Are you a beginner at painting and drawing? You may have picked up one of those beginner art kits that has a bit of everything in it. That can be great to get you started but how long should you stick to those before upgrading your supplies? Does it even matter if you’re not selling your work? Lightfast ratings don’t matter then so why bother spending more on the supplies?
It really depends on what your goals are. I like beginner materials for sketchbooks or even color compositions. But if you’re trying to learn a new medium, the term “student grade” really should be “sketchbook/doodle grade”. The reason is that they just don’t perform as well as quality materials. If you’re trying to learn wet into wet blending, layering and scrubbing techniques, using a low quality acrylic paint just won’t be able to do it. The layers can start lifting as you layer. If you’re learning colored pencil, some of the cheaper brands refuse to blend or layer well. What exactly are you learning from them then besides frustration?
So what should you buy? I say buy professional quality, but less colors. You can get just black and white of any medium and master that. If you want more colors, go ahead and get a small set. A set of 12 polychromos colored pencil and a white derwent drawing or derwent lightfast would be enough to do ANYTHING with colored pencil. Bonus is that when you work with less colors you’re also mastering values (if working with black and white) and color mixing with a small set of colors.
There are SO many videos on youtube showing you the great results these low quality supplies can achieve. You have to understand that if you give me a cup of coffee and a paint brush I can make ANYTHING work. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be my best work. It doesn’t mean that the cheap brand is performing well. My experience can pull more from the crap materials than a beginner could ever hope to get. If you’re learning, why make things harder on yourself with materials that doen’t work quite right.
Please don’t twist that into “well, I don’t have the good stuff so I guess I can’t paint or draw”. Use WHATEVER you have! I care far more that you create than what you’re using. I just want your experience to be a good one with less road blocks!