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My Back-to-School Art Supply Order

Ordering art supplies just might be the most exciting of all my tasks. Nothing evokes stronger back-to-school memories than opening a pack of Crayola crayons and breathing in their waxy aroma. Ahhh….can you smell them? As an art teacher, that particular memory is compounded by the purchase of paints, pastels and other lovely stuff.

I get asked (quite often, actually) what brands I like, what brushes I buy, what paper I use.  Truthfully, the right products do matter but not in the way you might think. Although price is a factor, I don’t necessarily think that the more expensive brands are the best. What counts is how well the product performs in the art room. Most of the time I don’t buy the most expensive stuff, but I do make sure my students have the right stuff.

So what is that right stuff? This is what my order looks like this year….

Tempera Paints

My school district buys in bulk Crayola Washable Artista II paints so this is what I have used since I started teaching. I highly recommend this brand as it will serve all your painting needs extremely well. I also find that this brand doesn’t carry the unpleasant aroma that is typical of tempera paint after being stored for a while. I use the smaller 16 oz sizes and have never purchased the gallon sizes, so I don’t know if they are worth it or not. I do know that the pumps people sometimes use with the larger sizes aren’t always cooperative.

What I have: Crayola Washable Artista Tempera Paint  I stock up on white, black, red, blue, yellow, orange, green, violet, turquoise, brown and peach. Any other color you add is purely to save time.

What I’m Purchasing: I’m getting a bit bored with the matte finish of tempera paints. I want something that is glossy and smooth! I’m not super keen on introducing acrylics (doesn’t come out of clothes and I don’t use smocks) into my art room so I found a great alternative….Jazz Gloss Tempera paint. It’s a tempera paint that dries to a glossy finish. A few art teachers told me that they use Jazz gloss tempera on bisque projects and others just like the glossy finish. I’m up for trying it!

Watercolor Paints

I always have lots of liquid watercolors on hand because frankly, I use them so much. I don’t have to refresh my supply this year so I can put the extra money somewhere else. Last year I bought the 16-sets of Prang watercolors and I love them. The only problem is that they aren’t refillable, so many of the plastic wells are missing the most popular colors: light blue and dark blue. So, to remedy this, I’m purchasing some tubes of Reeves Student Grade Watercolors to squeeze into the empty wells. Leave open the tray covers and they will dry nice and hard (although it takes a week or so, so plan ahead).


What I have: Prang 16-set watercolor trays and Blick liquid Watercolors

What I am purchasing: Reeve’s Student Grade Watercolors

Drawing/Painting Paper

My school district buys Tru-Ray Sulphite Drawing Paper (76 lb). Some call it construction paper but it is better than the construction paper you purchase in a craft store. So if you are a mom who does a lot of art at home, order this art paper online at Dick Blick, Saxs, Nasco or whichever art supply provider you like.

What I have: 12″ x 18″ Tru-Ray White and Black Sulphite Paper

What I am purchasing: While my school stocks (and thus receives a larger discount) of the main colors (white, black, brown, yellow, red, orange, purple and blue), I like to add my own special art room colors that aren’t available in the teacher’s worksroom. These are the lovely colors I am buying this year: Brilliant Lime, Chartreuse, Holiday Red, Gold, Light Red, Light Yellow, Turquoise and Violet.

I also like having an assortment of colors in the smaller 12″ x 9″ size. The size is perfect for smaller art projects that you need to get done in under 40-minutes.

Watercolor Paper

How do I convince you that no matter what your budget, you should stock the even the cheapest of watercolor papers? It makes such a difference in the quality of most watercolor projects, especially projects for grades 3 and up. It cost $3.89 to buy 50 sheets of 12″ x 18″ construction paper. To buy 100 sheets of Canson’s 12″ x 9″ 90 lb. watercolor paper is $15.69. That’s about double but if you consider that each student really only needs to do 1 or 2 watercolor projects per year, I bet you could find some money in your budget.


Also, don’t fret that the 90 lb, paper won’t be good enough. It is. If you must buy something heavier, make sure the paper has a lightly textured finish (cold press). I think it’s easier for a child to paint with a bit less texture than an adult artist might prefer.

What I am purchasing: Canson’s 90 lb. 12″ x 18″ and 12″ x 9″ packs.


I love my plastic handle Royal Big-Kid brushes. I use all sizes and shapes for almost every single project. They work extremely well with tempera paint and equally as well with watercolor paint. The handles don’t peel and the brush doesn’t fall off. What more can you ask for? Well, I bought some very inexpensive wash brushes a few years ago and I need to replace them. I need the type of brush where little chubby-fingered kids can apply a layer of watercolor fast and easily.

What I am purchasing: Chubby Round Brushes These aren’t great for watercolor but they will work for my little ones well enough.

What I really want to try: Water brushes. They are brushes with a small reservoir of water in the handle. Simply squeeze the water, swirl in the paint and go for it. Ever heard of them? Ever use them?


This year I’m giving my students a gift….a document camera! I’ve heard about these little guys for a few years now and although classroom teachers at my school have smart carts, the art room doesn’t. So I’m taking Laura J’s advice (an amazing art teacher I met through my e-course) and I’m purchasing my own document camera. They are only $70 and I can hook it up to my laptop and a projector and voila!…students will be able to see art demos much better. I can’t wait to try this out and let you all know how it works.

Oil Pastels & Chalk Pastels

I am always surprised when I hear how many teachers have never used chalk pastels. I love them. True, they are messy, but if you lay some newspaper down on the tables, demo a few techniques, you should be able to handle the mess. I like Sargent Chalk Pastels and usually purchase the class packs. I remove the black chalk and save it for special projects. I generally don’t spray becasue I don’t like how it always alters the look of the pastel.

What I am purchasing: For oil pastels, I always buy 5 packs of the 12-pc black oil pastel set because this is the one product I use most often. I buy a bunch every year so I don’t run out. For colors, I buy the class pack of Cray-Pas Jumbo Class pack. I like the smaller pastels and not the “Chubby” ones.

 For my detailed list of art supplies, check out my reviews of my favorite art supplies.

For a list of my art room supplies, check out my full list here.



  1. I loved reading through each of these suggestions. I bought the same classroom pack of paintbrushes that you currently use. It was like Christmas today as I unwrapped everything! Can’t wait to try those out. Great list!! I’m pinning this so I can remember it for future use!!


    August 10, 2012

  2. Thank you…thank you…thank you. After a 20 year career in another field, I pulled out my old art teaching license, renewed it, turned 50, and just got my first 1 year contract for K-5. I found your site and have been eating it up all summer. The previous art teacher ordered supplies before she left but I keep reading about liquid water colors and think I will give them a try.

    Thank you for all your inspiration and guidance!!! I almost feel like you will be sitting on my shoulder when I walk into the art room!

    Sarah Jung

    August 11, 2012

  3. I am very interested to learn more about your document camera. What brand, how does it work, does it attach to an overhead? I had trouble connecting to the link that was highlighted for it. Thanks so much and love your site!

    Gena Smith

    August 11, 2012

    • I haven’t purchased it yet but when I do, I’ll post about my experiences.


      August 11, 2012

    • I have a Ladibug document camera and I love it. My school furnished it, but I would certainly buy myself one rather than ever teach without one again. It changed the way I teach art, and I can’t imagine teaching without it!!!


      August 19, 2012

      • Just checked out the ladybug. Looks really cool! It’s expensive though. Yikes!


        August 21, 2012

  4. I absolutely love using my document camera to demonstrate techniques in all curriculum areas. I leave mine on and my Kindergarten students use it as well. The conversations that can be overheard are amazing. I also use it to take photographs for my kids digital files and even they are taking the photos now. I had to purchase mine with my own funds so I bought an iPeevo which was inexpensive, adaptable and easy to use. You will love having one!
    Sharon (thanks again for the ecourse, it was great).


    August 11, 2012

  5. I too love the smell of opening a new box of crayons! This supply list is very helpful, especially for new art teachers that may feel overwhelmed by all of the tons of products out there for the art room. I am an “art of cart” teacher without a room to store everything in (only a closet) so my supplies need to be very basic.

    Thanks for sharing!


    August 11, 2012

  6. I adore my document camera. Saves so much time not having students stand around my table to see (or barely see) a demonstration. Now they can stay in their seats and see my demo projected very large onto the whiteboard!


    August 13, 2012

  7. You will LOVE the document camera and so will your students! It makes demonstrating much easier and it really holds their attention because they can see better. I think it also boosts their confidence because they know exactly what to do and get right to work. Enjoy!


    August 29, 2012

  8. I have a document camera, and although I do like it for making small things much bigger, I have found that the colors don’t show up as well. When I slid my watercolor tray under the camera, it is very hard to tell the difference between blue, purple and black. I do use it, but I was frustrated that the colors don’t always show true to life. It is great when working with black and white, but pencil is also hard to see.


    August 30, 2012

  9. I am a homeschool mom who stumbled upon you blog through Pinterest. I am smitten! First of all I am an art lover and the kids and I love new art projects. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into your blog and art lessons. We can not wait to get started.! We just shopped for our art supplies and anxiously are awaiting our order in the mail. Thank you!!!

    Jessica Fo

    September 1, 2012

  10. Pass on jazz gloss tempera paint! It is pretty gross after it is open. I opened a bottle after 6 months of using it and I lost my cookies. It has a HORRIBLE odor to it that gets worse when the air hits it. Not only that, the student artwork had a rancid smell to them as well. Personally, I love the smell of regular old tempera paint, but myself and several others at different schools also noticed that it goes bad quickly. I contacted the manufacturer and they said it was normal, but no thanks. I’ll stick to the matte finish.


    September 2, 2012

    • It wasn’t just one bottle, all 8 of the ones I opened went bad. That was a lot of money down the drain. 🙁


      September 2, 2012

  11. Does anyone have any good experiences with markers. My students love to use them but they are contentiously drying out. I am looking for an inexpensive but long lasting brand. I have used crayola and prang but I find that teaching 150 students daily they are used up quickly. I really like using the marker medium on specific projects so I don’t want to stop buying them for my classes but when art budgets are tightened I need to justify spending so much on markers that just dry out.


    March 27, 2013

    • I don’t use markers often in art class. Perhaps in the upper grades, I might have one project a year that kids can color in with markers. I find that tempera paint, w/c paint and oil pastels do a much better job of achieving great color plus gives the kids a chance to learn color mixing, etc.
      My advice? Limit the marker projects to one or two projects a year (at most!).

      Patty Palmer

      March 27, 2013

  12. Does anyone have an idea of the amount of paper to order for about 250 students a year? What kind of paper? Some of the supplies used throughout the year are oil pastels, tempera, watercolor, crayon, and acrylic. I need something basic that isn’t too costly that all of these materials can be used on.

    thank you!

    Laura Scherbing

    September 14, 2015

  13. I am a paraprofessional who will be setting up a brand new art classroom for about 350 4th and 5th graders and about 60 6th graders. Need help on knowing how much paint, paper, etc. to order!!!


    March 29, 2016

    • If possible, just do a ½ order first to see how fast you run through supplies. Order a box of each color paint (12 in each box) and a box of sulphite paper. The rest you can figure depending on the # of students.

      Patty Palmer

      March 29, 2016

  14. Not sure if you are still monitoring this feed, but if so–quick question: How do you get your kids to go easy on the pan watercolors? Mine are used up in no time flat because the kids dig their brushes in and use too much water. Half the pans of primaries are gone after one session!
    Thanks. 🙂

    Kate Timmermans

    January 10, 2017

    • Hi Kate,
      I use liquid watercoloros for K-2 then introduce pan watercolors in grade 3. Then, it’s all about teaching how to swirl, etc.
      But don’t expect too much…these are school grade, inexpensive watercolors and they aren’t meant to last. I use to have two sets of the pans…one to use then to let dry and the other to use for the next class.
      Also, try switching ip your paint choices. Try using tempera cakes. Larger and more forgiving.
      PS I always see new comments as I get updates in my dashboard. So ask away!


      January 11, 2017

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