The 13 Best Sustainable Art Supplies: The Buyer’s Guide

Are you an eco-conscious artist worried about how following your passion might be impacting the planet? You are on the right path. Most typical art supplies are not good for the environment, so you should always try to do your best to use sustainable options where possible.

The best sustainable art supplies are those that limit your use of toxic materials in art-making or reduce your contribution towards the drain on the earth’s resources. Some of them will also help to cut your carbon footprint. You can find sustainable portfolios, paint, brushes, paper, easels, etc.

The rest of the article will take a closer look at these sustainable art supplies and where you can find them. Watch out for tips on other ways you can be an eco-friendly artist apart from using sustainable art supplies.

The 13 Best Sustainable Art Supplies

Eco Crayons

Commercial crayons can contain a lot of dangerous substances such as formaldehyde and asbestos. This is why there are now various homemade crayons in the market, as more people are looking for options that don’t pose a health or environmental risk.  Funny Little Things and StockmarOpens in a new tab. are popular choices here.

Stockmar Beeswax Stick Crayons, Set of 16 - Non Toxic, Jumbo Crayons, Beeswax Crayons For Toddlers, Kids -Waldorf Homeschool -Waldorf Art Supplies- Includes Storage Tin
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Stockmar Beeswax Stick Crayons, Set of 16 - Non Toxic, Jumbo Crayons, Beeswax Crayons For Toddlers, Kids -Waldorf Homeschool -Waldorf Art Supplies- Includes Storage Tin Opens in a new tab.
  • NON TOXIC BEEWAX CRAYONS: These Stockmar crayons are the perfect blend of beeswax, food-grade wax,...
  • EASY TO HOLD & UNBREAKABLE CRAYONS: These jumbo crayons are easy to hold for small hands making them...
  • ARTIST QUALITY & VIBRANT COLORS: These wax sticks for kids have a pleasant beeswax scent and...

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Both brands make different types of crayons, including hard and soft ones, and they also come in various shapes and sizes. You can be sure of finding something that matches your needs at all times while contributing to the overall health of the planet.

Sustainable Easels

Easels are important for holding up your artwork when it is still in progress or when it is time to display the finished project. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers use sustainable wood in making theirs. However, the Richeson brand has stepped into the gap, offering different easels made of lyptusOpens in a new tab..

Unlike oak, which is the standard wood used in making easels, lyptus doesn’t stop growing after it’s harvested for use in easel manufacturing. It’s also harder than oak, so you aren’t losing out on durability by choosing to go the sustainable route. The Richeson Table Top EaselOpens in a new tab. is a popular choice, but there are other types, including the Lobo variantOpens in a new tab..

Jack Richeson Lyptus Wood Table Top Easel
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Jack Richeson Lyptus Wood Table Top Easel Opens in a new tab.
  • Table Top Easel
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Eco Portfolios

Artists use portfolios to distribute some of their best work. This makes them one of the materials they buy up the most. Buying sustainable portfolios ensures you are not contributing to sending more waste to the landfill. 

The Ecosmart Dura-Tote ColorOpens in a new tab. portfolios from Star Products are excellent options to start with when looking for sustainable portfolios. They are made from 100% recyclable materials that also contain recycled post-consumer waste. 

Daler-Rowney’sOpens in a new tab. Cachet PortfoliosOpens in a new tab. are another example of portfolios that are made from 100% recyclable material. They come in both wire- and hard-bound formats and also feature protective interior flaps.

Last update on 2022-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Natural Earth Paint

One of the first things you’ll be surprised to find out as an artist trying to be more eco-friendly is just how toxic paint can beOpens in a new tab. for the environment. All the paint you wash down the sink after each session can contribute to eco-damage in your immediate environment and far away. To deal with this, you need to ensure you’re using paint products that are more environmentally friendly.

Natural Earth PaintOpens in a new tab. is the first place many eco-aware artists will look for dyes, face paints, dyes, and pigments. The pigments (except blue) are listed as earth-derived, which means that they are not toxic to the environment. Using the pigments, you can mix your own paint to get exactly what you need per time and avoid wastage.

It would help if you also considered using pan-type paints. These are long-lasting watercolor paints in tins and trays. The colors are replaceable, allowing you to cut down your use of container packaging. Brands like Derwent, Windsor Newton, Micador, and Montmartre all have various paints for both beginners and professionals. Choose any brand you like and ensure you can get refills when the time comes.

Yet another way to get sustainable paint is to make yours at homeOpens in a new tab.. Some recipes are more environmentally friendly than others, but every little bit of improvement helps. Again, making your own paint reduces the chances of waste as this process makes it easier to produce only what you need.

For sustainable acrylic paints, Wyland Ecological Art StudioOpens in a new tab. stocks some solvent-free options you can consider.

FSC-Rated Pencils

It is unfortunate, but pencils are still getting made from forest trees todayOpens in a new tab.. However, there are ways you can ensure that you are avoiding manufacturers that are damaging the ecosystem to make their products.

The first tip is to look for FSC CertificationOpens in a new tab. when buying your pencils. There are various levels of certification, but ultimately, it is a label that shows that the manufacturer is environmentally conscious and is harvesting wood for their pencils sustainably. 

Buying FSC-labeled pencils and avoiding companies with shady ethics or factories in countries with lax forest protection policies is a good way to ensure you are buying sustainable pencils.

It would help if you also considered going with pencils from brands like Onyx + GreenOpens in a new tab., which use recycled newspapers instead of wood to make their pencils. Another option is the Sprout Plantable GraphiteOpens in a new tab. that uses eco-friendly materials to make pencils that can be planted when they become stubs.

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Onyx and Green 24 Pack of Colored Pencils, Pre-Sharpened, Made from Recycled Newspaper (8002)
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Onyx and Green 24 Pack of Colored Pencils, Pre-Sharpened, Made from Recycled Newspaper (8002) Opens in a new tab.
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Sprout Pencils | Original Edition | Graphite Plantable Pencils with Flower, Herb & Vegetable Seeds | Eco-Friendly Organic Wood | Prime Sustainable Gift Ideal for Drawing, Sketching & Shading | 8 Pack
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Sprout Pencils | Original Edition | Graphite Plantable Pencils with Flower, Herb & Vegetable Seeds | Eco-Friendly Organic Wood | Prime Sustainable Gift Ideal for Drawing, Sketching & Shading | 8 Pack
  • 🖉 MAKE THE WORLD SPROUT – This Special edition contains 8 graphite Sprout pencils. Look closely...
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Recycled Artist Papers

A few brands are selling recycled artist paper, but StrathmoreOpens in a new tab. is one of the most popular. Like the 465-8 Recycled Hardbound Art JournalOpens in a new tab., some of their papers contain cotton, hemp, and tree-friendly fibers. Savoir FaireOpens in a new tab. is another brand that offers artist paper made from 100% post-consumer recycled cellulose.

For something a bit different, you can look at Legion Paper’s handmade productsOpens in a new tab.. They are tree and chemical-free, and since the paper is handmade, the production process uses far less energy per ton produced.

Eco Glitter

Glitter is used to adding some shine to artistic work. Unfortunately, it is not good for the environment since it’s made from PET plastic. It can contaminate water and soil in the environment and is also a hormone disruptorOpens in a new tab. in humans and animals. Due to the importance of glitter in art, it’s difficult for some people to give up using it entirely, but there are possible alternatives.

Firstly, many brands are selling eco-friendly glitter on the web today to promise that their products are safe for the environment. Granted, verifying some of these claims is difficult as the constituents of the product are often vague. 

However, brands like Glitter RevolutionOpens in a new tab. have mentioned creating glitter from Eucalyptus. The niche is still relatively nascent, so you should know how to spot fake biodegradable glitterOpens in a new tab. when looking to buy some.

An alternative to using any glitter in the first place, while still giving a look and feel a dash of it can bring to any artwork, is to punch holes in old wrapping paper, magazines, cards, and confetti. 

Some of these are more eco-friendly than others, but it ensures you reuse waste and stay clear of harmful glitter. Punch different colors of these items, and you can add some sparkle to any design. For temporary designs, you can use leaves and flowers to achieve the same goals.

Natural Play-Dough and Modeling Clay

Buying eco-friendly play-dough in commercial quantities is difficult, so your best bet is to make yours at home. Fortunately, this is easy if you can spare some time and have airtight containers to store the final product. There are lots of recipes you can follow online, such as this oneOpens in a new tab..

If you aren’t up for some DIY, you can look for small businesses to make enough quantity to meet your needs. You need to ensure they only use eco-friendly materials. Bella Luna ToysOpens in a new tab. are a good example.

On the other hand, modeling clay is a lot harder to make eco-friendly, as you will find in Sculpey’s FAQ sectionOpens in a new tab.. The best thing to do is to ensure you are only using it for long-term projects. It’s made of plastic so it can last a very long time. So, use it responsibly and ensure you are buying from businesses that are constantly looking at new ways to make the product more eco-friendly.

An alternative to commercial modeling clay is making yours at homeOpens in a new tab.. The end product won’t offer the same texture as what you’ll buy from stores, and coloring is often a problem. However, you can be in better control of the materials used.

Fine-Liners 

Lousy InkOpens in a new tab. is one of the best places to look when you want eco-friendly fine-liners. Their product is made with a recycled body and fitted with a refillable cartridge that contains recycled ink. You can also go with Eco PenOpens in a new tab., which makes products with recycled plastic and cardboard. However, the fine-liners don’t come with refillable cartridges. Instead, they are sold in a pack of 20.

Eco Pen Recycled Cardboard Fineliner Gel Pens, Super Fine Tip, Made from Biodegradable, Eco-friendly Materials, 0.38mm Ultra-Fine RollerBall Point, Black Ink, Gift Pen Set (20 Count)
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Eco Pen Recycled Cardboard Fineliner Gel Pens, Super Fine Tip, Made from Biodegradable, Eco-friendly Materials, 0.38mm Ultra-Fine RollerBall Point, Black Ink, Gift Pen Set (20 Count) Opens in a new tab.
  • ♻️ PRECISE EASY WRITING - Eco-Pen’s gel fine-point pens feature a unique ink formula that...
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Eco Paint Brushes

Eco-friendly paint brushes can be made of bamboo, corn, animal hair, and Hala. Each of them has unique pros and cons so that it will come down to your choice and, of course, availability. Bamboo paintbrushes are the most common. The plant they are made from can regenerate quickly, growing up to four feet in a day. You can get them from brands like UE StoreOpens in a new tab..

Paintbrushes made from animal hair are popular amongst artists. Still, there’s a lot of question around how the hair is collected from sables, the animals that majorly produce the hair used in making these brushes.

Corn brushes are made from 65% cornstarch and other eco-friendly materials, but they will still go to the landfill and take longer than bamboo or animal hair to degrade. Hala brushes are used by artists looking for an alternative to synthetic fiber brushes. However, they aren’t easy to find as the Hala treeOpens in a new tab. they are made from is only found in the pacific islands.

Eco-Friendly Cleaning Materials

Cleaning materials are important in any studio. Harsh, toxic options are everywhere, but there are also many eco-options to choose from. PuracyOpens in a new tab. and Simple GreenOpens in a new tab. are two popular brands you can use. 

Toxic chemical cleaners won’t affect just the environment; they can also be detrimental to your health. They are also not good for the health of the animals that will contact the materials when they invariably hit the ecosystem from your studio.

When shopping for eco-friendly cleaning materials, look for animal-free soaps, biodegradable sprays, and other such products.

Organic Chalk

From making marks on fabrics to making pastels, there are several uses for chalk in any art studio. Brands like Bella Luna ToysOpens in a new tab. stock organic chalk made from plant-based ingredients like hibiscus, paprika, turmeric, and spinach. They come in many bright and fun colors. The chalk isn’t edible, but they are marketed as gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan.

Eco-Art Pad

If you do a lot of rough sketching before going to canvas, you’ll need an art pad. The Eco-Art PadOpens in a new tab. is an excellent choice. Each pad gives you 50 9×12 pages for your sketches. According to the manufacturers, they are made with FSC certified paper, and they are also printed with soy ink.

These are the 13 best sustainable art supplies you can buy today, but your transition to eco-art shouldn’t end there.

Other Ways to Be an Eco-Friendly Artist

Apart from buying eco-friendly art supplies, here are other ways you can be an eco-artist.

Pay Attention to the Life Cycle of Products

It’s easy to fixate what eco-art supplies are made from, but the life-cycle of the materials and the product itself is just as important. For example, bamboo paintbrushes can be used for weeks, by which time the bamboo plant used in the making process has recovered multiple times over.

When disposed of, the bamboo handle can decompose in a couple of years or less, depending on the moisture content of the soil. Overall, this makes a bamboo paintbrush truly eco-friendly. Some products are marketed as eco-friendly because they contain certain materials, but they consume many resources and take forever to decompose naturally.

Always Clean Up Responsibly and Reuse Solvents

Do you take your paintbrush straight to the sink when it’s time to clean up? That’s a sure way to load pigment down the drain, and as you’ve seen above, it is bad for the environment.

If you’ve used oil paint, you should rinse the brush in a solvent first to get rid of the pigment—to a large extent. This will wash with soap and water brief and ensure that only a small amount of pigment will get washed down the drain. If you’re painting outside, resist the urge to throw used paint thinner on the ground.

To reuse solvent, all you need to do is pour the used or dirty one into a properly labeled glass container and give it a day or two. You’ll find the pigment in the solvent settled to the bottom. Pour out the clean solvent into another container and reuse it. Rinse and repeat as long as you need to. Glass is preferred because it is an inert material. However, you need to ensure it won’t break.

Even when using watercolor pan-type paints, you should avoid cleaning your brush indiscriminately. You don’t need a solvent in this scenario, but you can dip the brush into water and allow the paint to dissolve into the container instead of washing it in the sink. You can even recycle the water in the same manner as the solvent.

Dispose of Any Toxic Materials Properly

If you collect pigment sludge during your cleanup process, you need to dispose of it carefully. Depending on the type of paint you’ve used, the sludge can contain heavy metals, lead, or other such poisons. You should ensure it is disposed of as hazardous waste instead of directly throwing it into the waste bin or burning it.  

You also have to deal with the pigment on palette-cleaning rags or in empty paint tubes. Contrary to what some artists think, dried paint is still not good for the environment. Once such materials are dumped, micro-organisms break down the pigment, adding them to the food chain.

If you only use 100% eco-friendly, biodegradable paint, as recommended above, however, you can treat the pigment sludge as household trash.

Reuse Painting Supports and Any Such Materials

You can reuse canvases and panels by painting over failed works. You have to wait until the paint you’d like to cover has dried properly. Materials like napkins, paper towels, and tissues can all be reused. Instead of tearing out a new sheet of paper towel to clean charcoal off a paintbrush, for example, you can reuse the sheet you used to clean your hands a while ago.

You can also collect and recycle pastel dust. Once you add some water to the dust, you can roll it into sticks for reuse. X-acto blades can also be sharpened on a whetstone to make them use a bit longer instead of throwing them away once they are blunt.

Your household and studio waste, such as copper or brass fasteners and aluminum foil, can all be reused. If you can’t find any use for them, you should store them and give them away to local artists who may use them as jewelry or props for their creations, cast sculptures, etc.

Use Rechargeable Batteries

It would help if you considered getting rechargeable batteries as these can be reused at home or in the studio. Apart from the pollution factor of disposable batteries, using rechargeable ones helps reduce your carbon footprint by reducing manufacturing, packaging, transportation, and energy used to power each of these stages.

Reduce Paper Use and Recycle

Many eco-friendly businesses start with conserving paper, and you should do so too. You can start by saving printed paper where only one side has been used. This way, you can use the other side when you need to print a draft or a copy.

When it’s time to discard used paper, make sure the collected bunch is headed to a recycling plant. Check your local community for options and properly sort the paper to make the recycling process easier.

Reuse Your Packing Materials

Bubble wraps, Styrofoam, and cardboard boxes can all be reused. If you get lots of frame or portrait orders, you likely have many of these lying around. Find space to store them and reuse them when it’s time to ship your work. If you don’t have many of these, don’t hesitate to pick some good ones from a trash pile when you come across any.

Reduce Your Studio’s Water and Energy Consumption

Basic energy-saving tips such as using energy-efficient lighting and turning off appliances when you are not in the studio (instead of leaving them in sleep mode) can help keep your energy consumption down.

Being careful with your water consumption is also a good way to do your part towards maintaining the world’s sustainability. Don’t wash your paintbrush with the faucet running. Pour some water in a container instead for the washing.

Adopt Eco-Friendly Practices During Studio Remodeling Projects

From flooring to wall paint, you don’t have to look too hard for materials to useOpens in a new tab. in eco-friendly construction. You can also reuse discarded building materials to save materials from going to the landfill and reduce your project’s overall cost. When it’s time for a remodeling project, talk to contractors in your area to see what materials you can reuse for free.

Apart from construction materials, you can make your studio more eco-friendly by using green energy sources like hydro, wind, or solar. It would help if you also considered installing energy-conserving equipment such as heat pumps.

Recycle and Repair Equipment

If appliances, furniture, or vehicles break down, it almost always makes more sense to repair instead of buying a new one. The only exception is when you can replace the equipment with other energy-efficient equipment, especially with cars and electronics.

When you have to get rid of any furniture, electronics, or vehicles, you can consider donating them to charities where people can use or repair them. You can also sell or exchange them on platforms like Craigslist or Freecycle.

Cut Down on Driving

Reducing the number of cars on the road is an excellent way to cut down carbon emissions, and you can do your bit even as an artist that spends a lot of time in the studio. Instead of driving down to the mall, order your supplies online. This doesn’t just make you more eco-friendly but can save you money in gas and maintenance costs in the long run.

Additionally, you can send pictures of your work to editors, publishers, or other such stakeholders online instead of delivering portfolios in person. Even when you send work to galleries, shipping them instead of delivering them in person is better for the environment. This also applies to other business processes, such as taking meetings, banking activities, etc.

Keep your driving to only when it is necessary and walk or ride a bicycle whenever you can.

Remove Your Address From Unnecessary Mailing Lists

If you regularly receive mails you send to the trash, you should talk to the company and get them to remove you from the list. Materials used in printing consume many resources, so it is wasteful to keep allowing them to come to you when they are not useful.

Encourage Bundled Orders

If you sell your art online, you should encourage your customers to order multiple items at once instead of ordering separately. Discounts and free shipping are some common incentives. Adopting this will most likely get you more sales, but it will also help you reduce the quantity of packaging you consume per year and further reduce your brand’s carbon footprint.

If you want to go a bit more in-depth on selling on Etsy, you can read one of my articles on the topic: Is It Illegal To Sell Fan Art On Etsy?

Talk to Other Artists

You can further contribute towards a more sustainable world by encouraging other artists to buy eco-friendly art supplies and adopt green behavior, as we’ve seen above. While the impact of your switching to eco-friendly art can be significant, convincing a dozen other artists, directly or indirectly, to join in can have far-reaching positive effects.

Start from your circle of influence. Do you teach an art class? Do you have a blog, YouTube Channel, or Podcast that receives decent traffic? Start teaching the current and future artists why they should be more eco-conscious. Even if you don’t have a large platform now, you can start one right way and build it.

As a community, artists should have this conversations and debates to promote more sustainable and conscious practices; have you ever thought about how to dispose your water paintOpens in a new tab.? Or about what happens with the water with tempera residue?

In the below video, Estefania talks about concerns about the environment and art, and gives some advices to a more environment aware approach for our art.

WATCH – Environment, Art Materials, Art Practices talk & updateOpens in a new tab..

Estefania Santos IllustrationOpens in a new tab.

Final Words

Buying sustainable art supplies is one of the best ways to make the transition to an eco-artist. From paints to brushes, there are many options you can choose from. There is almost always an environmentally friendly option for most products you use in your creations. Explore as many of these options as possible.

However, you also need to ensure you don’t stop at just buying art supplies. Make conscious efforts to ensure that your art business is more environmentally friendly. We’ve seen several ways you can achieve this. Get started with as many of these as possible, and work your way up.

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Ines

Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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