be exactly like Bob’s, even if you did have all of his products, they probably wouldn’t look exactly like his either (and that’s a good thing). As Bob once so wisely said, “It’s the imperfections that make something beautiful– that’s what makes it different and unique from everything else.” And isn’t that the truth?