Tip & Tricks for setting up a Home Art Studio

I’m sure you all have art supplies at home, some of which are easy to bring out and use and others that permanently reside in the back of the closet because they are a pain to deal with.  You open the closet bright-eyed and excited to make art, and then those ugly, hard to deal with supplies growl at you and you back away slowly.  But the best way to encourage yourself and your kids to make art is to have everything you need, easy access and easy clean up right there.  I’ve been teaching art for more years than I care to admit, and I have learned many tricks along the way.  Yes….I even used glitter with my kids…but I used it the easy way.  I have added a downloadable supply list to make it easy to remember.


Felt backed plastic table cloth

My first tip is to take some time and set everything up in one place. 

  • I put everything in PLASTIC BINS.  Bins that are sized so I or my kids can easy take them out and put them away.  I put smaller containers in these bins, and I have found that several medium sized bins are easier for me than one huge on that no one can lift until dad comes home.  Now they make those wonderful CARTS with three tiers that you can just roll away.  
  • Find a PERMANENT HOME for your stack of bins or your cart.  I used the bottom of our coat closet.  It was reserved for my stack of art bins.  The kids new exactly where they belonged.  And the door closed so the little ones couldn’t do independent, Jackson Pollock style art!
  • PLASTIC FELT-BACKED TABLE CLOTH-  this is by far my best investment.  The one you see above I have had for 20 years.  It is the largest I could find.  The reason this is so genious is because there is no more hunting for newspaper or whatever, to cover your kitchen table.  It is waterproof and even sharpies don’t bleed through. It is so easy to clean:  Just let the paint DRY right on the tablecloth, you heard me right.  If you are working with acrylic paint it will just be permanent.  If you are working with watercolor or tempera paint once the paint dries you can take the whole thing outside and shake it out.  The paint just flakes right off!!!!  I HATE washing tables after making art!!!!  So do the kids.  You can also take it outside to spray paint on, or do water crafts, or even just to hose it down.  
Egg Carton or Ice Cube tray
  • EGG CARTON OR OLD ICE CUBE TRAY- These will last forever!  You pour your paint, use, and that’s it.  DON’T THROW AWAY!  Yep, just let the paint dry in the egg carton.  As you can see above it will crack and dry out.  No biggie, the next time you paint pour the same colors into the same cup.  If you are using tempera paint it will actually reabsorb the old paint.  If you are using acrylic a hard shell forms and you can just keep adding paint on top.  The first time you use the egg carton it will seem very soggy on the bottom.  That is ok.  After that the shell that is formed makes it stay dry.  
  • PLASTIC “STUFF”- If your tempera paint comes in hard to squeeze bottles you can use a squeeze bottle instead.  
    plastic container with a rag folded up inside.  This is to dry off paint brushes after rinsing so that the brush isn’t all drippy when you put it in another color.  As you can see I just keep reusing the same rag. When the top gets too dirty I refold it so a cleaner side shows.  When I am finished painting I lay it on top of my bins to dry out.  Every now and then I throw it in the laundry.  No more wasted paper towels!!!
    plastic food container lids–  I use these as palettes when I want to mix colors.  Rinse off to clean.  Or even easier?  Put it in a plastic baggie before using.  Then when you are finished painting you can just take the off and throw away the baggie.  No need to rinse!
    easy to handle water bottle– I keep a water bottle filled in my art supplies.  When I am ready to make art it is right there.  Just make it one that the kids can easily handle on their own.
    -plastic container to rinse off paintbrushes.  I actually use old butter containers.
  • OLD SHIRT OR APRON- self explanetory.
  • PRINGLES CAN or plastic water bottle with the top cut off.  I store paint brushes in an old pringles can.  This way the bristles don’t get smushed in storage.  
  • TOILET PAPER- I always have a roll of toilet paper with my art supplies. I use it to quickly wipe up drips and spills, and to blot wet paint from my paintings, and as a blending tool when I draw.


  •  If you are using tempera paint add a couple drops of dishwashing soap to the bottle before using.  The texture will stay the same and it is easier to get off clothing, floors, walls, ….
  •  Before using glue, take off the orange tip, and coat the inside with either vaseline or vegetable oil.  This keeps the tip from clogging.
  • OR….. take a small plastic container with a good lid and put a damp sponge cut to fit at the bottom.  Then pour about a 1/4 inch of white glue over the sponge.  Let it sit overnight.  Now the kids can just wipe the piece they want to glue over the sponge and WA-LAA! No messy fingers.  And these keep a VERY long time.
  •  Keep a little piece of sandpaper with your crayons.  Once the crayon is flattened to a nub you can “sharpen” it using the sand paper.
  • Store markers FLAT.  Yes, flat.  This will prolong the life and juiciness of the markers.  You can also store them in a plastic baggie on their sides to keep them from drying out.
  • Store acrylic paint upside down.  This way you can see exactly what color is in the bottle and they won’t dry up as fast.
  •  You don’t always have to buy paper.  Use the back of magazine pages, junk mail, flyers….just have the kids, or you, coat the paper with a layer of acrylic paint.  You have to paint a background anyway, right?  Just blend several colors together and coat that paper.  Once it dries you can use crayon, oil pastel, chalk and paint in any way you want.  (watercolors and colored pencils will not work)
  •  Make a drying space for those masterpieces by hanging a clothes line and clothes pins.  
  •  If the paper dries wrinkley and warped, just get out your iron.  Place the art face down and covered with a paper towel.  Iron it using a low heat.  Works every time!
  •  Glitter…..YES…..Glitter, every mom’s nightmare.  Before you shake that glitter on your project fold a larger piece of paper in half. Unfold and fold in the opposite direction.  Sprinkle the glitter over this folded paper and when you are finished you can easily pick up the paper and pour the glitter back into its container. The creases make it easy!
  •  And my last tip for today is to pour glitter into old salt and pepper shakers before using.  It comes out a little slower and controlled.  Instead of trying to pour the glitter back into the shaker after using, have an empty parmesan cheese container.  The lip is really big and much easier to manage.  Pour all the colors into this and you now have a rainbow glitter!!!  

Have fun!!!!

Download a print a list of supplies to help you get started!