best art supplies for kids

by mari

Kids art supplies - better quality art materials, paints, pencils, brushes, crayons, pastels for crafts

I’m sick and tired of Crayola. And cheap kiddie art supplies that are really just watered down, nasty colored, anemic ways of making things. This year I ransacked a couple of art stores and finally bought some better pencils, watercolors, acrylic paints, paper, and brushes for Birdie. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile, and the holidays became the perfect excuse to upgrade our art supplies! So although the Annual Gift Guides this year are awesome, a lot of those items are things I’m (*SIGH*) passing up to get all “artified” instead. My goal: art supplies that aren’t expensive, that are still kid-friendly, but with a little more quality. Curious to see what I nabbed? I thought you would be!

1. Art Materials’ Acrylic Paints, 200ml for $4.99 – A ton of colors – including metallics, large sizes (they’re about 7″ tall!), and pretty good coverage. I just bought a ton of them and they’re awesome. (Update: Please note these paints will require your close supervision. Though they’re water soluble, once acrylics dry they won’t clean up like the water-based tempera paints you may be used to. Paint with an art smock and lots of wet paper towels to clean up as you go.)
2. Artist Palette, $1.00– This is not a necessary item, (cool whip lids work just fine!) but for a buck you get to feel a little extra special, and the indents work great for keeping acrylic paint a little more organized with younger kids.
3. Bamboo Brushes, varying sizes, $3 – $5 – These brushes are best for watercolor (or inks, but that’s another post). They’re inexpensive and hold lots of paint/water. We’re adding a couple in Birdie’s stocking this year.
4. Yatsumoto Pearlescent Watercolor set, $7.52 – Pearlescent. I don’t think I need to say any more. Especially at that price!
5. Reeves Watercolor Set, $4.75I love the old fashion tin, and the color palette is really rich too. Watercolors are our go-to art-making activity right now, because they’re just messy enough to keep my 3 yo happy, but easy enough to clean up that I’m happy too.
6. 18 Fine Art Brushes (Acrylic, Oil, & Watercolor), $16.50– Brushes for acrylics and oil can be interchangeable for your purposes, and the added watercolor brushes will keep you set for every medium. Such a step up from the little plastic kiddie brushes!
7. Neocolor Watersoluble Crayons, $16Crayons AND watercolors = awesome discoveries for kids. Plus, I’ve heard tell these also double as great face paints. (not sure you want to tell your kiddos that though!)
8. Pentel Oil Pastels, 25 piece, $4 and 50 piece, $8 – Once you’ve tried pastels, you’ll never want to color with crayons again. Bright, vibrant colors will cover over colored paper as well as white, and the softness feels so good to draw with. They will rub off onto little hands here and there, but wash up easily.
9. Faber Castell 24 count Watercolor Eco-Pencils, $13.50 – Add more control and finesse to your watercolor experiments with water color pencils, they work great without water too!
10. Canson Watercolor Paper Pad, $7.50, or Canson Mix Media Pad, $10.50, or Strathmore Pastel Pad, $6.50 – These pads are great deals. I’m especially excited about the Mix Media Pad – it’s meant for all of the mediums shown here. Thicker paper, acid-free (archival, won’t fade!) and feels good.
11. Prismacolor 24 count colored pencils, $12.50 – A classic for a reason. Prismacolor pencils are quality – with less breakage and great coverage. Birdie and I both love to color with them.
12 .5×5 Prestretched Artist Canvases, 5 pack, $14.50 – I often stock up on small prestretched canvases when they’re half-price at Joann’s or Michael’s craft stores, but this pack of 5 is a great deal too. We don’t use canvases every time we paint. But it’s a blast to use them once in awhile – one day I plan to have a wall of her canvases. And they make AWESOME gifts.

That’s my list – some of it we already own, but a lot of it I’m gathering for her Christmas morning. Which items caught your eye? Any other art suggestions I’m forgetting – add them to the comments!

Solve all of your Holiday Shopping Woes with the Annual Gift Guides! Pick your favorites, then shop the Small for Big SHOP!

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Esther December 15, 2011 at 9:04 am

My little one just squeezed the contents of about half a dozen tubes of acrylics onto the floor of the garage, walked through it all and made the most incredible mess you have ever seen. It’s lucky I discovered it before it dried! It took 2 rolls of paper towels and a dozen q-tips to clean it up- though the clothes he was wearing are ruined forever. Moral of the story- real art supplies require 100% supervision (and I must keep my supplies put away at all times!). Also, washable kids paint isn’t that bad. We usually stick with watercolors.


2 Miz Big December 15, 2011 at 9:10 am

Completely agree Esther. Acrylics DO need real and constant supervision. That’s why we usually use watercolors for day-to-day painting. Thank God your garage cleaned up ok!!!


3 C December 15, 2011 at 10:47 am

Thanks for the guide – I’m not an artist but I want to be one (and I definitely want my child to be one!), so I appreciate the insights and tips!


4 Miz Big December 15, 2011 at 10:54 am

Wonderful! All of these are great for any level of “artist”. Enjoy them!


5 emily December 15, 2011 at 10:48 am

thank you for this post! was planning to do same for A this year. you don’t know how much time you’ve saved me this year!


6 Miz Big December 15, 2011 at 10:55 am

Woohoo!!! Glad to hear I can help Emily, I bet you’ll enjoy it all. You’ll have to share your creations with me ;)


7 Kristine December 15, 2011 at 8:33 pm

My 6YO artist likes to make 3D paper sculptures – so a 10-pack of scotch tape is a must-have for Christmas every year. This past year, I finally caved in and handed over my artist-quality chalk. It was worth it to see the vivid colors in his chalk illustrations against the black chalkboard.


8 Miz Big December 15, 2011 at 11:09 pm

You should get some stock in 3M!
Love artist-quality chalks too, must have been gorgeous against the black.


9 tricia January 25, 2012 at 10:56 am

Thank you for this! I am not well-versed in art supplies but haven’t been happy with Crayola products, either! Great resource! Glad I found you on DailyBuzz Moms!


10 Miz Big January 27, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Glad you found the blog Tricia! I hope these things work as well for you guys as they do for us. (and yay for DailyBuzz Moms too!)


11 Ritz July 26, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Love your passion. My son attends a waldorf school and their philosophy is less and better quality less is more. So I found you while googling quality art supplies for kids. Keep up your amazing posts!!


12 mari July 26, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Thank you so much!


13 Marianne March 10, 2017 at 10:36 am

Twenty years ago I bought the required colored pencils for kindergarten for my daughter at Costco. I knew nothing about colored pencils and had purchased Prismacolor. The next year I bought her Crayola. She wouldn’t use them, even for the minimal first grade requirements. Crayola washable markers passed muster, however.


14 mari March 10, 2017 at 11:27 am

There really is a big difference!


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