The Art Supplies You Need to Start the School Year

Heeeya. It’s pre-planning time. And, if you’re not pre-planning yet, it is definitely impending.

In almost ALL of the #arted communities, I’m seeing people ask,
-“What supplies do I need to start my school year?”
-“I’m starting a new art room, what do I need?”
-“Um, this is my first year. . . How do I know what I need?”

The long answer is dependent on what you plan to teach. If you want to make your budget go the furthest, you need to know what projects you intend to do and what materials you require to make those projects. If you’re interested in learning more about how to write a curriculum, click here.

But, like, who am I kidding? If you are asking the above questions you’re probably also asking:
-“Does anyone have an #arted curriculum?”
-“What do you teach the first week of school?” (Hint: here’s what I do)
-“Where do you go for good projects?”

So, here’s my advice (and PDF copies of 2 of my previous purchase orders) about buying (the absolute, most basic) materials for your art room:

1. There is no such thing as too much paper. You can color it, cut it, sculpt it, pulp it, reuse, and repurpose it. I like to order large paper (18×24 inches) because I can cut it down to any size I want, I can fold it to make portfolios, and I can use it as place-mats. Ordering by the ream is cheapest (500 sheets), and I usually buy 50lb paper (not too thin, and not too thick). If you want white paper, look for words like “sulfite” for pure white, and “newsprint” for newspaper like paper. Also, don’t get stuck on just buying white paper. I use a ton of black, purple, and blue paper in lieu of white (click here to learn more about that). 

2. Crayons are overrated. You probably have some scabby lil stubby crayons rolling around. They still work; don’t buy more. Colored pencils you need; colored pencils are the bee knees. If you are teaching elementary through middle school – try the Crayola Art Stix (woodless colored pencils; you don’t have to sharpen). If you are teaching middle school – high school try Prismacolor (if you have a $$ budget), or Prang (if you have $ budget; learn more about my love of Prang here). Do not buy regular Crayola colored pencils; the pigment is not great (the Crayola Art Stix are an exception as they do have good pigmentation).

3. Permanent markers. I use them from kindergarten-high school. Don’t get cheap and buy off-brand ones, either. Sharpie is the best and last the  longest. If you want to know how to keep your Sharpies from walking off, click here. 

4. Tempera Cakes. I HATE using liquid tempera in the classroom. What a mess (and you waste so much pouring etc.). I love temepra cakes. I prefer Biggie Cakes (creamy texture and rich pigmentation), but frequently buy Richeson (budget constraints), which also works well.

5. You can never have too many pencils. But, also, you’re not the pencil gifting tree, either. Pencils walk off. I buy golf pencils and/or put tape on the ends of the pencils to track them.

6. Erasers. Any brand works. I tend to favor the white, vinyl Magic Rub erasers, but cheapie Pink Pearl is also  amazing.

7. Acrylic paint set. Sometimes you need the boldness of acrylics. If your budget is small, buy a small set to use for “special occasions.” If your budget is big, buy those big ole gallons! DO NOT buy the pumps for the gallons. They pumps get clogged, and kids push them too hard and the plug comes flying out with 1/2 cup of paint. Paint. Explosion.

8. A quality pencil sharpener. I’m partial to the Carl Angel-5. You can read my reviews of pencil sharpeners here.

9. If you don’t have decent scissors; you need them. You need at least 1 pair of scissors for every 2 kids in a class. Fiskars makes the best-selling scissors for a reason. Also, if you teach elementary kiddos, try to get your scissor handles to all be the same color (kiddos fight over who gets which color). If you can’t get all one color; at least get enough for each table/group to have the same color.

10. Glue. Don’t buy glue sticks (the kids grind them down in one project). Buy a gallon of Elmer’s glue (the cheaper brands don’t have anti-molding agents, are super diluted, and don’t work as well), and make glue boxes (see picture below). You can also buy a few regular Elmers glue bottles to have handy.

. . .And, that’s it. This is my very bare, absolutely must-have to start the school-year. It’s not exhaustive by any means, but it will get you going somewhere legit.

Here are my purchase orders from previous years. I greatly prefer ordering from eNasco, but one year had to purchase from School Specialty.

Grades K-12 Supply Order from eNasco (served 300 students)

Grades 6-8 Supply Order from School Specialty (served 1,000 students)

Also, if you want some tips on how I manage these  materials, check this out: