Updated November 2020
This is where we keep an up to date list of our favorite art supplies. We’ve sorted the art supplies into some different categories to make it a little easier to navigate.
I try to use affiliate links whenever possible. So, if you use one of these links I may get a few pennies from it. However, the cost to you will be the same. I promise that I never choose what to suggest to you based on the benefit I might receive from it! You can learn more about our affiliate policy here.
Please keep in mind that many of these items are also sold at Michaels and Hobby Lobby, where they almost always have some kind of coupon in their app!
How to Pick out Art Supplies (Podcast, episode #64) – Whether you’re buying yourself art supplies, picking out supplies for your classroom, or purchasing a gift for a fellow artist, here are some tips on how to pick which art supplies to purchase.
Get Started with These Art Supplies
These are the sort of art supplies I buy my own elementary-aged children.
Light Box for $22 -This is one of my favorite things for both younger and more advanced students so it probably should be on both lists! It’s easy to use, lightweight and has held up to a year of being hauled around in my kids’ backpacks! I purchased this Tikteck one near the end of 2018 and it’s still doing great! (updated April 2020).
That one seems to be unavailable at times, so I also recommend this one by LitEnergy. (Aug 2022)
Prismacolor Scholar line. ($45 for 60- Around the holidays they’re usually on sale for around $20! If they aren’t on sale, I’d get a smaller set) These are a great intermediate colored pencil. They’re high enough quality that you can blend with them using a blending pencil, but they’re cheap enough that your child can have their own set
How to Draw Books
Books by Peggy Dean– these are mostly plants and flowers. I love her super simple approach and the large volume of drawings in each book. Botanical Line Drawing is a great starter book to help you learn to draw simple plants and nature.
Learn to Draw books published by Walter Foster. We own this one on drawing people in ancient times and I love that they start their step-by-step drawings with ball and stick figures. Their other books also look nicely done and they’re very inexpensive.
- When I’m looking at a directed drawing book (where they lay out how to draw an image step by step) I generally look for the steps to start with basic overall shapes (as opposed to one where they show all the detail for one part, like a head, prior to giving the rest of the subject any shape). I also look at the last steps and analyze how much. Search “How to Draw” on Amazon and at your local library!
24lb, Georgia-Pacific Printer Paper(92 or 96 Bright). I like to use expensive paper when I’m painting but for sketching and even pen and ink, I use It’s soooo much nicer than 20lb paper, but it’s cheap enough that I can draw all day and not feel like I’m wasting a precious resource. I added a link to it on Amazon, so you can see what I’m buying, but I tend to buy mine at Walmart for around $6 for a ream (500 sheets)
Take Your Art Game Up a Notch with These Art Supplies
These are the art supplies we tend to buy ourselves. They aren’t top of the line but they are usually “artist grade.” I’m not a professional and usually don’t spring for the professional-grade art supplies (although my dad sometimes gifts me some!)
I have two sets of colored pencils I love and just have to mention both! These each have their pros and cons but I find myself enjoying the Faber-Castel pencils more.
Both brands will go one sale occasionally and I recommend you try a few out before you invest in a big set if you can. Often nice art stores will have testers available or maybe you have a friend who will let you try theirs out at a fun art get together. Nicer art store will also usually have these for sale individually. If you buy a few tester pencils in colors not included in the set you’re considering, then you won’t have any duplicates when you buy the set.
- Faber-Castel Polychromos pencils ($65 for a 36 pack)- These oil-based pencils and are easier to blend on most papers and buttery smooth on wood slices!
- Prismacolor Premier ($40 for a 72 pack)- These wax-based pencils are sold in a few different grades of colored pencils, so the keyword you want to look for is “Premier.”
Fabber Castel Albrecht Durer ($38 for a 24 pack) – These are some of my absolute favorite art supplies! They are also sold in different sized packs, so buy what your budget allows.
Daler Rowney Watercolour Aquafine Travel Tin ($19.44 for a travel tin of 18 colors
Travel Paint Palette- my sister and I both have these Mijello Martin Airtight Watercolor 18-Well Palettes. Then come empty, so plan on purchasing some watercolor tubes of paint to fill them up! Deanna talked about this in the podcast #36 (timestamp: 49:40)!
Pens for Pen and Ink Drawings
Sakura Pigma pens seem to be the standard pens for the “pen and ink” medium. I’ve used them for years and really love the variation in tip size. This is a nice starter set, but the most common 01 size is also available individually. They also come in a variety of colors. They dry very fast so they’re less likely to smear than any other pens I own, so I also use them when underlining in books with glossy pages. They don’t tend to bleed through to the back of the paper so I can do a lot of practice drawing on the standard 24lb printer paper mentioned above (although they do still tend to show through thin bible pages- do any pens not show through?).
- This pack of 6 Sakura Pigma Micron pens is a nice starter set for $11, but lacks the larger tips.
- This pack of 10 Sakura Pigma pens also includes 8 Microns and the Graphic 1 (a fat tip) and the Brush tip. (FYI- It’s listed at $22 right now which seems too expensive to me.)
Markers for Hand-Lettering
The Pentel Fude Brush Pens are my favorite for lettering. I have this set of 12 that I use for a lot of hand lettering
This Wall Lenk woodworker tool set ($29) includes 7 woodburning tips and my boys LOVE it. (Do ALL boys love burning stuff as an art form?) I’ve really enjoyed using it as well! (I’ve posted some photos on Instagram and our facebook group.) It’s a lot nicer than the one I used at the kids’ summer camp, but still very affordable.
I’ve also heard great things about the Walnut Hollow Creative Versa with Versa Variable Temperature Control, but I haven’t had a chance to try it myself.
I love the wood slices from this little Etsy store I happened upon, called AbbyOaks. Over the years of ordering from them, I’ve found their wood is always super smooth and I can pick the wood species I want.
When I first started woodburning I was using Birch, but after messaging with AbbeyOaks about it, I tried Poplar and fell in love! It’s my go-to wood for woodburning now. Their 4″ Poplar wood slices are around $1.25 – $1.75 each, depending on how big a batch you order!
For ink and colored pencil, Poplar, Birch and Maple all work well. (Cherry and Pine have too bold of a wood grain for my taste.
Recently I’ve connected with Teena at AbbeyOaks more online and learned they’re a homeschool family too! She’s offering Ridge Light Ranch fans a special discount of 10% off with the coupon code: RLR10! If you use this link to visit their shop, I think it applies the coupon code for you: www.etsy.com/shop/Abbeyoaks?coupon=RLR10.
I also like these wood slices on Amazon from the AGEOMET store. There’s always one or two that are cracked but, for the price, I figure it’s worth it. Generally, on Amazon, I like to spend <$0.75 per slice.
If time allows, I like to buy these Amazon slices and let them sit in my house for several months so I know they’ve adjusted to our super dry weather without cracking (I’ve never done that with the AbbeyOak slices as I trust their drying process a little more).
Nature Journaling Book
Laws Guide to Nature Journaling by John Muir Laws- this is one of my favorite overall art books. He has some more advanced techniques and some great step-by-step drawing guides (aka. directed drawing). Plus, it’s just beautiful. It’s a little pricey but ohhhh, I love this book!
John Muir Laws also has a wonderful book on drawing birds that’s just as wonderful!
I believe you can download a PDF of his How to Teach Nature Journaling book FREE from his website!
Drawing Flowers Book
If you want to learn to draw florals, Alli Koch is one of my favorite authors. My sister bought me her How to Draw Modern Florals book in 2017 and I still use it pretty frequently. (The gold spiral binding is especially handy and beautiful!) In this book, Koch broke down so many flowers to their basic lines. It makes drawing flowers sooo much faster and easier. Koch has another book coming out Dec 4th called Florals by Hand! I’m really hoping Santa will have it wrapped under the tree for me!!
Watercolor paper is usually made with a high cotton content to allow it to absorb water without buckling. So. having some nice paper will make painting with watercolor much less frustrating. The paper you use will become personal preference and it can be a fun splurge item to try some new paper. I recommend going to your local art store (NOT Michaels or Hobby Lobby) and ask them if they have any sample packs of paper you can try. DickBlick.com also has a wide selection of paper.
- Strathmore 300 series 140LB Cold Press Paper- ($10.49 for 24 sheets 9″x12″) This year I made a point to try several different brands of paper and I’ve decided that I like Strathmore 300 series best. It feels like the best balance between price and quality.
- Travel Journal Sketch Book- I love Canson’s 138 lb Mix Media Paper Pad (Fine to Medium texture). This wire-bound pack of 30 sheets of 5.5 x 8.5 Inch paper is exactly what I’ve been traveling with this year. If I decide to add a bit of color with my watercolor pencils, it can still handle it (where the 24lb printer paper could not). However, it’s easier to sketch in than watercolor paper because it’s smoother.