Every art cupboard will have its variations, and of course school budgets have an impact on what is available. Some schools have a shared art cupboard for each Key Stage and others have a supply in each classroom. Whichever way you store your art materials, there are ways to ensure you make cost effective choices that don’t compromise on quality.

Does quality matter with art materials?

There are some materials where there isn’t a huge variation in quality regardless of price. Things like sugar paper, tissue paper, glue, ready mixed paint and even some drawing pencils can be bought in bulk for relatively low prices and will be largely consistent in terms of quality.

However, with things like watercolour and acrylic paint, brushes and pastels there is more of a range in quality. For example, lower cost paints contain less pigment meaning children can’t always experience its full potential. Where possible, buy the best quality you can afford. Despite the initial outlay, watercolours and other paints and pastels do last a long time provided guidance is given on how to take care of them! Remember that acrylics can be watered down and used a bit like watercolour too. Experiment with ways to lengthen their shelf life, for example cover unused paints in clingfilm – acrylic will keep like this for several days.

Where can I source art materials?

  • An obvious way to gather materials for low cost is to call out to parents to donate. This is great for things like junk modelling, with newspapers and magazines – and even textile materials such as ribbons, buttons and beads.
  • Try contacting your local scrap store to see what they have available. You can often fill up a bag of materials for a small fee.
  • Keep a collection of lost or discarded artwork that can be cut up and used for collaging. AccessArt contributor Jan Miller does this routinely in her job as specialist art teacher and writes more about it in her Budget Friendly Art Materials for Primary Schools post.
  • Create your own shopping list at school which can be added to by teachers to help you manage ordering.

What art materials do I need?

To support the AccessArt Primary Art Curriculum, we have created a materials list that covers the materials needed, to facilitate the pathways through the entire curriculum, from year 1 through to year 6.

The materials are for suggestion only and in many cases, especially construction projects, the important thing is to provide a wide variety of different materials, so you do not have to provide the exact materials suggested.

Remember art is a creative subject and there are always many ways of achieving an outcome, and any project you deliver will be informed by the materials you have available.

Here is a list we have created to help you get started and stocked up:

Mark Making Materials

  • Soft B Pencils (2b, 4b and 6b are ideal)
  • Graphite Sticks 
  • Water Soluble Graphite Sticks
  • Charcoal (willow)
  • Handwriting Pens
  • Thicker Black Pens (e.g. Sharpies)
  • Coloured Pencils
  • Oil Pastels
  • Soft Pastels
  • Wax Crayons
  • Homemade drawing materials (e.g. sticks)
  • Ink

Paint, Print and Colour

  • Water Colour Blocks
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Ready Mixed or Poster Paint
  • Brusho
  • Printing Ink
  • Printing Medium (optional but extends life of printing ink)
  • Carbon Copy Paper
  • Ink Stamping Pads

Paper and Surfaces

  • Sketchbook
  • Cartridge Paper
  • Sugar Paper (neutral “buffs” plus optional black)
  • Newsprint
  • Maps (or old newspapers)
  • Tracing Paper
  • Wallpaper Lining Paper (Optional but cost effective for larger drawings)
  • Assorted scrap/collage paper and card (recycled envelopes etc). 
  • Calico or Old Sheets
  • Mount board (approach local framers for free or cheap offcuts)
  • Corrugated Cardboard (for Sketchbook covers)

Modelling Materials

  • Buff Clay
  • Air Dry Clay
  • Plasticine
  • Modroc

Construction Materials

Please note this is a general list of construction materials. Collect your own materials, use scrap stores and ask parents to donate. Recycle. Think expansively in terms of what might be useful. It might be helpful to split (in your head) materials into those which can help fasten (like string, elastic bands, wire etc) and those which help build (like cardboard), though there will be overlap.

The aesthetics of the materials will also inform the aesthetics of the outcomes.

  • Recycled Card & Paper
  • Wire (modelling wire and thinner florists wire)
  • Modroc
  • Paper Fasteners
  • Elastic Bands
  • String/Wool/Ribbons etc
  • Needles and Thread
  • Fabrics 
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Straws
  • Elastic bands
  • Lollypop sticks, Coffee Stirrers, Matchsticks 
  • Withies (willow sticks – can also use found sticks)
  • Casting Plaster (Optional – for certain projects only)
  • Foamboard / Mountboard

Glues & Tapes

  • Strong PVA Glue
  • Glue sticks
  • Sellotape
  • Masking Tape
  • Cold Melt Glue Gun (optional but handy for projects in years 5 and 6)
  • Elastic Bands


(Additional to standard school equipment of brushes, scissors etc)


  • Screen Printing Mesh
  • Printing Foam
  • Printing Rollers
  • Embroidery Hoop (optional)
  • Cardboard (cut into sheets for mixing / rolling ink)


  • Craft Knifes
  • Cutting mats
  • Pliers
  • Hacksaw and Bench Hook or Clamps


  • Tablets
  • Image Manipulation Software
  • Animation Software
  • Remote Shutter (for animation)

With many thanks to Access Art for sharing their advice, guidance and suggestions in this blog.

AccessArt is a UK Registered Charity and a member of The Council for Subject Associations.

AccessArt works to inspire & enable high quality visual arts teaching, learning & practice. It was founded in 1999 by Paula Briggs and Sheila Ceccarelli, graduates of the Royal College of Art Sculpture School. In 2004 AccessArt became a charity (Registered Number 1105049), with the aim of furthering advancement in the visual arts.

AccessArt is now the leading provider of digital visual arts resources in the UK, providing inspiration and ideas to the whole community.