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A well-stocked art closet is a great boon to any project based learning in your home. Whether you have a serious artist or a casual dabbler, the right tools can make all the difference in the quality of the finished product. Enjoy a look at our Must Have Art Supplies for a Project Based Homeschool.
The Importance of Quality Art Supplies
Most of us have a limited budget for all of our homeschool needs and it’s very tempting to save money whenever we can. Resist the urge to buy the cheap art supplies. While it’s ok to go middle of the road with younger children, it can be frustrating, even to young artists, to work with inferior materials.
- Cheap crayons are more wax than color- go for Crayola or something better.
- Cheap markers run out quickly and leave little color on the page.
- Cheap paint brushes are great for spreading glue but on a painting they leave bristles behind on the page.
- Cheap glue doesn’t adhere for long and the pages fall apart.
- Cheap water colors don’t show up when you use them. That includes Crayola brand!
- Cheap paper or paper which isn’t meant for the medium will rip or get too wet.
- Cheap colored pencils break easily and lack pigment.
Now that we’ve established what NOT to purchase, let’s talk about the good stuff. Even young children benefit from some level of quality supply. It’s very frustrating to young artists to not see color when they make a line. Later in this post I’ll discuss ways to manage the supplies and how to train children to use them well.
Essential Watercolor Supplies
As my children have grown, the “go to” watercolor supplies have changed. Once you enjoy the more sophisticated watercolors, you won’t want to go back! This is our list of must haves:
- Watercolor pencils- We have used Prang and Prismacolor. There is not contest. Prismacolor is the BEST. The pigments are rich and the difference is huge. For younger kids, the Prang are great to get started with but they are less versatile in their use.
- Watercolor Trays- Prang brand is THE best for this medium. Even very young children will enjoy a tray of these. The pigment is deep and it makes a mark every time. Of course, training preschoolers to use them correctly is entirely another issue!
- Watercolor Tubes- After discovering these for the first time, my artist hasn’t gone back to the tray. The pigments cannot be beat and the result is amazing. You can find inexpensive tubes at any craft store. If you have a watercolor loving artist, you can try more expensive brands to see the difference. It’s worth exploring!
- Watercolor Paper- We’ve been using watercolor paper for years. I buy it by the pack at Discount School Supply. It’s a nice weight and seems to work well. We use it for any watercolor painting.
- Brushes- I recommend nice brushes for any painting. You can buy the packaged kind for younger kids, but avoid the super cheap ones. They are terrible at spreading paint! I reserve those for glue and other messy projects. Just make sure the brush is rated for watercolor. I also invested in open stock brushes from the art store and my artist adores them.
Supplies for Acrylic Painting
I’ve been using acrylic paint for craft projects for a long time. My kids use them for various craft projects, but this year was the first time I approached artist quality acrylics and swoon! These are amazing. What’s necessary for acrylic painting?
- Craft Acrylics- These are super for small scale projects where you want thinner paint. Painting on wood is a great example. My 16yo has used them to customize minifigs and they are a useful all around paint.
- Tube Acrylics- Smooth and thick, these are a dream to work with. There are several brands offered at most art stores. Any of them will work well. You can purchase small tubes, but they don’t go a long way. I suggest the larger ones so you can have fun with color mixing and not worry about running out.
- Spray Acrylic- Our model rocket kid loves to use spray paint to customize his rockets.
- Acrylic Palette- This is a must have tool for painting! Rebecca mixes paint like a pro with this tool and uses it any time she pulls out her paints. She even uses it with her tube watercolors.
- Stretched Canvas- Makes a great substrate for acrylic paints and produces a lovely result which is easy to hang up and enjoy.
Drawing Supplies for Your Homeschool
Preschoolers on up love to draw. What supplies do you have on hand for this small pleasure? This is our list of must haves:
- Sketch Pencils- Various grades of graphite pencils which are used in sketching, portraits, and illustrating. We bought the kit to have all the grades along with the kneadable eraser and the sharpener.
- Charcoal Pencils- Usually have pencils and a charcoal stick for drawing
- Colored Pencils- We love the Prismacolor brand pencil. You can’t beat it for smooth drawing and great color. Consider having Crayola around for easy access, any time drawing and save the Prismacolor for art projects. When our kids are old enough, they use the better quality pencils for all their work.
- Kneadable Eraser- Great for removing lines made from sketch & charcoal pencils. You can also use them to blend lines.
- Polymer Eraser- Erasers that don’t leave residue behind or tear paper
- Drawing Paper- We like the white sulphite drawing paper from Discount School Supply. The 50 lb weight paper can handle wet and dry media and has a really nice texture.
- Blender Pencils- For blending and softening hard lines in colored pencil work. Very enjoyable!
- Chalk Pastels- These are a favorite for everyone in our house. On the messy side but so forgiving!
- Oil Pastels- You have to be careful with these, but they are fun to layer and try. I have kids who prefer these over any thing else.
- Pen & Ink- This is a new medium for us and one that Rebecca adores! She is taking the Craftsy class on Mixed Media: Pen, Ink, & Watercolor. India ink is waterproof so you can use watercolor paints with it.
Essential Types of Paper to Have on Hand
There are all kinds of paper to use in art and I like to have several sizes on the shelves for my kids to choose from. Some of these papers we’ve had in the house since your kids were tiny. Others are new additions as our children have aged. Which are your favorites?
- Watercolor Paper- A must for using watercolor paints. We’ll often paint on the paper and use the paper for other art projects. The lovely texture conveyed on watercolor paper can be used in surprising ways! And yes, even if no project is assigned I’ll give the kids some paper to play with- I pull out plain wet media paper too, but some get to be on the real thing. (see link above)
- Drawing Paper- 50 lb weight for mixed media. That means you can use wet materials or plain drawing materials on this paper. It’s robust and universal. (see link above)
- Tissue Paper- I buy it in both pre-cut squares and sheets for a variety of uses. When my children were really young, they would make tissue paper collages in their high chairs by sticking paper from their pile onto face up Contact paper. Always a treat!
- Sulphite Construction Paper- High quality construction paper which doesn’t crack and fade. Good stuff!
- Long (12×18) Paper- In white or basic colors for projects requiring larger paper but not poster board.
- Butcher Roll Paper- Long rolls of paper make creation endless! We have used this roll for everything from murals to wrapping paper. When my kids were little, I would set them up on the floor in the kitchen with a long piece and lot of coloring supplies. On our itty bitty kitchen floor, they would be happy while I made dinner. I get the 50lb weight so they can do wet and dry media. This paper makes great easel paper for preschoolers too. It will last for many years. Our first one lasted 12 years!
- Sketch Pads- I especially like smaller ones with really hard covers so we can sketch on the go. These make wonderful nature journals and art journals where your artist can try methods and materials and create often.
Must Have General Tools for Art
Some of this list can be found in our other lists, but they are important and I have more to add!
- Scissors- Pointed Fiskars are reliable and as little hands grow, adult paper scissors are very useful.
- Painter’s Tape- Rebecca likes to use tape for creating negative space in a painting and for making frames (once the tape is removed) and other painting techniques.
- Adhesives- Of all kinds. Check out Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool for our list of favorites adhesives!
- Acrylic Palette- In case you missed it on the acrylic list because it cannot be beat for color mixing and access to paint. (see link above)
- Canvas Board & Stretched Canvas- Take a break from paper and try canvas substrates. Your kids will fall in love! I buy them in bulk from art stores and Discount School Supply.
- Erasers- Both kneadable and polymer (see link above)
- Brushes- Open stock brushes in several shapes and styles go a long way in the world of paint. They are usually rated for more than one medium and they are better quality brushes. The right brush can make the result stunning.
Art Supplies for Young Children
I know some of you aren’t ready to dive into sophisticated art supplies because your children are young. Here are a few ideas for young artists.
- Biocolor Paints- From Discount School Supply. They can be used many different ways and they come with really cool additives to make the paint puffy, glittery, and shimmery. The shimmer is my personal favorite!
- Tempera Paints- I have primary colors only along with black and white so we can do some color mixing.
- Craft Cups- Actually, I use these even with my older kids. They contain glue and paint very well and I don’t have to worry about cleaning them up! They work for doing group activities.
- Craft Supply List- My preschooler what to have on hand list with lots of ideas on craft time with the younger crowd. (enjoy an early post from 2008)
Access to Project Based Homeschool Supplies
How often do you “let” your students get into the supplies? This is a great question and one that I think we all must consider. Are you a mom who wants things just right and so you often say no when a child asks for some time with the materials? Or do you throw caution to the wind and say, “Yes!”? Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering the use of school supplies:
- Have a Stash of Supplies That Are YES Supplies- They can be used any time a child asks for them. These should be things you don’t have to supervise closely and are safe for kids and their surroundings.
- Establish a Place Where They Can Use Supplies without Worry- This is especially true for the mom who has trouble with yes. If you establish a spot early on, then everyone can be more relaxed.
- Train Good Supply Behavior from Early on- This may seem difficult or over the top, but it pays off in the end. I have some pretty independent kids who have never been wild with the art supplies. Take the time to work on the art culture in your home and see it take shape.
- Make Sure to Bring out the Special Supplies- If you keep the good stuff separate, then make sure you actually use the nice stuff on occasion. Make sure any time you are supervising art and crafting, that everyone is in the best time of day and ready to be adventurous. No one likes stressed out mama at art time!
- Project Space- Each of us has project space in our home where we can leave supplies out and get back to work any time. Making time and space for the projects is equally important to providing materials.
- Art Storage Spaces- I have a cabinet upstairs which holds the quality art supplies and bookshelves in our basement which hold our crafty materials. Both are easily accessible to the kids and generally with in reach.
- Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment- What else is important to your school?
We keep many art supplies in our home. Just remember that our inventory was built up over many years. I started accumulating supplies when our 16yo was just 18 months old. He was always ready to enjoy some crafting fun. We’ve been adding on ever since. If budget is a big issue, then purchase just a few high quality materials and they will be put to use.
Above all, you cannot underestimate the power of allowing your kids to have the time, space, and materials to pursue their work. Much of our kids’ best work comes from allowing them to have the time to explore.
Tell us your favorite art supply!
Check out my three chapters in The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. How do you transition from direct instruction to mentoring your teen? Find out by purchasing your own copy!