How to host a creative & fun Bob Ross painting party on a budget

If you’re planning a party for adults (or for teens too, I guess!) why not make it a Bob Ross themed event? Think curly hair, canvases and happy little trees and you’ve got the beginnings of an epic painting party that’ll stretch your creative skills and have you giggling for hours. Here’s how to do it on a budget…

I’m actually still a little giddy with excitement about the Bob Ross painting party I hosted for my friend’s birthday earlier this week. It was a few weeks in the making and by the time the big day came around I was getting a little too enthusiastic. The theme music was running through my head all day long and I was bursting to get out the paint brushes. The build-up to the surprise party was almost as much fun as the event itself!

If you’ve never seen Bob Ross, where have you been? All the cool kidz are watching Chill With Bob Ross on Netflix and YouTube these days, but I remember watching The Joy of Painting on satellite TV back in the mid-90s. Childhood TV is always remembered with such fondness, isn’t it? The show features softly spoken, animal-loving artist Bob Ross, who makes painting a landscape in just half-an-hour look easy. I was a fan.

When Bob Ross landed on my smart TV via Netflix I eagerly watched all the super-relaxing episodes and made (forced) my husband and friends to view it too. They were soon as hooked as I was. So, when my friend and I conspired to host a painting party for our pal’s birthday, you can probably imagine how OTT I got with planning this retro-themed party. Nonetheless, I wanted to do it on a budget, so here’s what you need (and where to get it on the cheap) if you want to host your own Bob Ross painting party:

BOB ROSS HIMSELF

The first thing you’ll need is an episode of The Joy of Painting so that you can paint along with Bob Ross during your party. Find a tutorial that you like on YouTube or Netflix and set up a TV or laptop screen to play the episode while you paint. Be aware that you’re probably going to need to pause the show often while everyone at the party has a go at painting the landscape. I think we took about THREE HOURS to complete a less-than 30 minute painting, but that’s ‘cos Bob knows what he’s doing and we had no clue!

FYI the episode we painted along with is Episode 21 of Chill With Bob Ross on Netflix. It’s got everything – plenty of colour, blending, fan brush clouds, happy little trees, bushes, a palette knife cabin, swooshy snow drifts and even Bob’s furry friend makes an appearance. It’s one of the more colourful winter scenes he creates – although we did STILL run out of white paint by the end, thanks to all the snow.

A PLACE TO PAINT

Thankfully we have an shed in our garden that due to be painted on the inside so this was the ideal location for our ‘art studio’ but you could use any spare room, or a space in your home that’s next up to be decorated. I say this because it’s likely that you’ll get paint on the wall or floor or both. I missed the canvas almost immediately and smeared blue paint on the wall, oops!

If you have easels, you could possibly paint outdoors, as long as you can get the episode on your laptop. I wanted to save on the added expense of buying multiple easels so we just screwed the canvases onto the wall of the shed and had a go.

CANVASES

The cost of canvases could soon add up as Bob uses rather large sizes BUT have no fear, I have found the cheapest place to buy them! I searched high and low for weeks before I found the right canvases at the right price. These are 50 x 60cm canvases (pretty similar in size to Bob’s) and they were only £2.29 each from Home Bargains.

PAINT

Bob Ross uses oil paints so keep an eye out for a bargain set. You don’t necessarily have to have all the colours that Bob uses as you’ll be mixing up colours a lot anyway. We got this set of Daler Rowney paints and these ten colours are probably all you’ll need. At least – they were all that WE needed for episode 21.

Although we did run out of white, because you start off with a white-wash over the canvas. We all agreed that another tube of white paint would have been handy. You don’t have to spend a lot on artist-quality oil paints (let’s face it, this is just for fun!) so just pick up the cheapest set you can find.

BRUSHES

Bob uses two types of paint brushes to create his landscapes; fan brushes and whopping-great decorating-style brushes. I headed to poundland and found this set of 3 brushes for – you guessed it – £1. So I got every painter a set of painting brushes each, which contained both the 2-inch and 1-inch brushes that Bob loves to paint sunsets with, and another bonus 2.5-inch brush for blending.

The fan brushes proved harder to find ‘on the cheap’ (ie, not in my usual pound-store haunts) so I turned to Amazon and got a set of 9 brushes for £7.99. That gave use two fan brushes each (one big for trees, one small for clouds) and a spare. So really, that was less than £2 per person – and they’re kinda essential for doing any Bob Ross painting. Plus, they’re proper artist brushes so we can wash them out and my artist hubby can use them again!

PALETTE KNIVES

I picked up packs of plastic palette knives for just £1 per pack from The Works. There’s actually more different types of palette knives in the pack that we needed but that helped when it came to mixing up the paint colours that Bob uses.

PAINT THINNERS

Bob Ross starts every painting with a thinned-down wash of white paint over the canvas to allow all the colours to blend together. Plus, you’ll need to ‘let down’ some of the colours during the painting process as ‘a thinner paint sticks to a thicker paint’, as Bob says. I picked up one bottle of white spirit from the pound shop to share between us and that was plenty enough for all the brush cleaning we were doing too.

PROTECTIVE CLOTHING

Let’s be real here. You’re probably going to get more paint on yourself than on the canvas. So you don’t want to ruin your favourite top when you could protect your outfit AND look more like Bob by wearing an old blue shirt. I picked up blue shirts from the bargain bin at the charity shop for just 50p each and they made a great protective top-layer, as well as helping everyone get into the spirit by ‘dressing up’ like Bob.

HAIR AND BEARD

If you want to go one step further, you’re going to have to don a curly wig and stick on beard to channel Bob Ross effectively. In this instance, we dressed up the birthday boy as Bob and he was therefore qualified to appraise our artwork at the end. This afro wig and beard came from eBay.

HAPPY LITTLE FRIENDS

This probably shoes you just how excited I was about the Bob Ross party: I baked squirrel shortbread. Yes, that was how I spent my morning – cutting furry little friends out of chocolate shortbread and baking happy little trees and snow-covered cabins. I found the tree and cabin cookie cutters in a Christmas gingerbread baking set that I already had in the cupboard and, as luck would have it, a friend had previously given me a squirrel shaped cookie cutter. But you could cut around a cardboard template to create squirrel shortbread if you don’t happen to have a squirrel cutter lying around.

So, the makeshift workbench is laid out with materials, the tutorial is paused and we’ve got our blue shirts on – let’s paint! Here’s the landscape painting that we were aiming to recreate:

The great thing about this party is that we were all so engrossed in the activity that time just flew by! It was so much fun to be doing something creative and trying something that none of us had done before (even my artist husband hasn’t painted in this style with a fan brush and huge decorating brush before)!

I was SO excited to finally have a go at following along with a Bob Ross tutorial after watching him for years and he makes it look so easy – how hard can it be? I was expecting great results in super-fast time. That said, I have seen many Bob Ross fails online too, so it could have gone either way!

I was feeling pretty proud of my clouds but we were only about 2 minutes into the show at this point (and we’d already paused and re-played the tutorial about 10 times!) so I thought I’d snap a photo just in case it all went wrong from here on in.

After an hour and a half (remember, it only takes Bob less than 30 mins on the TV!) we were starting to get peckish so it was time for a tea break. I pulled out my tray of happy little shortbread friends and we posed for photos with the chocolate squirrels before tucking in to the tea and biscuits.

Many, MANY pauses, brush cleaning and ‘happy accidents’ later and we’d finally completed our masterpieces. We waved goodbye to Bob as he wished us ‘happy painting’ at the end of the episode and stood back to admire our work. And we’d all achieve pretty much the same kind of landscape as Bob, albeit with a little less snow (more white paint next time) and some slightly wobbly brushstrokes.

It was probably the MOST FUN way to spend three hours and it would be a great activity for hen and stag parties as well as birthdays. It was a giggle from start to end – just listening to Bob Ross talking about his cleaning his brush and stroking his squirrel friend had us in stitches. And I think we can be quite proud of the artworks we’ve created(!)

Let me know if you have a go at hosting your own Bob Ross painting party in the comments below, I’d love to hear how you get on and whether your painting looks anything like Bob’s at the end! 🙂

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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in lifestyle promotion studies. She loves to 'get the look for less' so regularly shares thrifty fashion posts, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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