I often get asked by parents what we recommend they should have at home for art supplies or where they should start. So, I am happy to share my top 7 MUST HAVE art supplies at home for beginners.
First, I like to start with always remembering not to go crazy expensive! There is no need to purchase the best markers, pens or watercolors. Purchase what you can afford and learn to work with the tools you do have. Sure it's always nice to have an amazing set of Prisma color pencils, but let's get real here, we are just beginning to practice our art! :-)
Everything in this list is great for ages 2 and up. I will continue to include links of activity ideas that you can do with these materials. So do check back often!
1. WATERCOLOR PAINT SET
This is my favorite watercolor set right now. Artist's Loft makes a really good watercolor set that is not only good quality, but also great with the budget. The colors are beautiful and the mess is minimal which is always a plus for any parent trying to keep things as tidy as possible. My daughter, Charley, who is 2 years old, uses it all the time at home and when she visits the studio.
What you can do with watercolor? Paint on your new watercolor paper (we will talk about that next) or , paint on your sketch book or on your MY Chunky Pad by ALEX Toys (we will talk more about this, as well). You can purchase it on Amazon, but if you are like me and like to see things and touch things before you buy, I buy our daughter's pad at Target on the $5 aisle.
2. Watercolor paper/books and/or My Chunky Pad
A lot of the times, parents buy their kids watercolor paint sets, but forget to purchase the paper to go with it. Then they use regular printer paper and the watercolors look muted and not as nice. Using quality paper is the best place to start to having really nice watercolor art. You can use paper from your printer, but it tends to fray as you add water and it doesn't serve the colors justice. I usually use printer paper when I am trying to show the technique and just to practice water control.
I love to buy the Canson watercolor paper for my students and the little ones at home. It's inexpensive and does its job really well. I usually purchase Canson XL 140lb Watercolor coldpress paper from Blick Art Supply in Paramus NJ. I like to purchase from Blick because if you are a preferred customer they give you the website deals. So you can always get a little more for your money.
Another great option for artists that like to travel and take their art with them, is the Molenskine watercolor journals. Although, a little more on the expensive side, I like them because I believe in journaling your progress, keeping your work tidy and together all the time, and always either jotting down or drawing your ideas as soon as possible.
The nice thing about watercolor paper is that you can used it for drawing, collages, painting, and much more. You can do simple things like taping off sections and painting each one a different color. If your child is still too young for that, I would just start by giving them the paint brush or markers and have them have at it.
I also, love My Chunky Pad for the little ones. It's really nice quality paper and the kids can either watercolor on it, draw or doodle with markers, pencils, crayons, etc. The nice thing is that it is made with little ones in mind. You should see my little one carrying her pad with her. What I like most about it is that is recording her progress and its her very first sketch pad.
3. Sculpey clay or Air dry Clay
Artist Air Dry Clay and or Sculpey clay can be kind of intimidating, but once your kids get their hands on clay, especially Sculpey clay, the creativity is endless. Air dry clay usually come in 25lb.-50lb. cases and that can be a major commitment since you have to store it properly or else it will dry out quickly. On the other hand, Sculpey clay is just amazing. You can buy as many colors and as little as you want. The price is on a little higher end, but if you use your 40% off coupon at Michael's it is worth the value.
Sculpey is a polymer clay that is soft until you bake it in the oven! What I like most about Sculpey clay is that they come in different color options and they are all AMAZING! The projects that you can do with sculpey are limitless. You can do so many different things sculpey clay, but here are just a few ideas. If your child is young, start by teaching the basic shapes by rolling it out and using cookie cutters to cut shapes out. You can create christmas tree ornaments. You can also make really nice beads for a beaded necklace by rolling the clay into 1 inch balls and sliding them into a skewer. Slide the skewer back and forth until you loosen the hole and bake them in the oven.
Sketchbooks are a great way to start journaling your drawing progress. I always tell parents that this is where children should start. Even if it's just little scribbles at first. These scribbles will begin to become doodles and from there they will grow into endless possibilities. What I like most about sketchbooks is that there are so many great things that you can do with them. You can even create your own book if you feel crafty.
Don't spend a ton of money on sketchbooks, but just make sure that it's good enough for you and what you want to use it for. Some little artist like something small that they can carry with them at all times. Some artist like to have more than one sketchbook--one to keep at home, and one to take with them everywhere they go.
My most valuable advice about sketch books is to commit to it and make it part of your habits. I like some of the Artist Loft Sketchbooks because they come in all different sizes and types and are not very expensive.
Some things that you can do with your sketch books is doodles, bullet journaling, practice drawing font styles, watercolor, write stories, paint, etc.
5. PAINT ~ Tempera or Acrylic?
People always come to our studio and ask why don't we have washable paint, how could we not have washable paint?! We are an art studio, and we don't mind paint-stained tables and clothes (we do provide everyone with aprons). However, we understand that may not be the case for you at home, so we recommend washable tempera paints rather than acrylic paint.
Right now I am having a kick! out of these new Kwik stix, you can purchase them at Michaels or on Amazon. The best part about this brand is the no water, no mess, no smocks needed and they dry super fast!
If you are okay with getting messy and dirty. Acrylic paint is just awesome. We love that it dries slow enough that you can still work with it, but fast enough that you can rework your painting quickly if you want to. We of course have tried many different brands, and we are constantly asked to try new ones. One thing that I know I do not recommend is to go, too cheap. There are a lot of acrylic brands out there that are not nice to work with and can become frustrating for your artist. I was just sent a sample of Amsterdam Standard series, and I think they have a really nice color selection and are smooth to work with.
We use a brand at the studio that is not sold at stores and is made only for studios. But we believe that Amsterdam's Standard Series brand is up to par with it.
6. Oil Pastels and Soft Chalk Pastels
Pastels is a material that, I must admit, I don't use enough and should really start doing so. They are the perfect coloring material for the little ones and the results are just amazing. They work very much like any marker or crayon when using them with the tip, but the real trick is rubbing them from the sides along the paper, side to side and up and down while applying pressure. You can blend colors together by smudging them with your fingers and creating new colors. Again, the results are just amazing!
Pastels work great on all types of paper, slate, rocks, recycled paper bags. The possibilities are endless. One of the things to try is work with oil pastels and apply watercolor right over them. You will have some pretty nice results.
7. Smocks, Aprons, Tarps
This one is fairly easy. For protecting your clothing, one of your old t-shirts will do. However, please remember that this is still not 100% protection. For tarps, I like to use plastic from HomeDepot because it is waterproof. Otherwise, you can always use an old bed sheet. If you are working on a table that you do not want ruined, I recommend newspaper or craft paper to be laid out first on your work area.