How to Choose the Best Brushes and Palettes for Your Budget

I like to get my supply order for the upcoming school year to my principal before I leave for summer break. In true last-minute fashion, I am just starting that list now. Every year, I hem and haw about the best way to spend my limited budget.

  • What brand should I go with for charcoal and drawing pencils?
  • Do I really want to spend a quarter of my budget on watercolor paper? 
  • Are those $20  pastels the best choice for 13-year-olds?

I can’t buy the best of everything, but I do like my middle-school students to try out some “professional” materials and tools along with our student-grade markers and watercolors. Painting supplies are one of those areas where I choose to use a little more of my budget. A variety of decent brushes and heavy-duty palettes are always at the top of my expense list. More often than not, we still use plastic ice cream bucket lids to mix paint, but there’s something about using a “real” palette that gets students feeling confident about their art making.

Having a clear idea of the type of painting supplies to stock in your art room takes some trial and error and, of course, personal preference.

We’ve created two documents to help you prioritize your must-haves when it comes to brushes and palettes.

The Brush Chart below can even be used as a classroom poster for student reference when choosing their own brushes during work time. Simply print a large-scale version of the PDF.

Brush Chart

Download Brush Chart Now

Check out the Palette Options below to see the pros and cons of each type and help you decide what to order.

palette handout

Download Palette Options Now

Do you want to dive deeper into the best practices for teaching painting techniques, color theory, and managing the mess of using paint in the art room? Take a look at our new course, Studio: Painting – Tempera & Acrylic.

Whether you are teaching advanced painting at the high school level or looking for a more successful approach to tempera at the elementary level, there will be something new to learn in this class. You will have the time and the opportunity to try new techniques firsthand as you create a teacher showcase series and final portfolio. Join our June, July, or August sections of Studio: Painting – Tempera & Acrylic here!

What art room supply do you find yourself spending a good portion of your budget on? Is it worth the cost?

Tracy Hare

Tracy is a middle school art teacher from central MN who strives to create rich, meaningful content and resources through her Content Specialist role at AOE.

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  • Cara

    Regarding your use of transparencies for palettes, I found (on pinterest, so it’s not my original idea) a really great project for those things. Dale Chihuly hanging chandeliers! My art club loved this project and putting them together.