Ultimate Budget-Friendly Art Supply List (2024)

Ordering art supplies on a limited budget can feel like quite the challenge, especially for us art teachers. But fear not, because in this post, I’ll be sharing five essential tips to help you make the most out of your art supply budget. Additionally, I’ll provide some creative strategies to help you stretch those dollars even further. And of course, I’ll be sharing my personal list of favorite supplies, complete with recommendations for both budget-friendly essentials and those splurge-worthy items that can really take your art projects to the next level. [By the way, this post is sprinkled with some affiliate links. What does that mean? Well, f you decide to click through and snag some goodies, I could earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). It’s like giving a virtual high-five! Your support means the world and helps keep the art vibes flowing.]

5 tips for stretching your art supply budget

a spiral notebook with a stack of coins and a glue gun
  1. Let’s Talk Brands – When it comes to my art classes, I’ve learned a thing or two about balancing quality and cost. With beginners, I tend to lean towards budget-friendly options, allowing them to explore their creative potential without worrying about breaking the bank. However, for the materials I use with my advanced students—I make sure to keep them safely locked away. Now, when it comes to making sure everyone has what they need, I keep a variety of basic supplies readily available on our communal supply table. This ensures that regardless of skill level, every student can dive into their projects without any barriers. 
  2. Keep It Handy – Make sure there’s a cup on each table filled with basic essentials like cheap pencils, fine-line markers, erasers, and sharpeners, along with a bowl for shavings. This setup isn’t just convenient—it’s also a game-changer as THIS CUTS DOWN ON WASTE. With everything at their fingertips, students are more likely to return materials, saving both time and resources. Plus, using handheld sharpeners means pencils last longer, giving you more bang for your buck. And if you’re hungry for more tips on keeping your cool in the chaos of the art room, check out my guide for some sanity-saving strategies!
  3. Community Power – Reach out to faculty, staff, parents, and friends, and kindly request donations of magazines, containers, fabric scraps, yarn, cardboard, and any other items you may require. I regularly send out emails every few weeks asking for contributions, and the response is always heartwarming—everyone is eager to lend a hand. I make it a priority to incorporate as many donated supplies as possible into our projects, particularly with beginners and larger classes, ensuring that every resource is put to good use and fostering a sense of community support in our creative endeavors.
  4. Ask for Advice – If you’re unsure about a specific supply or brand that’s new to you, it’s always a good idea to reach out to other art teachers for advice. Quality can vary greatly, especially for items like scissors, sharpeners, rulers, and such that you use day in and day out. You want things that’ll last. And hey, if you’re curious about what works for me, I’ve got a list of favorites below that you can check out.
  5. Keep It Tidy – As an art teacher, you know the importance of creating an environment that fosters creativity while also staying organized. Think about it like this: when everything has its place, it’s easier for students to find what they need and put it back when they’re done. Plus, keeping things organized means less time spent searching for supplies and more time for creating masterpieces. So, whether it’s labeled bins, designated shelves, or a tidy-up routine at the end of each class, find what works best for your space and your students. Trust me, a little organization goes a long way in keeping the art room running smoothly!

My list of favorite art supplies

Throughout my years of teaching art, I’ve tried and experimented with a wide array of countless brands of markers, paints, pencils, colored pencils, watercolors, pencil sharpeners, and pretty much every art supply under the sun. Through trial and error, I’ve discovered which supplies are ideal for ordering in bulk and which ones are better suited for individual purchases. While some class packs have been fantastic, others have left me with an abundance of that one color that never seems to get used.

Let me share with you my ultimate list of art supplies—the ones I swear by and reorder year after year. These are the tried-and-tested tools that have never let me down, whether I’m teaching beginners or advanced students. I give my budget-friendly recommendations and also splurge-worthy options if you have a bigger budget. I personally prefer to order from Dick Blick, but you can easily find most of these gems at any art retailer near you.

Basic Art Classroom Supplies

Basic classroom art supply, art supplies - pencils, eraser and metal sharpener.
  • Metal Pencil Sharpeners—These are hands down my favorite sharpeners. I make sure to have a few stationed on every table along with a bowl for collecting pencil shavings. This simple setup works wonders in minimizing distractions during class, and let me tell you, switching from electric sharpeners to these was an absolute game-changer.
  • Presharpened Pencils— I stock up on these like there’s no tomorrow! You’ll always find a cup filled with them on each table. Not only does this save time, but it also helps minimize theft—students are more likely to toss their used pencils back in the cup rather than wander off to a designated spot to return them.
  • Erasers – Here’s a little trick I swear by—I cut erasers in half and stash a few in a cup on every table. It’s a simple yet effective way to ensure that erasers are always within reach when needed.

Black Markers

Art supply, art supplies, including Sharpie markers, fine point black markers and a box of Bic Intensity Fine point markers
  • Bic Intensity Black Fine Point Markers—These are my go-to for all-purpose fine point markers, offering a reliable alternative to Sharpie. What’s more, they seem to have a longer lifespan, making them a staple in my classroom.
  • Sharpie Ultra Fine Point Black Markers– I can’t get enough of these! Perfect for neurographic art and precise line drawing, I always stock up on these versatile markers.
  • Sharpie Fine Point Markers– With these, you can never have too many. I make sure to order as many as my budget allows, knowing they’ll always come in handy for various projects.

Drawing Paper

Drawing papers including drawing paper, toned paper, construction paper and black paper
  • 90 lb 9 x 12 White Drawing Paper – My top pick for most projects, this paper’s versatility makes it a classroom essential. Plus, cutting it down to 9 x 9 is a breeze, streamlining the prep process.
  • Canson Black Drawing Paper– Reserved for advanced classes, this paper is ideal for white charcoal or colored pencil work. For beginners in Art 1, we stick to regular black construction paper.
  • Black Construction Paper– Perfect for high-contrast drawing with white charcoal or colored pencils, this paper is a must-have for beginner-level classes.
  • Tinted Paper– I love using this paper with black and white colored pencils or charcoal, especially for drawing metallic objects, adding depth and dimension to artwork.

Watercolors and Watercolor Paper

watercolor and watercolor paper options including a watercolor palette
  • Round Palette with Lid– Specifically for watercolors, these palettes are a classroom staple. For acrylics, I opt for disposable palettes.
  • Prang Watercolor Yellow– A must-have, as yellow always seems to run out first. I make sure to order extra for those vibrant pops of color.
  • Prang Watercolor Magenta– This shade produces beautiful secondary colors, making it an essential addition to any watercolor palette.
  • Prang Watercolor Turquoise– Mixing well with magenta and yellow, this color is perfect for creating stunning secondary hues.
  • Watercolor Paper- I prefer this student-grade paper, ordering it in larger sizes and cutting it down as needed for each project.

Colored Pencils

Colored Pencils including Prismacolor 15s and 150s and Crayola colored pencils class pack, aloing with white colored pencil, black colored pencil and indigo colored pencil from Prismacolor
  • Prismacolor 24-pack of Colored Pencils – These Prismacolors are top-tier but come with a higher price tag. If your budget allows, they’re worth the investment, especially for advanced classes. I do not use these with my Art 1 classes. I use these sets with my advanced classes. I order enough for each student to have their own set.
  • Crayola Colored Pencils Class Pack— I keep this set on our supply table and use it with most classes. It is of great value and perfect for beginners. The colored pencils are harder than the Prismacolors, but they are fine for larger classes of beginners.
  • Prismacolor Indigo Blue– Indigo is a staple in my classroom. It’s perfect for layering under other colors to deepen tones, so I always make sure to have extras on hand.
  • Prismacolor White-Colored Pencils—These pencils may be pricier, but their quality is unmatched. I splurge on them for their superior performance, especially for highlights and blending.
  • Prismacolor Black Colored Pencils– Essential for high-contrast drawings on toned paper, these black pencils are a favorite among my students.
  • Set of 150 Colored Pencils Prismacolor—I order one set each year just to have a variety of colors. This is not necessary, but it would be nice if you had some leftover money in the budget. Only my AP students use these after learning how to layer colors properly.

Colored Markers

Colored markers including Sharpie colored markers, Crayola colored markers and BIC colored markers. Additional Sharpie Yellow marker
  • Sharpie Ultimate Collection of Markers— I’m a big fan of the organizational box these markers come in—it’s a game-changer for keeping my markers and colored pencils tidy. The set offers a nice variety of colors and sizes, though I’ve noticed they can dry out faster, especially during larger projects. While I appreciate the range of dark and light colors, it’s frustrating when I run out of a specific shade without a backup. That’s why I always make sure to order extra of my favorite lighter colors to avoid any interruptions in my projects.
  • Sharpie Mystic Gems Markers Set of 5 – I love these light colors. They’re perfect for adding hues to line drawings and neurographic art. What’s great is that they don’t overshadow the intricate line work, allowing it to shine through beautifully.
  • Crayola Broad Line Markers– These markers are cost-effective and serve as an excellent base for layering with colored pencils. I usually reserve the darker colors for specific purposes when coloring line drawings. What I really love about them is their broad tips that endure through multiple uses, making them a staple in my classroom.
  • Bic Intensity Colored Markers– I love the variety of colors in this set; although some shades are quite dark. When I’m coloring line drawings, I tend to keep those darker colors tucked away.
  • Sharpie Fine Point Yellow Markers– Yellow always seems to be the first color to go. That’s why I always make sure to have extra yellow markers on hand.

Masking Tape

a roll of masking tape. Scotch Masking tape as part of your art supply kit
  • Scotch Masking Tape – When it comes to masking tape, Scotch is my go-to. I’ve tried other brands, but none seem to stick as well.

To sum it up, as art teachers, we’re no strangers to the challenge of managing art supplies on a tight budget. But with a little ingenuity and resourcefulness, we can navigate these hurdles and create vibrant learning environments for our students. By prioritizing essentials, seeking community support, and making informed choices, we can stretch our budgets while still providing meaningful art experiences. Ultimately, it’s about fostering creativity and imagination in our students, and with the right approach, we can continue to inspire and empower budding artists without breaking the bank.

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