Questions about Art Materials

Can the materials used in the books be obtained easily?

Yes! You can find the art materials in art stores or hobby stores with fine art sections. For your convenience art supplies can be purchased on this site in a tote which contains all the art supplies needed for each book. Simply navigate to the proper page for each art supply kit from "art supply packs" on the navigation bar. We also supply a link to Blick Art Materials, a popular on-line discount art supply store. To find the lists we've created for you at Blick U, just go to our navigation bar and click "art supply packs" and then scroll to the bottom of the page.

How do I know what brands to buy?

The materials list at the front of each book lists specific brands in the mediums where it really counts and is more general on materials where it does not matter which brand. This list is on this web site as well.

Do I need to purchase one art supply pack for each of my students or can they share?

For grades K-3 many have chosen to purchase one tote for two students, while others get one for each student. It really depends on whether you feel your children will be able to share the sets of colored materials. The watercolor crayons will last a long time, so it is not a matter of quantity, but a question of using them at the same time. Specific information is given on the Art Supply Pack pages. We suggest for grades 4-12 that you get one art supply pack per student. Students this age will want to keep all of their own drawings in their own sketch pad and they will use up most of what you find in the tote while doing the assignments.

What criteria was used in selecting the art supplies for the art supply packs sold by Artistic Pursuits Inc?

Knowing how art supplies affect the results of student artwork, we carefully considered quality, price, and the age of the students when choosing art supplies. We chose the best quality in all color media. Though more expensive brands may be found, they do not show notable differences when used by students. Since all drawing media give similarly good results, we chose the most economical brands. Paper pads of good quality and those with the most sheets per pad were chosen. Good quality synthetic brushes for students of all ages were chosen, because nothing is more frustrating than a brush that doesn't pick up the paint, hold the paint, and release the paint. Many students "ooh" and "ahh" the first time they use good paint and good brushes and that is a sound we love to hear. In short, the art supplies provided through Artistic Pursuits give maximum performance without professional quality prices. Artistic Pursuits also chose only items with the ASTM D-4236 label, a symbol of a safe product for children.

What does "Conforms to ASTM D-4236" on the packaging mean?

ASTM stands for American Society for Testing and Materials Standards. ASTM D-4236 is a labeling practice for products that contain art materials. An evaluation is conducted by board-certified toxicologists to ensure that the product is not expected to pose any significant chronic adverse health effects to humans via ingestion or skin contact when the products are used as intended or under circumstances involving reasonable foreseeable misuse. As according to the U.S. Product Safety Commission "Parents and others buying art materials, school supplies, and toys such as crayons, paint sets, or modeling clay should be alert and purchase only those products which are accompanied by the statement "Conforms to ASTM D-4236'."

Are art materials all that different or can I just buy what I see at Walmart and other department stores?

Bad Water Color Crayon Example

These two drawings were done by Brenda using the same subject, the same paper, and the exact same process. Both drawings are made with watercolor crayons. The drawing on the left was made with a low quality brand, while that on the right was made with the Caran D'Ache brand that we supply in our art supply packs. This illustrates the different performance levels one finds in art materials. What is important to realize is that a child is not sophisticated enough to understand that it was the materials that failed on the left, not the artist.

Good Water Color Crayon Example

I consider the types of art supplies in the department stores to cater to the preschool child with lots of washable products and to craft enthusiasts who enjoy glitter, stickers, etc. There is an extreme difference in the types of art supplies you find there and those that are available in art supply stores. Walmart and other department stores will carry Crayola crayons (good) and Rose Art (poor). They will carry Crayola and cheap brands of colored pencils (all poor). They will carry modeling clay (all good) and a dreadful product called Model Magic (poor). This all can seem quite complicated. Lets first look at color art materials, then drawing materials.


Pigments, the color in art supplies, are the most costly part of any color medium. The other components are binder, used to hold the pigment together, and filler, a useless substance that adds bulk to the product. Fillers reduce the cost of the product. They also reduce the amount of pigment which reduces the intensity of the color. Cheap products often have far too much filler to give satisfying results (see the flower drawings above). More expensive supplies have very little filler so one gets more color intensity onto the paper and achieves better results. While it is true of art supplies that more expense equals a better product, this does not mean that one should buy the most expensive supplies available (artist or professional grade) nor does the principle apply to most drawing materials.

COLOR PENCILS, WATERCOLOR PENCILS- Derwent and Prismacolor brands give excellent results. Expect to pay $1 to $1.50 per pencil. Brands that sell for $3-$5 dollars per set of 12 have a lot of filler which makes them hard and useless as a coloring tool.

CHALK, SOFT PASTELS, HARD PASTELS, OIL PASTELS- Chalk is a mineral, gypsum, mixed with a small amount of dye or pigment. Because of the weakness of the color, it is better used for sidewalk sketching than on paper. Soft pastels and hard pastels are pigments mixed with a binder like Gum Arabic. Cheaper soft pastels, like those for children, also have some gypsum filler added. Look for the ASTM D-4236 label (a circle around the letters AP) in pastels so that you know it is child safe. Hard pastels have a higher portion of binder and less pigment, making them harder. They create less dust when used and make finer details. Children should not use expensive Professional quality soft pastels. These will most likely not have the ASTM D-4236 label. Oil pastels have a buttery consistency, and are used much differently than soft or hard pastels. They create no dust. It is best to purchase brands like CrayPas which are good quality and made for children.

WATERCOLORS- Watercolors come in many forms such as pan sets, pencil, crayon, or in tubes. Prang pan colors are a good value for young students. Cotman or Grumbacher brands are satisfactory for older students. Finer and more expensive brands can be found. Cheap sets such as Rose Art, Crayola, Sargent, or Reeves should be avoided. They contain too much filler and do not give good color results, even for young children. Make sure the watercolor set has pure primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) and are not glitter, fluorescent, or other fads which offer no educational value.


PENCILS- We use art pencils for the wide range of hard to soft graphite that is available. This affects the value or ability to get a dark mark. The Ebony pencil used in the K-3 and 4-6 books has very soft graphite, enabling students to get dark marks easily. The harder the graphite, the lighter the mark. The softer the graphite, the darker the mark. Art pencils range from 9H (very hard) to 9B (very soft). HB and a typical #2 pencil are in the middle of this range. Pencils are fairly consistent in all brands.

CHARCOAL- Vine charcoal is a burnt willow stick and comes in different widths. Compressed charcoal is a charcoal powder mixed with Gum Arabic and pressed together in round or square sticks. It varies in hardness like pencils with less range. Charcoal also comes in pencil form for detailed work. Charcoal is generally darker than graphite. Charcoal is fairly consistent in quality with all brands.

MARKERS AND INK- Markers are made with dyes. For safety reasons, choose markers made for children, not professional grade. Inks are fairly consistent across brands so any brand will work well. Inks are either water-proof or non water-proof for easy blending on the paper.


DRAWING AND SKETCH PAPER- Sketch paper is a lighter in weight than drawing paper. Weight varies so much between brands that it makes little difference if a child uses drawing paper or sketch paper. Both have a bit of tooth (rough surface) so that the graphite catches on the paper. Paper quality is directly related to price. Cheaper drawing tablets and watercolor paper tablets can be purchased for young students because they go through so much of it. Very young children can use copy paper as a cheap source. Spend more money on the paper they use as students spend more time on each drawing. By Junior High we suggest tablets that are thicker and cost a bit more. Thick paper is tough enough to handle more vigorous erasing and scrubbing. At this stage your child may want to begin experimenting with a variety of paper types. Different paper surfaces cause the materials to look different when applied.

CHARCOAL PAPER- Charcoal paper is a soft paper with more tooth than drawing or sketch paper. The charcoal will catch on the paper easily. It holds up to a lot of rubbing and erasing, which are common techniques when using charcoal.

INK AND MARKER PADS- Paper for ink should be thick so that the wet ink and water do not wrinkle the paper. It should be very smooth so that the pen nib does not catch on the surface and splatter ink. These pads are commonly sold as marker pads.

WATERCOLOR PAPER- Water color paper comes in cold press, which has a rough texture and hot press, which has a smooth texture. The purpose for the texture is the aesthetic appeal it gives to the finished painting. Most economical pads come with a slight tooth. Watercolor paper varies greatly in price. The cheapest pads are satisfactory for very young children, however they will wrinkle and the paint will settle into puddles on the paper. Allow the puddles to dry before handling the paper. I suggest a step up when purchasing watercolor paper for the elementary ages. The heavier the paper, the less it will wrinkle when wet. Professional water color paper is very expensive and can be purchased in weights as heavy as a board, allowing no wrinkling at all. For High Schoolers, a middle grade paper will be sufficient. It can be found in a variety of finishes and the weight will be sufficient.


Purchasing a good brush can be difficult and a bit confusing. First look for the type of paint medium it will be used for. Brushes are grouped by watercolor, acrylic, and oil. Secondly, look for the shape you want. Round and flat are the two most common shapes. In most cases you will be looking for a round brush where the metal casing is round in shape. In this type of brush look for a point. The hairs or bristles should come to a point at the tip when wet. Look for bounce. If the hairs have no resistance when wet, the brush won't handle well. The brush should spring back into shape when lifted from the paper. Thirdly, the brush should hold an adequate amount of paint so that a long line may be pulled before dipping it back into the paint. Expect to pay $3 to $8 dollars for a sufficiently good brush. Larger sized brushes will be more expensive. A watercolor brush will last a very long time if not abused. Every student of every age should be taught how to paint without smashing the brush flat against the paper or pushing it against the paper so that the hairs spread out. Synthetic brushes used for watercolor work very well and are cheaper than those made from real hair. Camel hair brushes fan out and become limp when wet. For that reason we do not suggest using them. Large bristle brushes, commonly sold for children, are too wide at the tip. These types of brushes really reduce the enjoyment of painting, and hinder children from getting detail in their work.

More Frequently Asked Questions

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