I tried out the Bob Ross Master Set as a First Time Painter

Taking up painting was something I considered for a while, but always found it too much work to purchase all the equipment and start by myself. The Bob Ross Master Set should help me ease my way into painting. In this article I want to talk about my first painting with the kit and what I learned in the process.

Content of the Bob Ross Master Paint Set
The content of the Bob Ross Master Paint Set

As one of five official Bob Ross painting kits, it provides nearly everything you’ll need to get started. It comes with all the required oil paints, three brushes and a painting knife. And of course a DVD on which Bob Ross teaches the painting “Mountain Summit” step by step.

I bought a canvas, borrowed an esael, got some odourless paint thinner, and paper plates instead of a color palette. Laptop by my side and cover sheeting generously laid out underneath the easel, I was set to go.

The first chapter of the DVD is dedicated to the correct use of the tools in the Master Set, then starts the tutorial to the painting. I was glad to have the tutorial on DVD. The possibility to pause and rewind the tutorial might have been a lifesaver for me (and the painting).

It took me around one and a half hours to complete the painting. This may be different from person to person, as I worked at a rather slow speed and paused from time to time to take photos of the progress.

The tutorial starts off with a light blue background for the sky and river. After topping it with dreamy white clouds, Bob Ross creates the illusion of an impressive mountain while only using the knife.

Less than a minute into the tutorial I had to pause for the first time while watching the blue background on my canvas slowly drip towards the ground. I guess that was either too much liquid white or too much blue color loaded on my brush, probably both.

I try to brush some paint off the canvas with the cleaned and dried two-inch brush.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t work out as expected and I end up with blue color everywhere. Thank god for the cover sheeting.

I take a mental note of going easy on the color from now on. Still, after applying white color atop the blue sky, my dreamy white clouds seem to move downward just slightly. Finally, I arrive at the key piece of the “Mountain Summit”.

With the help of the knife, I carefully stretch out the color on my makeshift palette as thin as possible and load the knife with a thin roll of paint. To create the sharp silhouette of the mountain, I’m supposed to barely touch the canvas with the knife.

While the motion looks easy enough in the tutorial, I find handling the knife on the canvas quite tricky. Bob Ross assures me that even his son Steve had a hard time painting mountains in the beginning. Once he had mastered the trick, he has been painting the most beautiful mountains, Bob Ross encourages me from my screen. 

By the time it comes to adding white mountain slopes, using the knife feels already much easier. 

At this stage of the painting I notice how much I have to concentrate on painting deliberately and carefully. Bob Ross’ voice clearly has a soothing effect, I actually start relaxing and stop rushing things. Slowly but steady the progress on my canvas becomes visible and I’m quite proud of the mountain chain I produced. 

While the mountain makes up the background, the foreground is composed of autumnal trees and bushes on both sides of a peaceful river.

I take a new paper plate as a palette for the now required colors. Not having a proper plastic palette clearly is a disadvantage. The paper plates are not as stable as the color palette used in the tutorial. Consequentially, I can’t keep up with Bob Ross when preparing and blending colors. Also, my workflow feels somewhat hindered by constantly reaching down to my makeshift palette laying on the floor.

All the while my hands and arms are still a vibrant blue, after what I now call the “blue explosion”. But I’ve learned from my early mistakes and managed not to stain myself with any other color after that.

The tools need to be cleaned ever so often and I’ve found a cleaning routine. First, I sink the tools into a bucket with paint thinner underneath my easel. I recommend getting a large enough bucket because the bristles are then cleaned by hitting the brush against the edge of the bucket. The bucket I used was rather small at a volume of 5 liters (1.3 gallons) and I had to be careful when shaking the residue out of the bristles. Therefore my cleaning routine had an additional step, where I wiped the tools dry on the cover sheeting.

Coming back to the painting and the forest. The fan brush is used to paint the ground at the edge of the river and with subtle downwards motions of the dry two-inch brush, the paint is being blurred. Later, this will illustrate the reflection of the trees in the river.

The way the painting is composed, the water in the river is created by the negative between the forest in the middle ground and bigger trees in the foreground. These happy little trees are the next objective in the painting.

The first trees are part of the middle ground, right underneath and in front of the mountain. My very first try at a tree looks less like an evergreen, but a huge bush. I learn that the darker the oil paint, the less fluid it is. Their heavy texture makes them harder to blend together and at the same time, they tend to stick more to the bristles.

With the help of a small amount of liquid white added to the mix, the paint becomes more fluid. For my second try at a tree, I make sure to load my fan brush with as much paint as possible. The paint comes off easily now and I’m surprised how a little bit of liquid white makes painting trees that much easier.

Next are the big trees in the foreground. The huge branches are even more fun to paint. In the tutorial on screen, Bob paints the trees in an even more fluid motion. It’s all about repetition and training.

After finishing with the beautiful happy trees, I decide to invest in a proper palette and a brush cleaning system for my next painting. Although more professional equipment won’t improve my painting skills, it will improve the experience. And by now I know I’m going to paint more regularly.

Happy little accidents

When I started my painting, I went for an exact replica of Bob Ross’ “mountain scene”. Looking back, this is very unlikely and a bit naive, more so for a first-time painter.  I’ve realized quickly I’m not yet able to copy every of Bob Ross’ brush strokes. But that’s not the goal of the exercise.

The kit and the tutorial are primarily designed to make beginners acquainted with painting equipment. It gives guidelines on how to use the brushes and knife to the best effect. It’s not about getting the same painting as Bob Ross, but being creative and also making your own decisions.

In the end, it is your creative process. There’s no need to follow the tutorial strictly. It’s no “color by numbers” painting. Although, I would recommend listening to Bob Ross’ advice when it comes to utilizing the tools. Especially when you’re a beginner to painting equipment like me.

The most precious thing I learned while painting was to relax and find joy in creating something.

It’s beautiful how rewarding the process itself feels. In the end, I felt proud to have finished the tutorial and to know where my capacity lies. Hands blue, cover sheeting blue, easel blue – I don’t regret it.

I didn’t expect to have as much fun at painting as I did. Seeing the outcome, I’m actually proud of myself, even though it didn’t fully live up to my high standards. I’m already thinking about my next painting. If I can do it, so can you.

Let yourself be convinced by a longer review on the Master Set, you can find it right here.

Bob Ross Master Paint Set Review

The Bob Ross Company makes several painting kits and sets that contain (almost) everything you need to paint with Bob Ross. Their flagship painting kit is the Bob Ross Master Paint Set and contains painting supplies that let you create almost any painting on ‘The Joy of Painting’.

But is it really worth it? We bought one to give you all the information you need to help you decide for yourself in our Bob Ross Master Paint Set review.

The Content Of The Master Paint Set

The Bob Ross Master Set contains eight tubes of paint (1.25 oz / 37 ml), four brushes, a painting knife, a bottle of liquid white base color (4 oz / 118 ml), and painting instructions for a painting, both on paper and on a one hour long DVD.

Content of the Bob Ross Master Paint Set
The content of the Bob Ross Master Paint Set

It comes in a cardboard box featuring the typical Bob Ross aesthetic. We imagined it to be a bit bigger than it was, but with a size of 1.9 x 14.9 x 11.7 inches (4.8 x 37,9 x 29,7 cm) there is more than enough room for its content. The painting kit we are reviewing features text in English and German since we ordered it from a European marketplace.

Inside the cardboard box we find a plastic inlay that holds the Master Set’s content and secures it from moving around during transport. There is some empty space on the right side of the inlay which looks like it would hold some kind of bottle.

After some research, we found that there are special versions of the Bob Ross Master Set that contain an additional small bottle of paint thinner. Underneath the plastic inlay we can find the instruction folder and the  Getting-Started DVD.

Bob Ross Master Set Content
The plastic inlay and its content

The Tools

The set contains four brushes and a #10 painting knife. The brushes are

  • 1-inch landscape brush
  • 2-inch background brush
  • #6 fan brush
  • Liner brush.

All Bob Ross brushes are natural bristle brushes made from animal hair and shaped to Bob’s own specifications to work perfectly with his wet-on-wet technique. The tools come with a handle painted in white and three of the brushes have protective plastic wrapping.

They also have a very nice weight and feel a little heavier than other tools we have used before. All these things make the products feel very high quality and nice to use.

Bob Ross Master Set Tools
The tools in the Bob Ross Master Set

One Inch And Two Inch Brush

Arguably Bob’s favorite brushes. He uses these two brushes for almost anything in his paintings, from clouds and trees to bushes and waves. We are pretty sure you could paint using only one of these brushes and no other tools at all.

As Bob himself said: “I really believe that if you practice enough you could paint the ‘Mona Lisa’ with a two-inch brush.”

As mentioned above these two brushes are made from natural bristles and the very first thing we noticed when picking them up was their almost absurd thickness. These brushes really pack a ton of very dense bristles. The thick round handle and the brass metal feel very well made and nice to hold. One word comes to mind: “premium”.

Bob Ross Brushes
The Bob Ross one inch and two-inch brush

Since these brushes are designed for Bob’s wet-on-wet technique we now understand why our clouds and brushes never came out half as good as Bob’s did. The high amount of bristles allow the brush to pick up a lot of paint. The length and thickness enable you to paint fluffy clouds and happy bushes with very little pressure.

Comparing the Bob Ross two-inch brush to another brush we have used before really shows how specialized these tools are. Below you can see the difference in thickness and length.

The other brush is a standard natural bristle two-inch brush for oil paint. The difference is extreme. We’ve often been frustrated when painting bushes because the shorter, thinner (and therefore stiffer) brush didn’t allow us to paint with the amount of freedom that is needed to get the best results.

Comparison between Brushes
Comparison between a Bob Ross and a standard two-inch brush

And since this review wouldn’t be complete without a video of a finger going through the brush, here it is. Just an amazing feeling.

We noticed that these brushes lose a few bristles when using them for the first time. According to the manufacturer this is normal for natural bristle brushes. Bob himself allegedly said “Because these are natural bristle brushes they do have a tendency to shed a little bit. Especially during the mating season.”

Fan Brush

Another stable in Bob’s toolbox is the fan brush. He uses it to paint clouds, foliage, waves and to put highlights on grassy hills and evergreens.

Just like the other brushes this one is made from natural bristles. It is a #6 fan brush, meaning that it is the larger one of the two variations made by the Bob Ross Company. The other one is smaller and called the #3 fan brush.

Bob Ross Fan Brush
The Bob Ross Fan Brush

Again we have a nice protective sleeve for the bristles themselves and a round white handle with a nice weight to it. This time we have silver metal parts instead of brass.

Bob Ross often mentions how important it is to have well-made tools because of their superior characteristics. One of the most important of these characteristics for a fan brush is a certain ‘springiness’. It is especially important when painting trees.

For Bob’s method you have to put quite a bit of paint on your brush when painting evergreens and then use the edge of your brush to paint the limbs. If your fan brush is not firm enough you risk that the heavy paint clogs up your brush and makes painting the next limbs harder.

We did not have any problems like this when doing our trees with this brush as it always jumps back in its original form even when using a very thick coat of paint.

Liner Brush

The Liner Brush is the last brush we take a look at. Bob uses it in every painting even though often only to sign his name. Besides that, it is used for thin limbs and sometimes even individual blades of grasses on beach scenes.

Just like the other brushes we have natural bristles on a nice ergonomic white handle with silver metal again. The bristles on this one have a nice length to them that gives you a certain freedom and makes for very nice curves.

Bob Ross Liner Brush
The Bob Ross liner brush

#10 Painting Knife

To finish our collection of tools we take a look at the #10 Painting Knife. Just like with the fan brush ‘#10’ means that it is the larger of two knives, the smaller one being the #5. Bob uses the painting knife mostly for his almighty mountains, although there are paintings that he does with a knife only.

The knife itself feels rather heavy. This makes it a great tool for when Bob tells you to use the weight of your knife to put snow on your mountain tops.  We have used plastic painting knives and non-Bob-Ross knives before and their light weight makes it hard to apply the highlights when doing mountains.

Bob Ross #10 Painting Knife
Bob Ross #10 Painting Knife

We noticed that the knife says “Made in China” while the brushes are all “Made in Germany”. We assume that the reason for this is the better treatment of animals in Germany than in China and therefore a better quality of the finished products.

Remember that we have the Master Set version for the European market. The brushes for the US version are all made in the USA.

Oil Paints

The Bob Ross Master Paint Set contains eight tubes of oil paint and a bottle of liquid white. The tubes contain 1.25 oz / 37 ml of paint. Seeing these medium-sized tubes was a nice surprise since we somehow expected to find only small tubes with 0.4 oz / 12 ml. (Despite reading the product description beforehand.)

Most of these medium-size tubes cost around  $10 on Amazon.com. With the Master Paint Set’s price being around $100 it really is a good deal. But more on that later.

Paint included in the Bob Ross Master Set
Paint included in the Bob Ross Master Set

The eight colors included are

  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Light Red
  • Midnight Black
  • Phtalo Blue
  • Sap Green
  • Titanium White
  • Van Dyck Brown.

These eight colors let you paint a lot of Bob’s typical mountain paintings. As always with Bob Ross oil paints, the lighter colors have a different oil-to-pigment ratio than the darker ones. Remember: thin paint sticks to thick paint. This makes painting highlights on trees for example way easier than with ‘normal’ oil paints.

The bottle of liquid white contains 4 oz / 118 ml of liquid white, which should last for quite a few paintings. Along with the 1.25 oz / 37 ml tubes the paint included should let you paint at least 3 to 5 paintings without using up one of the tubes. Maybe more if you are careful not to waste paint.

Instructions

The painting kit contains instructions for a painting in the typical Bob Ross style called ‘Mountain Summit’. There is an hour-long DVD for you to paint along, as well as two booklets. One repeating the instructions and one with additional tips.

Since we have been painting for a while we can’t really say anything about how easy it is for beginners to follow along, but we asked someone else to test it for you.

Bob Ross Master Set Instructions
Bob Ross Master Set Instructions

Is it worth it financially? How much do I save?

One of the biggest deciding factors in buying a painting kit instead of everything separately is the money you save by doing so. So let us take a closer look together:

The Bob Ross Master set usually costs $100 to $110 on Amazon.com, so let’s use $110 as our base price and look at the cost of purchasing everything separately. (All prices are as of March 22, 2018 and can change over time.)

Adding up these numbers we arrive at $91.95 for the tools. So getting the Master Paint Set is almost worth it for the brushes and the knife alone!

As mentioned above one of the 1.25 oz / 37 ml tubes of oil paint costs around $10. Since we have eight of them this puts us at $80 for the tubes and an additional $12 for the liquid white. (Since you can’t buy a 4 oz bottle we just halved the price for the 8 oz one.) So we get another $92 for the included paints.

Since there is a special one-hour episode for beginners available for free on the internet we don’t put a price on the instructions.

Buying all contained items separately sets you back $183.95. With the Bob Ross Master Paint set priced at a maximum of $110 on Amazon you save $73.95. Most of the time you can get it for $100 anyways, saving you almost $85.

What else do I need?

While the Bob Ross Master Paint set contains almost everything you need to start painting there are three things you need to buy in addition to the painting kit:

Canvas:  You need a pre-stretched and primed canvas of a good size. We suggest the Arteza Canvas 18×24”. While any canvas will do for starters we found that it is worth it to spend a few bucks extra to not get the bottom shelf ones.

Paint Thinner: Used to clean your brushes and thin your paints. No need to get expensive ones, we suggest the Mona Lisa 32-Ounce Odorless Paint Thinner. Be sure to get the odorless one!

Easel: While not really necessary (you can mount your painting to the wall or a ladder) it makes everything way smoother to work with. We have a cheap aluminum one from Amazon. While not the most stable one it does its job perfectly.

Final Words

We think the Bob Ross Master Set is a great way to start painting. It gives you high-quality tools and paints made specifically to work with Bob’s wet on wet technique for around $100 and even with the needed additional purchases (canvas, paint thinner, and easel) it enables you to start a new and exciting hobby for as little as $150 without having to get low-quality supplies.

We hope you give it a try and it gives you as much enjoyment to paint along with Bob Ross as it does for us.