Art supply store options
If you consider yourself a scrapbooking fiend or Etsy-approved DIYer, chances are you've heard of Swain's landmark art and supply store. And if you haven't, it's time to make the trek to Glendale and re-stock your arts and crafts drawer. Easily the largest of L.A.’s independent art supply sellers, from the outside, Swains has more in common with a chain discount store. Inside, however, is aisle after aisle of comprehensively organized art stock. It's the holy grail of all things crafty and has served as one of L.A.'s coveted art supplies stores since 1949. The 17,000-square-foot space is home to a mix of artist materials, architectural supplies, picture frames, stationery, scrapbooking essentials, office products, children's toys and more. Though certain things may be on low order, something bound to happen with such a massive stock, Swains carries just about every conceivable product and brand. One of the widest selections of paint available in Los Angeles is right next to a huge amount of tools for sculpting and working with 3-D material. A large library of art and design books fills one wall, and the far end of the floor turns into a pretty serious toy to keep youngsters occupied while the adults test Japanese brush pens. Whether you're a professional artist or you're looking for a hobby, Swain's has the tools to get your creative juices flowin'.
One of the most meticulously kept art supply stores in L.A.—which is something of a departure from the more typically cluttered aesthetic art stores are known to maintain—Graphaids is a sleek, modern store (with a warehouse annex) that traffics in one of the largest selections of higher end paints, brushes and markers. An open, easy-to-navigate space stands in stark contrast to the somewhat difficult-to-maneuver Culver City intersection on which it exists. Though the atmosphere of this store is sleek, modern and chic, the staff is unpretentious and the prices are surprisingly low.
Orange County’s premier art supply store is stupendous enough and close enough to L.A. County to be considered "shared territory." A free-standing, single-story shop with exemplary parking, Art Supply Warehouse is big, with an extensive enough selection to be deemed by some as an artist’s mecca. Featuring one of the widest selections of art supplies anywhere, the shop has an associated mail-order business that sends supplies to all corners of the nation. Because of its comprehensive national shipping presence, the store has on hand virtually everything and at a competitive price.
A quintessential Los Feliz art store, Blue Rooster can be described as hip even amongst the inherently hip landscape of art supply sellers. Natural light falls upon the pleasantly organized merchandise, itself affixed to exposed brick walls. Don’t let the aesthetics of the shop dissuade you though; while it's somewhat lacking in the craftier side of things, the shop has an extensive and well-curated selection of high-end 2-D art materials like paints, brushes, markers and papers. And though the shop has a chic atmosphere, the staff is also knowledgeable and eager to help.
An easy-to-miss storefront in an unassuming stretch of Koreatown, Tops is a fine arts supply store with a crafty bent. After being buzzed into to the two-story space, you’ll see tons of canvasses, easels, brushes and paints. The second floor contains fine papers in white, colors and bright patterns. There is a large selection of Japanese brushes, scroll paper and ink, and a dedicated craft section toward the back filled with unpainted models and sculpting tools. There is also an excellent selection of printing materials, both for blocks and screens, and the attentive staff is eager to help customers find whatever they are after.
A small storefront in what is now a bustling block of Downtown, Raw Materials has been providing the Historic Core with paints, brushes, pens and pastels through a wave or two of gentrification. Though its prime location necessitates a less expansive floor plan, Raw Materials is a dependable neighborhood art store, eager to provide high-quality supplies at a great price. Perhaps catering to the large live-work spaces surrounding the store, Raw Materials also offers a wide selection of large-scale canvasses and silk-screen ink. In addition to selling supplies, they also provide framing services and offer classes and life drawing sessions.
A good-sized art store with a focus on 2-D drawing and painting, Carter Sexton is comprised of three rooms jam-packed with a wide variety of supplies. An extremely customer-focused staff is eager to provide assistance or answer questions on the wide selection of brushes, inks, markers and canvasses, plus one of the better selections of drafting tables and other larger items. In addition to students, working artists qualify for a discount at Carter Sexton, and the shop’s proximity to a framing store positions it as a key shopping destination for L.A.’s creative professionals.
A small store on a sleepy street in Silver Lake, Baller Art Ware is the sister shore to the neighborhood’s long-standing independent hardware store. With an equal emphasis on framing, Baller has a wide variety of paints, brushes, inks and 3-D materials, as well as great selection of paper materials. Though it is actually one of the smallest art supply stores in town, the greatest appeal of Baller Art Ware is its proximity to the hardware store, making it an ideal shopping locale for sculptors, fabricators and makers of large-scale or heavy-duty works. One-stop shopping for water colors, cement, canvas and rebar!
Perhaps L.A.’s most peculiar art supply store, Walser's is something of an anomaly in an industry where unusual is the norm. Located in a tucked-away corner of a seemingly endless industrial park amidst acres of industry, Walser's is foremost a warehouse, with a loading bay and shelves piled two stories high. On the sectioned-off right side of the building lives a small but densely-packed art supply store. There is an extensive selection of fabric markers, engraving and carving tools and airbrush supplies. But on the whole, Walser's is stocked with a good amount of everything an artist could need. Most surprising, however, are the shop’s back shelves, lined with obsolete monitors, stereo equipment and restaurant supplies, all for sale and great for large-scale projects.
Get inspiration at the city's best museums
The caliber of museums here rivals that of Chicago, Washington D.C. and New York—without a doubt. To get you started (or to continue your education) we’ve narrowed down L.A.’s long roster of museums to the essentials.