The wonderful thing about being creative is that there are many things you can do even if you have a small to non-existent budget. With everything that’s happening in the world right now, a lot of us find ourselves isolating at home with more time on our hands than normal. If you’ve only ever dipped your toe into creative projects but you want to get more hands on, now is a great time to do it. I’ve put together this post full of ideas, resources and inspiration to (hopefully) kick-start your creativity!
Just to note: because I’m mainly a digital artist a lot of my creative work involves a computer, although for this list I’ve tried to include a few physical activities you can do at home even with limited supplies. The key to this post is that you have choices and nothing is ridiculously expensive or difficult to access.
So without further ado, here are 6 creative projects you can do at home on a small-to-zero budget.
1. Calligraphy or Hand-Lettering
The great thing about learning calligraphy or hand-lettering is you do not need a lot of equipment to get started. You’ll probably want to invest in better pens and paper as you improve and progress, but to get going all you need is a pen or pencil and a notepad.
For free courses and tutorials online that are easy to access, I highly recommend Every Tuesday, The Happy Ever Crafter and The Pigeon Letters for beginners. They are well-paced, detailed and easy to follow. The Postman’s Knock offers some free printable worksheets on their website so I suggest having a good look through their posts.
If you prefer to learn with a physical book rather than online, Mastering Hand-Lettering by Mye de Leon is an excellent resource. Mye teaches you how to style the alphabet from A-Z, in both upper- and lowercase letters.
If you have a small calligraphy budget you can pick up basic supplies online and have them delivered. I started with this Speedball Calligraphy Set which comes with a selection of different nibs. I picked up a 14ml bottle of the Winsor and Newton black Indian ink, good for beginners.
One last resource I picked up recently is this glass dip pen from Ebay. You’ll need ink for this too (see the Sumi link above). At £4.14 it didn’t break the bank.
If loose ink is not your thing or you find it too difficult to wrangle, there are a number of affordable fountain pen options. I bought the Manuscript Beginners Calligraphy Pen Set which comes with three nibs and an ink cartridge.
While I can’t guarantee you’ll get on with all of these supplies, I’ve found them to be a decent basic starting point for your lettering creative projects.
Painting is one of those creative activities I wish I had more time to practise. Earlier this year I made a decision to at least have the supplies available for when I had time to sit down and paint.
I started out with this pack of 24 watercolour paints from W.H. Smith because it comes with a nice selection of colours. (If you are outside the UK, you should be able to find an equivalent set on Ebay or your local art supplier.) I also picked up a basic pad of watercolour paper. Brushes come in different materials and sizes, so it’s probably best to look at what’s on offer.
If you’re not interested in watercolours, you can instead try oil or gouache. Gouache is a nice compromise between watercolour and oil.
3. Paper Crafts
This one is great because most of us will have paper stashed around the house that we can use or repurpose for one (or more) of the examples below.
- Greeting cards and gift labels
- DIY notebooks / notebook covers
- Paper silhouette home decor
- Gift bags
- Bunting / banners
I often use card-making to relax and unwind and you can be as inventive with it as you want. It also means you have a collection of bespoke hand-made greeting cards to give to friends and family, which always feels more special.
You can pick up paper and card from numerous places online like Hobbycraft, Amazon or Ebay. It’s a good idea to read about paper weight before you start because the different thicknesses can impact your card-making.
4. iPad Art
This relies on you having access to an iPad Pro and related drawing tool such as an Apple Pencil. Definitely not a cheap option if you don’t already own these items! If you do and you haven’t explored iPad art yet, this is the perfect time to start.
First you’ll need a drawing app to create your artwork:
- Procreate (£9.99 one time payment)
- Affinity for iPad (£19.99 one time payment)
- Adobe Fresco (Free, with subscription needed to unlock premium features. Always read the description and specifications)
I use Procreate and Affinity and get on well with both of them. Procreate is great for hand-drawn work and sketching (especially effective when brainstorming new products, lettering and social media posts). Affinity is ideal when I want to draw vectors and import them (as .eps files) into Illustrator later.
YouTube has a huge choice of free tutorials so have a look at styles that interest you.
5. Mood Boards
A mood board helps you set a visual tone for a creative project. Mood-boarding is a technique often used by graphic designers and art directors that helps them generate a mood (hence the name) and consistent aesthetic, and enables them to better express a brand visually to a client. This is done through the curation of images, complementary colours and textures. But they don’t have to be just for clients – you can create beautiful mood boards simply for your own pleasure or use them to inspire your upcoming creative projects.
Pinterest is a fantastic resource for mood boards because you can create separate Pinterest boards for different ideas, colour themes and styles, and organise them easily. Here are some great resources for starting your own mood boards:
You can put your board together however you like, using physical materials such as magazines and books or on the computer using design software (or even just pasting ideas into Word, if you have no other options). There are a few apps out there that enable mood board creation:
Technically this falls under paper craft, but origami is such a soothing activity and works great if you’re anxious and looking for ways to focus your mind as so many of us are right now.
I started out following YouTube videos to learn how to make basic origami shapes, and once I felt more comfortable with it I learned how to create this lovely geometric gift box.
Materials are reasonably easy to get hold of too. Most of us will have paper around the house, but you can also pick up these lovely origami paper sets from eBay.
Here are some free YouTube origami tutorials to get started:
Those are my top six creative projects you can do at home on a budget, but it doesn’t end there. Sometimes you want to create but you’re just not sure what to make. If I’m feeling creatively stuck I’ll hit my favourite inspiration websites for help or to learn a new craft:
Pinterest • Instagram • Behance • Dribbble
For the wild card approach, I use the search bar on these sites and type in ‘design inspiration.’ They usually turn up something interesting.
There you have it. Do you know of any creative projects that are easy to start at home with limited supplies? Drop a comment here. I’d love to hear from you!