Physical Space

Taking the Struggle Out of Supply Orders (Ep. 037)

In this episode, Cassie talks about the basic supplies everyone needs for their art room, and some of her best tips for finding quality supplies for your kids–without spending too much money. Listen as she discusses her favorite paper (3:00), paint (9:30), brushes (14:00), and some other additional supplies (15:00). Full episode transcript below.


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I don’t know what a perfect day would look like for you, but I can tell you that a perfect day for me would definitely involve shopping, and I’m not even picky. It could be something as simple as shopping at Target. I love hitting the thrift store. In fact, I love going through people’s stuff, as creepy and weird as that makes me sound, but garage sales, estate sales, the flea market, a perfect day would involve all of those things. One would assume that when it comes time to place my art supply order, I would be equally enthused. Well, one would be wrong. The thing I dread the most about teaching art is placing that art supply order. You get that giant catalog or several. If you’re like me, your box, your mailbox at school, is literally overflowing with them when that time of the year hits, and it looks so enticing at first until you start seeing that there’s one million different kind of paint brands and 3,000 different kind of marker and oil pastel, and don’t even get me started on paper. Who knew that paper had different weights? Say what?

These are the things that I wish I had learned in college, but I did not, so allow me to school you if you, too, are on the struggle bus of art supply ordering. I’m going to share with you my favorite things that you would might want to consider for your art supply order.

I’m Cassie Stephens. This is Everyday Art Room.

Because there are so many art supplies that an art teacher needs, I’m actually going to break this podcast up into two parts. In today’s podcast, I’m simply going to cover the basics, the get you started kind of supplies, the supplies that you, as an art teacher, probably use every single day.

Next week, we’re going to dive a little bit into the things that are maybe reserved for special projects, like clay, my favorite yarn to use and what I always order when I’m doing weaving or fibrous projects with my students. That’s next week.

This week, let’s focus on those basics. I’m going to start at the top of the list. The very top is paper. Let’s talk about the weight of the paper, that whole thing. I had no clue … I remember placing my first order. My goal, because I’m so thrifty and read cheap, was to order the cheapest paper, and I didn’t even know what a ream was. You all, a ream is 500 pieces of paper in case you’re like me. I was like, “I guess I need a ream. Just one will do.” No.

Let me share with you what I now order. Let’s talk about paper. When it comes to paper, I always order paper that is 12 by 18, and I order white paper that is 80-pound weight. I get a lot of questions about, why, when I share my students’ artwork on my Instagram or my blog, why is my students’ paper not wrinkled, why does it not curl at the edges? I’m telling you, the weight of the paper makes all the difference in the world. The 80-pound paper is not cheap, but it’s worth it. I use that paper with my students for everything. It eliminates the need for you to order watercolor paper, which is extremely expensive, especially if you’re in the elementary art room. I usually order … I have about 350 students. I usually order about four to five reams, and that just makes it so I never have to worry about running out. That’s way more paper than I need, and, really, it just depends. I always glance at my paper stash to see how much paper I have on hand before placing that order, but I can’t recommend that paper enough.

Just a little side note. If you are using paper that is curling and wrinkling, you can turn the paper over to the back, use an iron. I got one at the thrift store that I keep in my art room. Put it on the lightest setting and you can iron paper flat. If it still curls, try adding just a very gentle mist of water from a water bottle and then iron it, and that should help reverse that effect. Of course, flattening it with all those art supply catalogs comes in pretty handy, too.

Now let’s talk about another kind of paper that you might not be familiar with, and that’s tagboard. tagboard is a thicker kind of paper. Think of a manila folder. That’s essentially tagboard. I order tagboard 18 by 24 inches, and I usually order … It doesn’t come in reams. It comes I think in maybe a stash of 50, perhaps 100. Check your art supply catalog. I usually order about two to three of those. We use those as our messy mats. When my students are painting, that’s what covers the table for each student. They also are great for doing drawing projects. This year, I decided I really wanted my second graders to make a very large painting, so I had an extra little, couple of boxes of the tagboard, and we painted on that. tagboard comes in manila, and it also comes in white, so if you’re considering having your students create artwork on it, you might consider getting the white. I believe it’s a pinch more expensive.

Now, construction paper. Not all construction paper is created equally, and I learned that the hard way, again, ordering the cheap stuff. It tears. It fades. It’s yucko. Tru-Ray is the only way.

I meant to mention this at the start of the podcast. I am not affiliated with any of these brands. I am speaking to you from my heart. I have worked with a couple of these brands, and I’ll let you know which ones, so you can take it with a grain of salt, but for the most part, I am not affiliated with any of these guys. I’m just telling you the supplies I absolutely love. Tru-Ray is definitely one of them. I never, ever order, however, their white construction paper because it is construction paper. It is not great for painting, especially watercolor paint. Stick with your 80-pound stuff for that.

Here are the colors that I order. I order magenta, turquoise, chartreuse, hot pink, and all of their fluorescents. They have a fluorescent orange and I think a fluorescent green, which would be chartreuse. I also order the ROYGBIV, red, orange, yellow, green. You know how ROYGBIV goes. Why am I telling you? Anyway, that’s what I usually order, and I try to get about two to three packets of basically all of those colors. That can start to add up, so I just am really mindful about maybe what projects I might be doing that year. You all, I don’t usually have a clue, but I try to think ahead a tiny bit, and I also pick the colors that I know the kids really enjoy, which are the bright ones. One thing I do order extra of is black construction paper. We use black construction paper a lot for projects, in general, for our black, glue, Sandra, silver swig, portrait project. We use that. Plus, I almost always use black construction paper when it comes time for the art show for matting and framing. That’s something that I do usually order several packages of.

Now, let’s talk about … I’m going to throw in, when I tell you about some things that I order, some things that you can order if your budget allows. I get about $3 per student, so I’m sitting at about $1,200, which sounds very glamorous until you start spending it. It really adds up, so I do a couple of fundraisers throughout the year, Artsonia and Artome. However, if your budget allows you to order a little bit more, then I would definitely consider ordering tissue paper. You can get tissue paper that’s bleeding or non-bleeding. What that means, in case you’re not familiar, is if you add water to the tissue paper, the color will leave the tissue paper. It will bleed out onto the paper that you’re working on or attaching it to. My favorite brand of bleeding tissue paper is Spectra. If you order, I usually order bleeding and non-bleeding, if you do order bleeding and non-bleeding tissue paper, make sure have two clear bins, crystal clear, so that it’s obvious to you which one goes where, and I say that because I don’t. I just chucked all my tissue paper in one bin, and now it’s not really fun when I’m trying to figure out, which one of this bleeding again? That’s my paper suggestions.

Let’s move on to paint. First of all, let’s talk watercolor paint because I feel like that is an art room staple. I have tried out many different kinds of watercolor paint. I’m going to tell you, and I know I’ve shared this in a past podcast, my favorite pan watercolors. They are Crayola’s Mixing Colors. I don’t recommend ordering their set because their set, their Crayola Mixing Color set, comes with white and it comes with maybe two yellows. I don’t know. It’s kind of weird. I don’t recommend that. I would go to ordering the refills because probably somewhere in your art room, you already have the little container for the paint, so there’s no need to order yet another container for paint if you can simply pop out the old colors and replace it with new. Here’s what I order. Red, red-orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, blue-violet, and magenta, and those are all by Crayola Mixing Colors, and I order a ton of those, especially yellow, because we use watercolor paint all the time in my art room.

If your budget allows, liquid watercolor is really fun to use because the colors are so stinking vibrant. I have found that I don’t necessarily have a favorite as far as liquid watercolors goes. I’ve used Sax. I’ve used Blick. I’ve loved both, so I don’t have a recommendation there. However, I would like to say that I have tried the, I believe it’s Sax fluorescent watercolor paint, and it is not something I would recommend. That’s all I’ve got to say. It just was very disappointing. I was so disappointed in your watercolor.

Now, let’s talk about tempera paint. I use to only order the Crayola Washable Tempera Paint. However, I’ve now expanded my horizons. It is a great paint, the Crayola Washable is. However, it is a washable paint, and the colors are never going to be quite as opaque and vibrant as the non-washables, so if you are a little concerned about your student’s clothing, you definitely would want to consider the washable paint. I like to live life dangerously, so I like to order either Sax Versatemp is great or Blick’s Premium Tempera is also very good. Here are the paints that I order. I order extra of the white, and I get the big ole, honking gallon. I’m not fooling around. I usually get two of those for white, two black, and two yellow, and then I get red, blue, magenta, and turquoise, just one gallon of each of those.

That eats up so much of your budget, so if you’re budget doesn’t allow for you to get paint like that, then you might consider getting tempera cakes. Tempera cakes, I love, especially I love using them with my younger students. Some of my favorite tempera cake brands, the Biggie Cakes by Alphacolor are great, but just like with the watercolor paint, if I were you, I would just order the refills. They’re a little plastic pan that the cakes sit in, is so flimsy that as the students are painting, I notice that several of them got holes and that there was paint leaking out onto the table. Just order the replacements packs, and then, while you’re ordering, order some condiment cups or, better yet, go to your favorite inexpensive restaurant supply store, like a GFS I think is what they’re called. Anyway, get their condiment cups, the ones with the little lids, and put your tempera cakes in there. Then you don’t have to worry about your tray breaking.

While you’re at it, another … Let’s just backtrack a pinch. When it comes to tempera paint, my favorite supply to use to hold the paint are ice cube trays, and when they’re not in use, I use the press and seal to keep the paint from drying out. I also love egg cartons. Doggie dishes are also perfect. You can get them at the Dollar Tree for water and a sponge for drying the brush.

All right. That, I think, covers the paints. Oh, one last thing. If your budget allows, Jack Richeson makes a really great fluorescent tempera cake.

All right. Now, let’s talk paintbrushes. This is going to be short because I only have one recommendation. Royal Langnickel, all day long, all day, every day. Best paintbrushes. I like to order the green ones. I don’t know what they’re called. I just know that the handle and the bristles are green, and they come in a variety pack of several different sizes. They are a round brush. They’re great for watercolor paint. They’re great for tempera. They’re great for everything. If you’re going to be having your students paint on larger surfaces, you’ll need a bristle brush for that, like those thicker, more course paintbrushes. I don’t have a strong recommendation for those. I just would definitely not order the cheapest one in the catalogs. I have noticed that when I have done that, the hairs fall out of those brushes, and they get all over the artwork.

Now, let’s talk about the thing I probably should have talked about first, pencils. I, again, don’t have a really strong recommendation for pencils. I think my kids secretly eat the erasers off the very first day they get the pencils and then just proceed to sharpen them down to nubs, so I don’t really splurge too much on pencils. When I am feeling like splurging, I really love Ticonderoga’s pencils. I love their Biggie pencil. It’s a little bit bigger of a pencil, and it’s great for my younger students’ small hands.

Now, erasers, I always used to order pink erasers, but I hate pink erasers. They always leave behind a pink line or a pink smudge, and they’re a little bit harder to work with, I think. I love white erasers. I think they work fabulously. I’m not in love with any brand, in particular. They do get stabbed a lot by my students, and I just feel like that’s just the life of an eraser. Another eraser that I always get, because I love to use it with my older students, are the kneaded erasers. We bust out the kneaded erasers when we do our Romero Britto self portraits in fourth grade. The students feel so mature and so grown up using them, and they just love them. That’s another eraser that I like to buy. However, keep close tabs on those kneaded erasers. The kids like to think of them as clay, and they might end up walking out of your room if you’re not careful.

Colored pencils. Ugh, colored pencils. Ugh, gosh, the sharpening of color pencils. I love having my kids use color pencils. They drive me crazy with the sharpening. You got to get a good brand that’s not going to constantly break, which means your students aren’t constantly at the pencil sharpener. If your budget allows, Prisma, of course, makes the world’s best color pencil, but they’re also mighty expensive, so I usually get a Crayola brand color pencil, which I’m not in love with. Every now and then, I will splurge. It helps to splurge once a year on just a few. For example, Prisma makes a great art stick. That’s a fabulous alternative to a colored pencil. An art stick is essentially the lead inside of a color pencil, and it’s a rectangular kind of shape, so it doesn’t roll off the table. Prisma makes the very, very best. They are expensive, so every year, I buy one new pack or two new packs to just kind of keep slowly building up our stash. Crayola also makes an art stick. I’m not loving them nearly as much, and neither are my students, but an art stick is a great alternative to color pencil because you don’t have to sharpen them.

Oil pastels are another art room staple, and if you know me, then you know my love, channeling my inner Aaron Neville there, for Sargent’s fluorescent oil pastels. I use them on everything. They are my jam, and I’m telling you, they’re inexpensive. They are so stinking beautiful when the kids use the oil pastels, and then do a watercolor resist over it, drop dead gorgeous. I can’t recommend them enough. In fact, I usually order a bunch of them at the beginning of the year, and then about halfway through the year, we’re down to nubs, so I order a bunch more. As far as other oil pastels goes, like your standard colors, I feel like Faber-Castell, who I have worked with in the past, so take that with your salt, please, Faber-Castell makes a beautiful oil pastel. Also, Sakura, the old standby.

One thing that drives me bonkers, though, about oil pastels is the peeling of the paper. The kids immediately wear them down to the paper. They don’t want to peel the paper or they can’t physically peel the paper because they’re five, so then you’re stuck with it, and then you end up with oil pastel under your nails. There’s nothing that drives me more crazy, so this year, what I did was I threw all of my oil pastels in a bin of water. I let them sit overnight. I came in the next day, and you could literally just lift them out of the water, and the paper fell right off. It didn’t harm the oil pastels at all, and, now, I keep my oil pastels sorted by color, so just a little tip for you there.

Chalk pastel, I know some folks aren’t fans. I absolutely love chalk. I think it’s gorgeous. The kids learn so much about blending colors. Faber-Castell makes my favorite, easy, hands down, no contest.

Of course, one has to order Sharpies. I usually just stick with the fine tip. I don’t usually get that ultra-fine tip, so getting a stash of black Sharpies, I feel like every art room … That’s a good art room staple.

Same with markers. I know there are some people who are in the Crayola marker camp and some people who are in the Mr. Sketch marker camp, and there’s never anybody in the RoseArt marker camp. What’s up with that? Anyway, I’m not a fan of scented markers. I know the Mr. Sketch colors so beautifully, but I feel like it’s introducing my students to huffing, and that’s not something I want to do. They do love those markers though. It is their absolute favorite thing, so I do kind of struggle with that, but, usually, Crayola is my old standby.

Last, but not least, scissors and glue. Fiskars is usually the scissor brand that I order, but I have used Westcott before, and I like them, so I’m not going to play favorites. I will play favorites, though, with glue. Elmer’s Glue-All, not the school-grade glue. Elmer’s Glue-All is where it’s at.

There you have it. That’s the end of my list. That’s the basics of what I always order every single year. Love to hear if you guys order the same thing or if there’s something else that is your favorite. Thank you so much for letting me share, guys.

Tim Bogatz: Hello. This is Tim Bogatz, the host of Art Ed Radio. Thank you for tuning in to Everyday Art Room. If you are looking for graduate credits this summer, make sure you check out under the Courses tab. We offer over 20 online courses designed to help art teachers at every stage of their professional career. There are actually two new studio courses will be offered for the first time this summer. One on watercolor, and one on sculpture. These studio cultures blend classroom strategies with your own personal practice. They’re perfect for the summer. They take place over the course of eight weeks and are worth three credit hours. New sessions start the first of every month, beginning in just two weeks on May 1st. Check out Studio Watercolor and Studio Sculpture and all of our courses at

Cassie Stephens: Now it’s time to take a quick dip into the mailbag. This first question comes from Margaret. She says, “I have 720 kids,” holy cow, Margaret, “who will be painting canvases in the next three weeks. How do I keep them organized? Any ideas?”

Oh, gosh. Well, you’re talking to the unorganized master. Seriously, organizing is not my thing, but one thing does come immediately to mind. I am a big believer in keeping things color-coded. It visually just helps me. It’s an instant reminder, so if you go to an office supply store or even the Dollar Tree, they have those tiny, little round sticker labels. I don’t know what they’re used for, maybe yard sales for pricing or something like that, but they come in a variety of colors. Could you just put those on the back of the canvases and organize, color-coded and grade level-wise. That, I think, would be my immediate way of organizing it.

I would also then … Let’s say Miss Smith’s class has yellow stickers on the back of their canvases. I would also make sure to place a yellow piece of paper under that stack of canvases. That way, I know right away, “Oh, look, there’s Miss Smith’s class,” but since you have 720 kids, you might have to use a yellow paper or the yellow color-coding for that whole grade level. That would be my immediate tip.

Also, what I do in my room is make sure that your students have a teacher code. If they have their color-coded sticker, their name, and their teacher code written nice and big on the back of that canvas, I think that will really help you be able to keep up with everything. Having a place for all those canvases, making sure the kids know where that place is, will also really help. Good luck to you. Gosh, you’re amazing to do 720 canvas paintings with your students. Hats off.

This next question is from Jenny. She says, “I have a question about the art show. I have stage fright, which probably has to do with my language. English is my second language, but even in Spanish, I wouldn’t go near a stage. Anyway, my question is, when you do these art shows, do you have an opening speech? Do you say something, or do you set a time to start and a time to end and people just come and go?”

Jen, great question. I do not do an opening speech. I’m like you. I enjoy speaking in public, but I think it would be a little bit nerveracking to try to speak in front of people as they’re trickling in or just kids crying, people talking when I’m speaking. No, I’ve never even actually considered it.

However, what I would recommend is making sure all of your students know exactly where their artwork is, and I think that will help eliminate the notion that you have to give a speech. For example, we’re leading into the art show now. We’ve been talking about it every single day. We have a giant chart in my room where we do a countdown, so I tell them how many days until the art show. I remind them of our theme, and I remind them every single time where their artwork will be found because I don’t want students and upset parents coming up to me at the art show saying, “Where is my kid’s artwork?” All my students know that their artwork is hanging on display outside of their classroom and that their 3-dimensional pieces are in my room.

The art show should be a time when basically you just put your feet up and enjoy all of your hard work. You’re going to get all of these hugs. You’re going to get all of this love. You’re going to get praise from parents. “My kid loves your art class so, so much.” It should be a time where you just bask in that sunlight. Don’t put any extra stressors on yourself, like giving a speech. Great question, Jen.

If you all have a question for me, please feel free to send it my way. You can find me at the

One last little tip. While you’re ordering your art supplies, always go back and double-check what you’ve ordered, and I say that because, one time, as I was placing my order, I was all excited because I got something so cheap. I couldn’t believe it, and it made it so I could order extra art supplies. When my supply order came in, the reason it was so cheap was because, instead of ordering the gallons of paint, I had ordered the pints, the pints of paint. What was I going to do with that? Then I had no money in my budget. Thank goodness, like I mentioned earlier, fundraisers. If you don’t do those and you’re in dire need of some cashola, you might want to consider the two that I do, Artsonia and Artome.

Thank you guys for joining me. Stay tuned next week. We’ll talk about art supplies for that extended, those more in depth kind of projects. Have a great weekend.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.