Budget Friendly ways to cover art room tables: Art Made Easy Podcast with Patty Palmer

Budget Friendly Ways to Cover Art Tables: AME 127



One of the small details that often gets overlooked in the art room is whether or not to cover your art tables during art class. You might be wondering:

What type of placemats work best?

Should the whole table be covered in paper? Fabric? 

It took me a few years to figure out this placemat thing but when I did, it streamlined my prep and clean up substantially. Today’s episode answers a question from Katie inside the Deep Space Sparkle Facebook Group.

I thought it was such a great question, I decided to go a bit deeper, answering the WHY behind which placemat is best.

Katie asks, Does anyone have an inexpensive way to make clay mats? My budget for the year has been used up, so I’m looking for out-of-pocket affordable solutions. Any cheap and quick ideas?

I totally hear you, Katie!

This episode is for you and all the art teachers who are wondering:

– what type of placemats work best

– when to use placemats

– when NOT to use placemats

– best mats for clay and ceramics

Budget Friendly ways to cover art room tables: Art Made Easy Podcast with Patty Palmer

Here’s what other teachers had to say to Katie’s question:

Fiona Coulter I use the cheap but sturdy blue paper drop cloths from the hardware store. One side is more plastic and the other side more paper like. I use the plastic side for clay and the paper side for any painting and drape them over the entire table grouping (8) desks. Works like a charm and lasts a long time.

Laurie O’Connell Longberry I use the plastic flexible cutting mats that you can get 3 for $1 at the dollar store. They last for years!

Tina Leggs Maloch I use a canvas drop cloth from Lowes and cut it into 10 x 12″ pieces – I have been using the same ones for 9 years and they work great.


Budget Friendly ways to cover art room tables: Art Made Easy Podcast with Patty Palmer

I love the inexpensive version of using what I already have. At the beginning of the year, I would add an extra 50-100 sheets of 18″ x 24″ sulphite paper to my inventory order. This works out to be about $15. I found regular drawing paper works great for underneath most painting and coloring projects.

Budget Friendly ways to cover art room tables: Art Made Easy Podcast with Patty Palmer

At the end of the year, I would take the paint-splattered placemats and cut them into strips and shapes. These because extra media for collage and paper projects for the following year.

Budget Friendly ways to cover art room tables: Art Made Easy Podcast with Patty Palmer

For ceramic projects, I used basic paper as well as tablecloths but found that tightly woven canvas or indoor/outdoor  fabric works best. I found some Sumbrella fabric at a rummage sale, cut the bolt into squares and used them for years. Easiest clean-up ever!


– How to start going “back to basics” in the art room and why this can be beneficial for you and your students

– When and where not to use placemats in the classroom

– What you can do to creatively reuse your paper placemats

– What has, and hasn’t, worked for me with this project





Tru-Ray Sulphite 18″ x 24″ paper

Watercolor Easter Eggs blog post

You can visit Patty through Deep Space Sparkle on Facebook and Instagram

Patty Palmer At Home Instagram

Join the Sparklers Club waitlist HERE


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  • leslie.banta

    Yes, Patty, please more technical / practical info for the art room!! I always learn something helpful. That said, I’m a fan of *all the podcast topics* – Thank You ??!

  • Joyce

    I love these back to basic topics!! I am not a teacher and only volunteer once in a while to teach art. Every time I struggle with the prepping and how to set up the room effectively. These topics about the “basic” setup are very helpful.

  • Vicki Wofford

    I love your podcasts. I’ve been teaching art K-5 for 10 years and you have breathed new life into my teaching. Thank you for sharing so many of your tried and true methods with us.

    • Patty

      You are so welcome Vicki!

  • Tracy

    I went to the Op Shop and bought some large old curtains and I use these on the tables as drop cloths when painting, gluing etc. They are backed so they are heavy enough to sit on the table and if dye spills it doesn’t go through onto the tables and spills don’t matter. They actually look really cool now as they have lots of coloured paint drips all over them. They are so easy to throw on and off the tables as needed.

  • Brenda J Belongia

    I have been lucky with my first year at this school the after school program had these large yellow sheets of almost poster board but not as firm if that makes sense, just sturdier than regular drawing/painting paper but not hard or shiny and they are larger than the pages we paint/draw on. They didn’t need these for anything and I wanted something to put under projects, I use them as gluing paper, paint paper, anything messy they go under!. These are wonderful, I love paper place mats because they dry quickly and do not need cleaning, where an actual plastic mat would make for more clean up, the paper mats often go with the work on the drying rack or even are dry at the end of class and can simply be stacked up again for the next day. I too use canvas drop cloths cut into squares for clay, once in awhile give them a little wash and they are fine again, plastic will stick too much to the clay and paper will often come off in the clay so neither one works well.

  • amanda sikkema

    I love your pod cast. I listen in my art room during prep time. It really does feel like a friend is in the room with me. I found a denim outlet in my town and they gave me lots large of scraps for free. I use them for my clay mats. I really enjoy any of the topics you put out.
    Also I cant say enough how much becoming a member of the sparklers club has helped me. I have more time with my family. I feel like each grade gets awesome lessons every day. I get lots complements on the art work on the walls. I love your content from pod cast, lessons and tutorials. Thank YOU!!! have a wonderful day.

    • Patty

      This warms my heart, Amanda. I’m SO happy that the content we create helps you so much. And while I love supporting you the classroom., to be able to give you more time with your family is priceless to me. Thank YOU!

  • Beth

    Great ideas. My art table has carpet underneath what can I do to protect the carpet ?

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