Through the years teaching Art to homeschoolers, we have experimented with many Art supplies and mediums. Some have been wonderful and inspired creativity in us and the kiddos while others have flopped. We’re sharing our favorite art supplies gift guide for kids of all ages!
We’re not art supply name brand snobs!
More expensive does not always mean better art!
Art supplies make great gifts for birthdays, Christmas or “just because”! We also love art supplies for educational tools for the kinesthetic and visual learner to draw, color or illustrate the subject they are learning. Many kids enjoy coloring while a book is read aloud to them because it helps them retain the information better.
Speaking of reading and artwork, we love finding books on art, about art, art themed or just great creativity inspiring books. If you can gift a book with art supplies you help a child spur their imagination.
Let’s discuss a few terms to help us all meander through the Art supply world.
If you look at Wikipedia or The Dictionary for “crayon”, you’ll see confusing information.
What is a crayon?
“It is a stick used to mark or draw made from wax, chalk and other materials”…. well that’s clear. Right?
No one knows exactly when crayons came to be used, but we do know they were used in at least the 1600’s. Pretty much anything that can mark and be held in your hands, fits into the term “crayon”.
If it’s a marking stick made from oil, it is called a pastel…. except there’s chalk pastels. You can see how confusing shopping for art supplies can be! Oh, and don’t forget there’s paint crayons!
We will show you what we like and why and the kid’s reactions to each product below. *This post contains affiliate links.
The “crayon” most known to use in coloring books is a stick made from wax mixed with pigment. The result is the waxy coloring tool kids love to use. But there is a definite difference in the coloring results depending on which crayon brand used.
It’s the same as why one chocolate chip cookie tastes different from another chocolate chip cookie, the amount of each ingredient used in the recipe!
If a company uses a paraffin wax or beeswax will change the feel of the coloing motion and the amount of wax distributed. The mount of pigment mixed into the wax and what kind of pigment is used will change the coloring result and amount of color viewed.
A crayon with a higher ratio of wax to pigment will distribute a little amount of blotchy color and a build up of wax. Too much wax will blob up your artwork because your paper can only handle so much wax build up before the crayon stops working for you.
There’s a sweet spot in just the right wax and pigment mixture that allows you a smooth coloring experience and a lovely amount of color to your artwork!
Too much wax also tends to make the color on the paper less or diluted from what they stick appears to be. This frustrates many kids who want to see the color on their paper that they have in their hands. If they don’t get the results they envisioned, they decide immediately that they don’t like crayons.
Don’t believe us? Grab a cheap crayon and compre with our favorite. Color with them and you’ll discover not all black crayons are equal!
Children's Books about Crayons
#2 Creative Coloring Books
The publishing world has been busy the last ten years creating coloring books in just about every subject and style imaginable. The coloring books of a child’s early years have been given a more mature flare! Rather than big open coloring areas with bold black outline drawings, coloring books can be crammed full of tiny details and patterns.
Coloring has been found to help reduce stress. The motion can help some kids focus and is a great warm up to start the day!
But coloring books can also be educational! Our favorite educational coloring books are from Dover Publishing. They have more subjects than we could ever list. For the best shopping experience, type in the subject or theme you are studying followed by “Dover Coloring Book” in your search field. Here’s some we know kids enjoy.
#3 Pencils and Charcoal
Oh #2 pencil……you have been the pencil most prescribed by elementary schools and standardized tests, but you are not the only number for Art!
The higher the number, the more charcoal, graphite or color you can use to draw. The higher the number, the softer the medium and the greater ability to smear and blend.
It is also a messier pencil.
Charcoal and graphite can be in a stick (more a compressed rectangular shape) or in pencil form surrounded by wood. The pencil helps keep the mess down and since you have been trained to hold a pencil, it’s less intimidating to begin your drawing skills.
Play with the different levels of softness and hardness in this medium.
The kids in our class are a mixed bag of results. Some liked the blendability a softer pencil allowed, while others were offended by the smears in areas their hands touched while drawing. We have had kiddos who could not handle the spots or smears left on their paper. Some kids feel like the smears helped make their drawings look more realistic!
Children's Books about Pencils and Drawing
#4 Colored Pencils and Watercolor Pencils
Want to make a child really feel like an artist? Give them a pack of watercolor pencils, a paint brush and a cup of water. At first glance, these amazing pencils look like regular colored pencils.
So deceiving, unless you read the side of the pencil you will have a hard time distinguishing between them.
But once you see the magic happen with water, you will quickly pick up on the difference.
Rather than wax that makes up a colored pencil, watercolor pencils react to water rather than repelling water. This allows the color to blend into a watercolor effect. The results are beautiful.
Once your watercolor artwork is dry, you can layer details on top with colored pencils.
Colored pencils can also be layered and give a smoother result than crayons. Most colored pencils contain enough wax that watercolors cannot be used on top of them.
For beginners, we love Crayola and as kids progress, Prisma.
Chalk is not just the white sticks used by teacher on a chalkboard anymore. Not many teachers even use it because of the messy powder and residue that needed to be cleaned daily. Remember the Little House on the Prairie episodes where a child would be punished by washing the chalkboard?
Chalk is calcite found in sedimentary rocks such as limestone. It is powder that is mixed with a gum to help it bind together into a stick form. It’s already white powder so it mixes easily with powdered pigments to make colored chalks.
This is where not all chalks are equal.
Pigments aren’t cheap so it’s hard to get saturated colored in cheap chalk pastels. This is an area we spend a little more for the kids to use. We want them to have a great experience with the supplies and feel inspired to keep creating. If there is not much difference in the pink, orange, and white chalk or the yellow and blue chalk colors when they use them, they are left dissatisfied.
For sidewalk chalk, the bold and bright colors from Crayola may us happy! The sticks are shaped just like crayons only bigger and the colors are just as they appear.
For chalk on paper, we love the intense colors in this set. But you have to remember that chalk is fragile. So the frustrations that come with using chalk are the breakage, less ability to keep a sharp edge for smaller details, messiness and the feel of this medium on their hands.
Chalk is messy and smears easily. If a child touches the chalk too much it will almost disappear from their paper. Many kids hate the strange way their fingers and hands feel with the chalk on their hands. The powder leaves a dry residue that irritates the kids so they want to keep washing their hands.
For fun chalk project ideas for rainy days when you can’t go outside with sidewalk chalk, mix it up indoors with black and white cardstock. Chalk is beautiful contrast on black!
Children's Books on Chalk
#6 Scratch Paper
Scratch paper has been around for a long time now, but boy has it improved!
Years ago when we were in Elementary school, we made scratch paper with crayons and a chalky black paint. But it didn’t always work like you wanted it. ‘
Now, there is scratch paper that when scratched, reveals various colors underneath the black coating and the scratched markings are smooth and crisp!
For Egyptian Art studies we have used the metallic gold reveals which made beautiful artwork.
We’ve also used a cheaper version with not so good results. If the scratchable top layer is too tightly adhered to the underneath layer, it won’t scratch off easily or at all. Some papers require a hard pressure, sharper tool or worse, needs so much pressure that holes begin to rip the paper.
Since scratch paper is paper, you can cut it into any shape you like for really cool art ideas!
We can assure you, this brand gives great results! Look at one of our precious student’s inspired Starry Night!
Markers come in multiple bases, such as water, alcohol, acrylic, stain and oil for just about any use. The safe ones for kids and your home are water based markers.!
Water based markers are washable and react with water. But that does not mean you should go marking all over you walls, furniture or clothing! Some pigments can still leave a stain on surfaces especially if they are porous or chalky such as flat latex house paint.
Unlike crayons, cheaper markers seem to deliver the level of color that you see on the outside, but the bigger issue is the amount of color wetness on the paper. Many cheap markers create dry areas and lines if you layer on top of an already colored area or they dry out before you finish a larger coloring section.
That’s very disappointing.
What we love about Crayola Markers is the nib (the part you color with on the tip). The tips are wider which allows you to color larger areas by leaning the marker slightly to the side. For finer details, the tip is tapered to a point.
The kid’s markers are a good size for little hands to hold. But if you want a finer tip marker for smaller details, you’re in luck, they have those too.
Because they are water based, if they begin to dry out, you can dip them in water and use them as water color paint. The ink reacts with water so after you color with them, apply a wet brush to move the ink around a little or dilute areas for a pretty effect.
Alcohol based markers
Alcohol markers range in price and ability from Sharpies to Copic and Chamelon Markers. Sharpies are the most affordable and dependable for just about any use.
But because they are alcohol base, Sharpies are not going to wash easily off of surfaces. Actually, the side of the marker says, “permanent”. This is why many moms do not allow their kiddos to play with Sharpies. The good news is that the removal is possible depending on the surface or fabric that has been marked.
Sharpies will mark over most Art mediums so they are great for mixed medium projects, detailing and outlining!
An oil based or lacquer coating can activate the marker’s ink and cause it to smear or bleed. In those cases, an oil based Sharpie or paint pen might be a better choice.
Copic and Chameleon Markers create amazing artwork that has a digital effect, but on paper. They beauty of their use is the ability to blend you ink with other colors and layer colors. But these markers are on the pricy end of art supplies. If your child is wanting to stretch their coloring ability and artwork we recommend these. This is one of the only times we’ll say spend a little more!
Carrie drew and colored flowers on her washing machine. She began with Sharpies and tried to blend the ink with alcohol and Q-tips. Then she switched to her Chameleon Markers. The difference in the effects was the Sharpies ink separated and diluted. Greens became yellows. While the Chameleons keep saturated colors, blend and layer.
Chameleon Markers are our pick for the teen artist venturing in their art!
For years, kids have been painting with a pan or packed watercolor. We’ve used them in our classes, but the kids struggle with getting the colors to be darker, more pigment and less diluted.
The issue is water colors need water to activate them, but the water also dilutes the darker value of color.
That’s when we discovered liquid water colors. They are more saturated color and satisfy not only the kiddos, but also mom with the washable clean up!
Children's Books about Paint
#9 Clay and Modeling Clay
Tactile and sensory creative mediums are a must for the hands on learners. It’s amazing to watch a child who does not like to color, draw, paint or use chalk find their creative niche in clay. They become hyper focused and the end results are astonishing 3D creations!
We like different clay options for different ideas. For the colorful creations that air dry, we like a poly/clay. Because we do not have access to a kiln, and few people do, we like a modeling clay that air dries and is paintable. Crayola’s white clay is perfect!
Children's books on forms
#10 Paint sticks
Along with the liquid watercolors, we also love paint crayons. Paint in a stick! Kids love the mess free ability to create art and mom’s love that the paint allows for better control and less mess.
#11 Oil Pastels
Oil pastels are a love hate relationship for Art teachers. We love oil pastels, but hate the clean up when the pastel gets in and on the wrong surface. But the end results in artworks are worth all the cleanup! Oil pastels blend and the colors are vibrant and true to what you see. Again, Crayola for the win with kiddos.
Our desire is that each kid and kid at heart discovers a favorite art supply or medium that helps them glorify God in their God given creativity.
Giving a child the gift of creativity is given them the freedom to play, create, explore, design, invent and share their gifts with others. Help them find ways to glorify God with their creativity!