Handmade Art Supplies

Some people go green for the impact it has on the earth. Other people go green because they feel it is more healthy to use as many natural products as possible. I’m part of the latter group. Despite my wish to use more natural products I regularly find myself going back to the chemical laden and over processed products that I am used to. In fact, Constance loves to do art, especially anything that involves painting. We use a lot of art supplies, but it wasn’t until I saw this article on Green Art Supplies for Kids from Simple Organic that I even considered that there could be ways that we could make our art time more natural.

While her article focuses on commercial products you can buy, it got me thinking about what art supplies could be handmade if you chose to go that route instead. I started with the items we most commonly use, and here’s what I found.


Handmade paper is pretty common. Some basic instructions can be found on Pioneer Thinking. I have also seen instructions that involve creating your own pulp from wood rather than recycled paper. One of my favorite variations is to add plant materials (leaves, petals, etc.) to create beautiful patterns in the paper. Another fun project is to create plantable paper. Seeds are embedded in the handmade paper so that it can be planted and flowers or herbs will grow.


All of the tutorials I found for handmade crayons were actually for recycled crayons, like this one at Elle’s Studio. Yes, I’m all for recycling and it’s definitely easier to manage the cute chunky crayons that are created than the little tiny ones you have left after mangling the end of the box. I’m just curious if you really could create handmade crayons completely from scratch. It can’t be too hard, mostly wax and some dye would be my guess. If anyone knows of a place where instructions are published that would be great to know.


I couldn’t find any instructions on how to make paint by hand, but I did find this page on how commercial watercolor paints are made. I suppose somebody ambitious enough could take that information and try to develop their own recipe, but I am not that person. That gives me an idea. I’ll google “paint recipe” instead of “handmade paint” and see what happens. Wouldn’t you know, there are recipes! Family Education has several different recipes for all kinds of paint. Since painting is Constance’s favorite now, I will definitely be bookmarking this page.


Finding play dough recipes is really easy. Just go to playdoughrecipe.com and you will be rewarded with recipes that range from the traditional salt dough or cream of tartar recipes many of us adults played with as kids to more edible versions using peanut butter and other food products. Some of the recipes involve cooking, some do not. The texture also varies slightly from recipe to recipe. No matter what kind of play dough you prefer, chances are you will be able to find a recipe there.

How about you? What art supplies do you use most, and would you consider handmade alternatives?

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One thought on “Handmade Art Supplies

  1. Offering natural alternative to conventional toxic art supplies has been our mission since we opened our doors. We’ve thoroughly researched the idea and have come to understand a few basic conclusions.

    Professional artists are concerned with their work lasting a reasonable number of years, some many more years. Some of the most permanent pigments- in any art medium- are the most toxic; the cadmiums, the leads especially. Some companies have included hues in their lines that mimic these substances but the quality is lacking and the permanence is low.

    When it comes to involving children in art, the process of making art is the goal. This is where using natural, non-toxic pigments is acceptable. There are so many instructionals on the web to show you how to make your own playdoughs and paints that, if you’re willing to put in the extra preparation, even as part of involving the children, is well worth the effort. Realistically, though, the younger children usually don’t have the patience or attention spans to get past the creation of materials.

    Although limited, there are a few products out there that are worth seeking out. As a small shop we’ve tried carrying several products to fulfill the need. The most dependable of the natural materials have been:

    Crayon Rocks : These crayons are made with natural pigments using soy wax. They have a great shape and, in our experience, children gravitate to them. Regular crayons are made with petroleum wax- although labeled “non-toxic”, it is only because they have never been tested for toxicity. (see “The Artist’s Complete Health and Safety Guide”, Monona Rossoi, Allworth Press, NY, co-published with the American Council for the Arts.) They are made in the US.

    Glob Paints : These paint powders that you mix with water are pigmented with fruits, spices, vegetables and flowers. They are food grade. One of the best things about them is that you can mix different amounts of water with them to make watercolors, temperas or even fingerpaints. And they come packaged in kit form that includes biodegradable jars and bamboo brushes. Also made in the US.

    The only way this market will grow is if it’s supported by those who care about what they put in their children’s hands. Vote with your dollars and the demand will inspire more people to design and manufacture such convenient and safe products.

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