10 Non-Traditional Supplies You Need for Your Art Room

What are the essential supplies every art room should have? Of course, paper and paintbrushes are basic. Paint, markers, and oil pastels would be found in most art rooms as well. In addition to these most basic art supplies, what other materials and supplies can teachers not do without?

Here are 10 things every art room should have.

1. An Adhesive Transfer Gun

If you have not discovered this handy tool, you are probably working too hard preparing your displays. This tool can roll two-sided adhesive onto the back of artwork in no time. When I first discovered adhesive transfer tape, I was delighted to find it cut the time it took to hang a large display in half.

Adhesive Transfer Gun

2. Binder Clips

Binder clips come in handy in many different art room situations. Organizing stacks of work for shows, hanging art, and rolling up tubes of paint are just a few great uses for binder clips. One of my favorite ways to use them is to create quick sketchbooks for students. Just stack paper, clip together, and voilà! If students run out of pages, more can easily be added.

3. Dog Bowls

Before I started using these, painting days meant guaranteed spills. Even the most stable bowl would get knocked over once in a while. Dog bowls, on the other hand, don’t spill. They are the best choice for water bowls.

Dog Bowls

4. A Timer

I use my timer all day, every day. In a busy art room, structuring class time is essential. I use this tool during bell ringers, cleanup, closure activities- you name it. Setting time limits and making sure students know the amount of time they have left creates a sense of urgency. This helps even the most unmotivated student to focus.

5. Sticky Notes

I think sticky notes might be the most versatile tool on this list. From writing passes to filling out exit slips, we use a lot of sticky notes in my class. We use them for critique activities and I use them to give student feedback. They can even be used to make a collaborative artwork!

Sticky Notes

6. Dry Erase Boards and Markers

Dry erase boards can be used for so many fun activities. I use them often for group games and brainstorming exercises. They are great for practicing drawing, too. Students can easily draw and erase as many times as they want. The lack of pressure is comforting to students as they problem-solve through a drawing.

7. Condiment Cups

There are many ways to store paint. Plastic tubs, egg cartons, and palettes with lids are all great options. I like condiment cups with lids best. They come in a variety of different sizes and are inexpensive. They are clear as well, so it is very easy for students to see exactly what is in each container.

Condiment Cups

8. Sandwich Bags

When storing clay, nothing is easier than sandwich bags. Students can write their name on the bag, slip their work in, and seal it up. It will be ready for them to continue working the next time they come to art, even if it’s an entire week later. Sandwich bags are also handy for storing collage scraps, stamps, and other small supplies.

9. Chocolate

Yes, you can give your students candy if you want. But this is not for them; this is for you. Teaching is hard work. At the end of the day, you might need a pick-me-up. Chocolate is my go-to when I’ve had a rough day. I keep a bunch in my desk and reward myself at the end of the day.

10. A Smile

This one is for both you and your students. When nothing else works, a smile often will. Children are not always easy to reach, and sometimes managing a classroom can be overwhelming. It can be hard to stay positive some days. I have learned in those challenging moments when you feel like you might lose it, a smile can be a powerful tool. It can break down barriers, build trust, and communicate caring. It might be the most essential tool on this list.

There are so many great tools teachers use in their classrooms every day. The items on this list are simple to use and inexpensive to buy. They will make your teaching days easier and allow you to spend more time enjoying your students.

What supplies do you consider essential in your art room?

What do you use to make your job easier?

Anne-Marie Slinkman

Anne-Marie teaches elementary art in Virginia. She is a life-long learner who is passionate about providing relevant and meaningful art experiences for all students.


  • Jesse

    Brilliant! I hadn’t heard of the transfer tape, I’ll be sure to look into that! And the dog bowls as water bowls….another dandy suggestion! Thanks!

    • Anne-Marie Slinkman

      I haven’t had a spill since I changed to the dog bowls, and the adhesive transfer tape is a huge time saver when hanging work!

  • Brenda McCullers

    Great list! I also use muffin tins to transport those condiment containers of paint to the tables.

    • Anne-Marie Slinkman

      I do the same thing, Brenda!

  • Kiara

    Here are some essentials from the dollar tree: Mini trash cans, one for each table. Reminds kids to put their trash in the can, not the floor! It works! Rags to clean off the table, containers to store everything for each table group. Permanent markers from dollar tree are pretty decent and will work in a pinch, as well mirrors for self portrait drawings. I love dollar tree, but the $$$ add up fast!

    • Anne-Marie Slinkman

      I love the idea of a small trash can for each table. Clean up is always a challenge in an art room!

      • Mary Weishaar-Wall

        Our dollar store also sells dust pan and brush sets. We cut the microfiber towels into quarters to make them a manageable kids size. Their baskets of all sizes are useful. They sell dishpans and trays which are good for drying out water cups, too.

  • Mr. Post

    I buy packs of round magnets at Home Depot. I use it to display kid art work on my dry erase board.

    My favorite dry erase board cleaner is Windex with ammonia. Ammonia is what dry erase board manufacturers recommend to clean their boards – and a spray bottle of the stuff goes way farther than dry erase board cleaner. I use school paper towel instead of a dry erase board eraser.

    • Anne-Marie Slinkman

      Those are great ideas, Mr. Post!

    • Susan Legere

      I use theses button magnets too! I also use them in my 1″ button maker to make magnets instead of using the pin backs. :)

  • Bettina Olson

    What is the best place to find condiment containers? I love that idea!!

    • Mary Weishaar-Wall

      Gordon Food Service is where we get ours. They are great for little tubs of glue or mod podge, too.

    • Lily

      Is there Smart & Final where you live? They carry them.

    • Shannon Fish

      School Specialty. The cups and lids are in separate packages, but they’re very economical.

  • Susan Legere

    NAEIR has these glue transfer tape applicators right now! Become a member and get 6 for 28.00 handling fee! https://catalog.naeir.org/product/4736683 I have ordered them and use them everyday!

  • Dani Grable

    Does the transfer tape stick to painted cement block walls?

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