Materials & Suppliers
We hope this page will be a helpful resource to both experienced artists and newcomers to miniature art. Whatever your chosen medium always try to buy the best quality products you can afford. This is not an exhaustive list, however, so if you are a miniature artist and have a favourite supplier or product we would love to hear about it to add to the recommendations below.
Early miniatures were usually painted on vellum, often stuck onto a playing card for support, but by the mid 1700s this had been replaced in popularity by ivory.
Nowadays, artists working in miniature usually use man-made substitutes for ivory and some of the most popular surfaces widely used today, from paper to porcelain, are listed below.
- Hot pressed watercolour paper - Very smooth surface (e.g. Arches HP). Widely available from art supply shops and online.
- Hot pressed watercolour board - Very smooth surface. Choose 100% rag, acid free. (e.g. Saunders Waterford,Crescent Premium). Suppliers include: Art Discount (UK), Britannia Mounts (UK), Dick Blick (US).
- Ivorine - Synthetic ivory, made from cellulose nitrate, a thin translucent sheet with a matt surface. Suitable for use with watercolour, oil, gouache or acrylic, but especially effective when used with transparent media due to the luminosity that can be achieved. Suppliers include: Polymers Plus (UK), MiniArt Supply (US).
- Polymin - Translucent treated plastic sheet similar to ivorine. Suppliers include: Polymers Plus (UK), MiniArt Supply(US).
- Mammoth ivory - legally and ethically sourced alternative to ivory. Suppliers include: Polymers Plus (UK).
- Kelmscott vellum - finest quality vellum made from goatskin or calfskin. Suppliers include: L.Cornelissen & Son(UK), Polymers Plus (UK), William Cowley (UK), MiniArt Supply (US).
- Bristol board - A smooth paper based surface popular for silhouettes and calligraphy. Suppliers include:Polymers Plus (UK).
- Art boards - prepared wooden panels. Suppliers include: T N Lawrence & Son (UK), Art Boards (US), MiniArt Supply (US).
- Porcelain blanks - suppliers include: Polymers Plus (UK), MiniArt Supply (US).
Many media are suitable for miniature art, including watercolour, oil, acrylic, gouache, egg tempera, pencil and pastel. Always choose Artist quality products if you can. They are all widely available from good art stores or online. Here are a few :
Brushes for miniature artwork need to have very fine points but also hold a good amount of paint. It is a common misconception that our brushes have only one hair! Kolinsky sable brushes are particularly recommended if working with watercolour.
Rosemary & Co produce an outstanding range of handmade brushes which are available by mail order/ online with delivery worldwide.
Winsor & Newton produce the Series 7 & Series 7 Miniature ranges which are available from Ken Bromley Art Supplies(UK) and Dick Blick (US) amongst others.
Chromocolour (UK, also in the US) produce a good range of synthetic brushes available by mail order or online.
MiniArt Supply (US) stock an excellent range of suitable brushes for the miniaturist.
Frames for miniature paintings are usually custom made with very fine mouldings in keeping with the work without overpowering it. Wooden frames and gold or brass frames with convex glass are all popular.
Poor presentation can influence selection of work into many of the world's miniature art society exhibitions, also make sure to double check the overall size limits. It is always worth checking with your local framer to see if they will consider making miniature frames.
Polymers Plus (UK), and MiniArt Supply (US) both provide extensive ranges of miniature frames and excellent mail order service.
Brampton Framing (UK) will also make a wide selection of miniature frames and can assist with choice, including 'visualisation'. They will also supply frames by mail order.
Haffke Kunsthandwerk (Germany) produce miniature frames.
Bill Wiebold (US) specialises in restoration and period frames.
Stephen Roden at www.windsoftimeframes.com (USA) makes custom frames for miniatures to exhibition standard.
Most miniature artists work with the aid of magnification of some kind, which can be anything from reading glasses to lenses fitted onto headbands. Hand-held magnifying glasses and 'gooseneck' magnifiers are also popular.
It is worth trying out a variety to find the one that best suits you as it is very much a matter of personal preference. You can order from the range available at Polymers Plus (UK) or other online shops supplying craft magnifiers. Alternatively your local optician will have some.