Are you thinking about what art supplies to buy for your homeschool art curriculum?
You’re aware that the supplies you buy will affect the results you get and want to make good choices. Follow along as I show you what to consider when choosing supplies, why it matters and my personal favorites.
There are three levels of quality when you’re looking to buy supplies for your homeschool art curriculum: cheap, student and artist quality.
Art supplies can be bought incredibly cheap at dollar stores and Walmarts across the country. Since you’re here I’m going to assume you already know that cheap just means poor quality. I’m going to shock you: Crayola is cheap. If you buy Crayola colored pencils they’re “okay” compared to a no-name dollar store set, but they are not even student quality. Say it with me: “Crayola is for little children, not for artistic teens.”
Now for many of you student quality is what you consider ideal, after all you’re looking to buy supplies for your student. If you were a public school teacher, that would be the case, but you’re more than that, you are a loving parent. You want the best for your teen artist. Student quality is not the best and does not offer the most effective and enjoyable experience. The reason it is that in order to make it more affordable student quality supplies have less pigment, more filler and are not designed for durability or ease of use.
The best choice for your teen artist is artist quality. This is true for everything from pencils to paints, and from paper to brushes. Artist quality means higher concentrations of pigments, more durability, light-fastness and incredible ease of use. There are areas where you can be frugal and not impact the quality of the finished artwork such as easels and palettes, but that is a post for another day. If there’s a high likelihood that your teen will continue with a medium get artist quality from the start. If you need more convincing check out my post here on why it makes sense for your budget to buy high quality art supplies.
So should you get cheap, student or artist quality supplies? My take is cheap is for little children, student quality is to try a medium that you’re not sure about, and artist quality is for mediums that you love. So if your teen wants to try a medium, but you expect they’ll use it once or twice and abandon it, then get student quality. If your teen loves a medium and intends to continue buy artist quality, don’t let them continue with less than the best.
If you’re unsure you can always get artist quality and then if it is abandoned sell it on Kijiji or Craigslist and get some of your money back, artists are always looking for a deal on second hand art supplies.
If you want to be told what to buy rather than sorting through all the artist quality supplies available, then no fear; here are my favorites. Print the quick list or continue reading to get the details:
Printable Quick List: Artist Wish List
*The hyperlinks to Dickblick are affiliate links.
I choose Faber-Castell 9000. I have a tin with six pencils: HB,B, 2B, 4B, 6B and 8B. I use the HB, 4B and and 8B the most and could probably be happy with just the three. They go on easy and erase easy.
In addition to pencils I also use a knead-able eraser, a white vinyl eraser, a sanding block, and tortillions.
For paper I use acid free paper 70 lb and up. Strathmore is a good brand. My favorite for finished artwork is 100lb Bristol paper for the smoothness. Some artists like to work with rougher paper. As long as it’s acid free and heavier than 70lb, you’re good.
I also choose Faber Castell an oil based colored pencil. The other favorite is Prismacolor which is wax based. The two should probably not be mixed, but I’m not going to tell you that you can’t. I choose Faber Castell because they don’t break easily and if applied lightly can be erased more than Prismacolor, although they both slightly stain the page wherever pressure is used.
For paper I also use a 100lb Bristol because it is smoother it requires less to cover the surface. I prefer this because it spares my wrist and makes my colored pencils last longer. Many other artists prefer a rougher surface in order to hold more layers of color, some go as far as to use cold press watercolor paper.
I have both Prismacolor firm pastel sticks and Stabilo CarbOthello chalk-pastel pencils. I much prefer the pastel pencils because they offer the same results and can be blended just like the sticks, but without the huge mess.
I sharpen them slightly with a regular sharpener and point the tip with a sanding block. I find they are too soft to sharpen with a knife, and when sharpened to a point with a regular sharpener are prone to breaking. Mostly I leave them dull to give a more classic pastel effect. I use tortillions for blending and clean them on my sanding block.
For pastels it is necessary to use a toothy paper to hold the pigment. There are specially designed pastel paper available. I like Strathmore 400 Series pastel paper pads because they contain six different color papers. I also like the Strathmore 400 Series gray scale pads for a selection of neutral backgrounds. It’s always nice to use a toned background with pastels because it looks better if any of the page shows through. If you’re going to choose just one, I would go with gray scale.
I like to use Sakura Pigma Micron because they are archival, which means they won’t fade. I also use 100 lb Bristol for my pen drawings, I like the heavy smooth paper and find it absorbs well. I also like to have liquid india ink for large areas, I use a brush to apply it.
I’m not a big marker girl, I personally have student quality acid free Bic markers and like them just fine. As I understand it, the big contenders for artist markers are double ended Prismacolor or Copic markers. There's also affordable artist quality double ended markers called Blick Studio markers. If I was going to invest I would probably get Prismacolor Premier Double Ended Markers.
I personally use student quality watercolors. Because watercolors are not my favorite medium I save on them to spend on acrylic paints, so I have Reeves tubes and my mother’s old Van Gogh tubes. If you’re getting student quality get the Van Gogh set of 12 tubes that comes with a mixing tray. Tubes are much more enjoyable than pans because the paint gets muddy in the pans.
If I go further with watercolors I’ll buy artist quality Winsor & Newton, and start with the colors: Winsor Yellow, Quinacridone Magenta, Winsor Blue Green Shade, Winsor Green Blue Shade. I would pick these colors because I’m confident with them I could mix most other colors and shades I’d want, and I could fill any gaps later.
You also need a plastic mixing tray that has wells for the water and paint. I like mine that has round and slanted wells.
Now we’re talking! My favorite medium! Creamy, expressive, vibrant colors! I’m a thrifty one, so as much as possible I buy my paints on sale or second hand. That means I’ve tried lots of paints. Student quality is blah! If you love acrylics, you’ll love artist grade paints even more! Don’t worry too much about brands, if it’s artist quality it’s good. That said a while ago I got about ten brand new wrapped sets of Liquitex tubes off kijiji and they’ve been a joy to paint with, so if you were to ask me what would be my first choice for acrylic paint, then I’d say Liquitex Heavy Body Professional.
Even if you do get student grade acrylics, at the minimum get artist grade titanium white, just try to make a good highlight or tint with a semi transparent white, it’s very frustrating. The only colors you need to get started are titanium white, burnt sienna and ultramarine blue. To see why so few click here.
When choosing canvases for practice, don’t even bother with canvas. You can paint on the back of a cardboard cereal box, you probably won’t keep practice paintings long enough for it to matter. If you want to keep them but don’t intend to hang them, then get canvas wrapped boards, they take up little space. If you intend to hang your paintings, then buy stretched canvases, they can be hung without a frame. The thicker and stronger the wood the less likely they are to warp.
Paint brushes should be artist quality even if you use student quality paints. Do you want hairs in your paintings? To start with I suggest a bright size 8 synthetic acrylic artist paint brush; it’s versatile enough to be used on it's own to start with. You can even fan the bristles with your finger and thumb to imitate a fan brush.
So, did I forget anything? Or, do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments.
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“The minimum a homeschooler needs to get started painting with acrylics.”
This free ebook includes:
A shopping list for which paints to buy.
An intro to my teaching methods.
Three progressive lessons.
Three related progressive art challenges.
Directions for use with a CO-OP.