DIY in the Art Room

Our great conversations regarding Making Your Own Whiteboards last week got me thinking. Many of you had so many fabulous ideas about making your own whiteboards from inexpensive materials! Wow!  I have a good feeling art teachers from all around the country have SO MANY great tricks when it comes to Doing It Youself in your art room.  DIY is all the rage in home improvement right now, so lets translate that to our art rooms.

Art teachers MUST become creative and resourceful with budget cuts.  In fact, some of us prefer to make things ourselves even if we have the money to buy it. Perhaps the result is better or it just simply to gives us the functionality we can’t buy at a store.

I am officially designating this our “Collecting of the Great Minds” as we work as a community to compile an Ultimate List of Art Room DIY ideas.

Here is Mine:

I use scrap matboard that I get donated from frame shots and cut it into .5 inch, 1 inch and 2 inch “rulers” to make easy measuring guides for art pieces. DIY Rulers in measurements I want. Get ruined or bent? That’s ok, just make some more!

How can you contribute?

Feel free to link up to your own blogs sharing your great idea in the comment section, explain your Art Room DIY in the comments, or link to any other ideas you might find around the inter-web.  Please comment to this post with your ideas so we can have them all in one place.  As I always say, together we are better!  If we get some great responses I will make an ultimate Art Room DIY link list for download right here on AOE.

Let the fun and games begin with our Ultimate List DIY Art Room Ideas!

What do you make in your art room that you just can’t find in a catalog?

What do yo make that saves you a pretty penny and gets the job done in a jiffy?

What is your secret to making anything on the cheap using donated materials or next to free materials at a hardware store?

Comment Away!  I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Victoria Thor

    I use the plastic lids of large yogurt and cottage cheese containers as paint palettes for mixing colors, cooling racks for baked goods to place clay sculptures for even air-drying before they go into the kiln, wood scraps and saw dust (for sawdust clay) from local hardware store for junk sculptures. I know there is more. I’ll keep thinking. ;-)

  • Susan Goodman

    I use strips of cardboard for ethnic puppets, cut into strips and glue together like a cross and make clothes out of old tye dye t-shirts and hair from scrap yarn. I also use cottage cheese ans sour cream contianers to weave on. Cut half inch strips in an odd number down to base and weave to the top.

  • Krista

    I use old and dried up markers to make liquid water color paint by soaking them in a recycled water/soda bottle with the lid on. It’s easy, just fill a recycled water/soda bottle with about 1-2 inches of water, take the lid off the marker and drop it, tip first, into the bottle. In a few min. you will see the pigment leach out of the marker and by morning you have a nice deep color you can use as liquid watercolors. This works great and the liquid watercolor is much easier for Elem. students to use than the tray watercolors.

  • I use tons of free/recycling materials in my art projects. I had to get ‘creative’ early on in my teaching career when I had a very limited budget at my first school.
    Here are some links to projects I’ve done with free or donated materials:

    cereal boxes

    junk mail flyers

    wine bottles

    old CD’s

    I also use large empty coffee cans (collect from the staff room) to hold my paintbrushes in. Also plastic lids to use as circle tracers instead of compasses. I take newspapers out of the recycling bin at my apartment building to use in papeir mache projects.

  • Molly


    I just discovered this blog and LOVE it! I also love DIY in the Art Room!!!!

    Here are a few of mine.

    I used to collect copy paper boxes. I would decoupage paper scraps and pictures of like colors to make scrap paper boxes. When cleanup time came, kids knew that all red family paper scraps went in the red decorative box, all blue family paper scraps went in the blue decorative box and so on. The boxes looked nice, were great for clean-up time, and were perfect when it was time to make a collage. Then I used the box tops for organizing the supplies for the day. I used them like food trays that I color coded and numbered to match the six tables that I had. This made set up and tear down much easier.

    I am sure that most art teachers collect wonton soup containers. They are perfect for so many things. I always had people bringing me containers but I could never have enough. So, I went to the local Chinese restaurant and they sold me a case – cheap! As Victoria already mentioned above, I used the lids for paint palettes. The bottoms are perfect for pencils containers and for paint water. I used to premix water and glue solution and it would keep for weeks in the closed container – Just shake and go when ready to use.

    I painted old flowerpots and placed them over balls of yarn or twine bringing the twine up through the drainage hole to create dispensers. I found that securing the pots to the counter with electrical tape was beneficial as was keeping scissors on a string near by.

    I would always pick up shoe bag organizers when I saw them on sale. I hung them on the back of doors or on the walls in my supply closet to organize smaller materials.

    I am sure I will think of more.

    Thank you for your blog.

    • Thank you, Molly for your feedback and your awesome DIY ideas. I hope we can generate some more so I can put am amazing list together for everyone!

    • Suann

      I am excited to try the flower pot idea for yarn! Seems like I am constantly trying to keep the yarn from being a tangled nest of a mess.
      Some of my ideas:
      I use kitchen tool organizers on my tables to hold pencils and scissors.
      The cardboard flats that cases of pop come in are great for organizing projects on shelves.
      I use a mesh silverware basket by my sink to put brushes in to dry.
      Will see what else I can think of I use.

      • Molly


        Once in a blue moon, I would find an old plastic lid that fit the flower pot perfectly, When I did, It was great because the yarn dispenser could then be mobile. I used them for the popular colors. I have also seen people use funnels for the same purpose.

        I love the mesh basket idea! I had two in my goodwill pile that I just pulled back out. What was I thinking?

    • Amy

      I use clear plastic cups with lids that have holes for straws as my yarn dispensers. The lids stay on and the kids can see the color of the yarn through the clear plastic. They are easy to move around the room too. One thing that makes this super easy is to use a ball winder for your yarn. No more tangles!

  • Kortney

    Molly- I save scraps for collage as well, but only in three box lids: warm, cool, and neutral. The kids can quickly sort scraps of paper, fabric, and yarn into the lids.

    I know this isn’t a new idea by any means, but I dig through the recycle bins at my school for paper with a clean side. The papers get cut in half and placed in a basket for kids to draw on if they finish a project.

    My 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders just finished an architecture project where they printed buildings onto contruction paper using scraps of cardboard, old marker and glue lids, and paper towel rolls as tools.

  • Mjmramsey

    Tennis Ball canisters with a hole cut in the top are great for yarn skeins
    Also the clorox wipe containers for the largerskeins they are great since you can close the lid and the yarn doesnt skoot on out…but because of the opaque container tie a piece arond the container and seal it on with celophane tape so it is easy to know the color inside

  • Mjmramsey

    As everyone is putting in the flowers in their gardens rinse off the black plastic flats containers they are great for sorting papers and they stack so well

  • Dawn

    To corral plastic lids of similar size, take an oatmeal or other cylindrical box and cut a one inch slit down one side. You can easily see and access lids and they take only a little shelf space rather than filling a drawer or bin.

  • Gloria BUdz

    I see “white boards” were mentioned in the article. I attended a PDI in April and that was one of the fabulous things I took away. You take a gallon size plastic bag and there are a couple of options for the “board” part. First of all, you only need to make one class set. I plan on using white card stock.I did find I had to trim it approx. half an inch so it would fit. I purchased two pkgs. of thin dry erase markers in various colors. For the eraser I did find some mini sets on amazon but I really didn’t want to spend the money. So I ransacked a bag of misc. materials I had acquired from our local Recycling For Education facility. I had all these little round foam pieces with a velvet side. I tried it out as an eraser and it was perfect! I had enough of them to give my fellow art colleague a set of her own. If you have cardboard pieces that are brown on one side and white on the other, that would be perfect. I have a box of “9 x 12” cardboard that I received that a company had “substituted” for lg. sheets of chipboard. It’s much thinner and of course, small. So I will probably add a sheet of that too as reinforcement to write on. It’s brown on both sides so not ideal on its own.