The 100 best teen art supplies

Art has been a huge part of our family’s life since we began homeschooling in 2012. Unschooling art has taught all of us that there is more to being creative than whether you can correctly replicate a basket of apples on canvas. (Pro tip: I’ve had art on display in MANY gallery shows, including one show where just my work filled the whole gallery, but no, I cannot draw, sketch or paint you a basket of apples.)

That said, realism is a great art form! But collage, and abstract art, and mixed-media work, and surrealism, and any number of other things are also great ways to explore your creative side.

Disclosure: This post has some affiliate links. I only link to things we legitimately use and recommend, so if you see such a link, it's because we really do believe in the book or item!
Too many teenagers, whether in public school or homeschool, get the idea that art is something you are “good” or “not good” at. You can absolutely have specific talents in art. But it’s still art when it isn’t award-winning. Art is the process, not the result, and we have a ton of fun exploring even the media we are truly terrible at.

With that in mind, Ashar and I came up with a list of the 100 best teen art supplies. If you’re looking for a gift for the teenager in your life, these make a great starting place! Almost all of these are things we either use now or used in the past ourselves.

(And if you’d like to see other great gift ideas for unschoolers, especially teen unschoolers, check out our gift guide here!)

Unschool Rules: See the Best Teen Art Supplies

Workspace organization

These supplies can help you organize and display artwork of all kinds.

  1. Kallax – IKEA’s square shelving unit is basically the only shelving we use in our house. At a quick count, I believe we have something like 20 separate Kallaxen (our preferred plural of Kallax) in different sizes. Pairs well with…
  2. Drona! – These fabric bins fit perfectly inside the Kallax squares and can hold a surprisingly large volume of supplies, both in size and weight.
  3. Drafting Table Art & Craft Drawing Desk – Having a good basic workspace is important. We like this one because it doesn’t need a huge space.
  4. US Art Supply Wooden Tripod Display Easel
  5. US Art Supply Coronado French Style Easel with 12″ Drawer
  6. S. Art Supply Beachwood Sketch Box Easel with Divided Storage Compartment
  7. Art Alternatives Marquis Artists Adjustable Desk Box Easel – Most artists have a good easel, and these are great starter ones in a variety of sizes.
  8. Washi Tape Storage Box – I’m not saying washi tape breeds like rabbits in our house or anything, but…
  9. Art Profolio Presentation Book
  10. 24-Inch by 36-Inch Black Student Portfolio – If you have a teen artist, they almost certainly need a portfolio.
  11. LED Artcraft Tracing Light Pad – Ashar bought this for herself with her graduation money. She has used it to trace base shapes that she then expands upon!
  12. Deluxe Teal Geometric Rolling Papercraft Organizer Case
  13. Vencer 5 Drawer Wood Art Storage Box
  14. Blue Hills Studio Wide 8-Drawer Storage Cart
  15. Crafter’s Companion The Ultimate Marker Storage
  16. VonHaus Black 15-Drawer Organizer Cart with Rolling Wheels
  17. Craft Paint Revolving Storage Rack
  18. Everything Mary Rolling Storage Tote
  19. California Home Goods Snapcube Stackable Arts & Crafts Organizer Case
  20. US Art Supply Artist Wood Storage Box with Drawers
  21. ArtBin Transparent Art Supply Storage Box
  22. MyArtscape Paintbrush Holder – Organizer for 15 Long-Handle Brushes
  23. Loew-Cornell Multi-Bin Brush Organizer, 49 Hole
  24. Tinksky Artist Paintbrush Roll-Up Bag
  25. WeiBonD 96-Slot Pencil and Pen Holder
  26. ArtBin Clear Marker Storage
  27. Creative Mark Rue Art Drying Rack – If I could put an item on this list for “magical device to keep your cats from walking on your art,” I would, but barring that, this is the next-best option.

Paper, canvas and more

  1. Legion Paper Tape Binding Watercolor Pad
  2. Fabriano EcoQua Notebooks, Large
  3. Fabriano EcoQua Notebooks, Small – We LOVE Fabriano notebooks. These are just a couple of our favorites; you can search either Fabriano or Fabriano EcoQua to find tons more options.
  4. Strathmore Visual Journals – These make GREAT mixed-media notebooks. I use one as a “collage journal,” which is a ton of fun.
  5. Colore ProVisible Graphite Transfer Artist Paper
  6. Alvin Lightweight White Tracing Paper Roll
  7. Bienfang 20-Yard by 12-Inch Wide Sketching and Tracing Paper Roll – If you want to make something long on paper, this is your best bet.
  8. S. Art Supply 36″ Wide x 6 Yard Long Canvas Roll – The canvas version of the long paper roll above.
  9. Canson XL Series Watercolor Textured Paper Pad
  10. Strathmore Toned Gray Sketch Pad
  11. Artistik Canvas Panels
  12. Daveliou Stretched Canvas

Things that put color on other things

These are the paints, inks, colored pencils and more that we use to add color to our work.

  1. Daler-Rowney Pigmented Water-Resistant Liquid Acrylic Ink Set
  2. Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens – Cannot say enough good things about these. They’re what we use for almost any kind of writing, both artistic and day-to-day. I use them in my planners as well as a whole ton of crafts.
  3. Arteza Acrylic Paint Set, 60 Colors/Tubes
  4. Castle Art Supplies 72 Colored Pencils Set
  5. Tombow Dual Brush Pen Art Markers, 96 Color Set
  6. Woodman Crafts Paint Sticks
  7. Copic Marker Skin-Colored Markers, 6-Pack
  8. Crafts 4 ALL Set of 12 Professional Paint Brushes
  9. Colore Acrylic Paint Set, Set of 12
  10. Colore Watercolor Painting Kit, 24 Colors
  11. AIT Art Fine Detail 11-Brush Set
  12. Jen Manufacturing Poly-Brush Disposable Foam 3″ Brushes, 36 count
  13. Bob Ross Liquid White Oil Paint
  14. Artists’ Grade Gamsol Oil
  15. Plastic Paint Tray Palettes
  16. Acrylic Paint Brush Set, 50 pcs
  17. CONDA Cotton Canvas Painter’s Apron
  18. The Masters Brush Cleaner & Preserver
  19. Frjjthchy Stainless Steel Brush Washer – Technically, these last few items KEEP color from getting on other things, but you know what I mean.
  20. Wow! Extra Fine Glitter Set from American Crafts – Let’s hope your teenager can keep this neater than I can.
  21. EasyInk Temporary Tattoo Kit – One of Ashar’s current career explorations is tattoo artistry. I’m hoping to get her this so that she can see how ink goes onto skin in a less… needle-involved fashion.

Unschool Rules: See the Best Teen Art Supplies


  1. Westcott 12″ Personal Trimmer – A must if you do any kind of paper-crafting.
  2. Fiskars Paper Crafting Bypass Trimmer, 12-Inch
  3. Tonic Studios Tim Holtz 371 Retractable Craft Knife
  4. Bira 2″ inch Oval Lever Action Craft Punch for Paper Crafting
  5. Bira 3.5 inch Star Lever Action Extra Large Craft Punch for Paper Crafting
  6. Bira 2″inch Heart Lever Action Craft Punch for Paper Crafting
  7. Cassette Craft Punch Alphabet+number Set 36 Piece – Punches are awesome! Not only can you use these for traditional paper-crafting, but punched-out heavy cardstock is great to add to mixed-media work too.
  8. AC Cardstock Multicolor Extreme Value Pack
  9. American Crafts DCWV 12″ x 12″ Pastels Textured Cardstock Stack
  10. 12 x 12-inch AC Cardstock Pad by American Crafts
  11. DCWV Corrugated 12 by 12 Paper Pad
  12. ColorBok Cardstock Paper Pad, Delilah
  13. ColorBok Cardstock Paper Pad, Marble
  14. ColorBok Cardstock Paper Pad, Mint Julip – Cardstock is great for a number of art styles, from scrapbooking to mixed-media assemblage. We just happened to like these colors, but you can go wild choosing any size and color you want.
  15. Paper House Productions Paper Crafting Kit, Sun-Drenched – Patterned scrapbooking paper is awesome, and this reminds us of the beach, which we really love.
  16. Perfect Paper Crafting Cutting Mat
  17. Fablossom Paper Starter Kit to Make Paper Flowers
  18. Cactus and Succulent Stencil Templates
  19. We R Memory Keepers Twine for Paper Crafting, Secondary Colors
  20. We R Memory Keepers Twine for Paper Crafting, Neutral Colors
  21. Uxcell Plastic-Handled Scissors for Paper Crafting
  22. 40 Rolls Solid-Colored Washi Tape
  23. 60 Rolls Glitter-Patterned Washi Tape
  24. 48 Rolls Decorative Washi Tape – Remember how I said our washi collection is… ample? These are just a few of the basic styles.
  25. VENCINK Real Bone Folder – If you’re not familiar with papercrafting, this may seem weird. It’s not a folder like a thing you put papers in; it’s a thing that helps you fold paper, especially heavy paper, in neat creases.
  26. Sizzix Big Shot Cutting/Embossing Machine
  27. Silhouette Cameo 3
  28. Cricut Explore Air 2 – This and the Silhouette are great for cutting out specific shapes, including some very complex ones; in fact, you can even create your own art and have it cut. The Explore Air also lets you do custom printing and cutting at the same time. They can all be complicated to learn but once you get the hang of them you can do a ton. Some even cut fabric patterns for you, which is just more than I can deal with but very cool.

All things mixed media

This is a little bit cheating, because you can use literally anything as part of a “mixed-media” piece. These items are ones that especially work well when added to other art.

  1. Sizzix Thinlits Die Set for Mixed Media by Tim Holtz
  2. Tim Holtz Idea-ology Thrift Shop Ephemera Pack for Mixed Media – Laying this down under a thin coat of ink looks amazing!
  3. Aokbean Assorted Vintage Mixed Color Metal Steampunk Charms for Mixed Media
  4. Lindy’s Starburst Gang Spray Set Embossing Powder for Mixed Media
  5. Stampers Anonymous Tim Holtz Cling Rubber Stamp Set for Mixed Media
  6. Fiskars 8-Inch Amplify Mixed Media Shears
  7. Andy Skinner Mixed Media Alphabet Spaghetti Stencil
  8. Strathmore Mixed Media Roll of Vellum
  9. Hibery Mixed Set of 30 Antique Vintage Skeleton Keys, for Mixed Media – Ashar went through a period where she collected anything to do with skeleton keys, so finding ways to work them into art was big for us.
  10. 70pcs Vintage-styled Alphabet Rubber Stamps, for Mixed Media
  11. Faber Castell Metallic Texture Kit – Mixed Media Paper Crafting Kit

Just for fun

Because who can’t use more Bob Ross stuff?

  1. Bob Ross Heat Changing Mug
  2. Bob Ross Funko Pop
  3. Bob Ross Happy Trees University T-Shirt

Read more

This post is part of the 100 things post series on iHomeschool Network, where a bunch of my fellow homeschool bloggers share their lists containing, you guessed it, something more than 99 things.

Unschool Rules: 100 Best Teen Art Supplies is part of the iHomeschool Network's 100 Things series.

See other posts in the 100 Things series here!

What unschooling after high school looks like

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks inundated with back-to-school photos from friends across the country on Facebook. Some of our friends have younger kids; some have students still in high school; and many kids Ashar’s age are headed out to work or college.

For our “living is learning” family, this year – Ashar’s first since officially earning her diploma and finishing compulsory schooling under Pennsylvania law in May – isn’t much different than previous ones.

That’s why we’re still joining the iHomeschool Network’s Not Back to School Blog Hop for “curriculum week!” This time, we’re looking at what unschooling after high school might look like, not just for Ashar but for the rest of our family as well.

Each year, I’ve heard from people literally around the world who loved seeing how an “un-plan” comes together. If you haven’t already, I invite you to check out our previous ideas:

Unschooling After High School on Unschool Rules

While our learning philosophy hasn’t changed, our year ahead is going to be an unusual one. But I talk to people all the time who want to know if unschooling can work when life gets weird. And the answer is absolutely yes, but sometimes I think it helps to see how.

So with that, here is…

The Conciliottoman family’s adult education plan

Probably the biggest question our family has fielded for the past couple of years:

What’s Ashar doing next?

Well, we know the answer. Have you been wondering? I know you’re all sitting at home going “What ARE those wacky people doing?” Good news! This is the post for you. Also, I’m very sorry. Get Netflix. It’s more interesting.

Anyway, in all seriousness, we haven’t talked about it much online up to this point, but Ashar is having major surgery in exactly a month. On Oct. 2, she’ll go to Nemours duPont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, to have major spinal fusion done for her severe scoliosis.

Nemours duPont is about two hours and change from our house, but it’s absolutely the right place for us to be. Her team is nothing short of amazing – led by Dr. Suken Shan and nurse practitioner Alicia McCarthy, but including a ton of other great people just in our experiences to date.

We haven’t even talked much about Ashar having scoliosis, though we’ve mentioned it here and there, but… it’s pretty major. Like, whoa. Like her spine curves something like 87 degrees – almost a right angle – instead of going straight.

But you know what else is pretty major?

Ashar’s anxiety. She’s struggled with generalized anxiety for years, but there’s one thing that has always been a huge trigger, and that’s anything medical. Routine doctor visits were a no-go for years. (Thank goodness she was rarely sick.) The dentist and eye doctor were always all right, and chiropractic adjustments over the past few years helped her get used to it a bit more, but hospital? Nope. Not even slightly.

But after not actually bothering her for years, Ashar’s curve was starting to cause her pain – and other health problems. (Did you know that when your ribcage touches your pelvis, you cough a lot?) So we decided to see what we could work out. Thanks to an AMAZING physical therapist, Andrea Yaktus at Empower Physical Therapy in Exton, we found out about Nemours and were able to get things in motion.

Ashar’s doing her “prehabilitation” work with Andrea, which is amazing. (This woman is going to drive an hour and a half to our house after the surgery to go for a neighborhood walk with Sarah. I’m not kidding. She’s seriously the best.) After some recovery at home, Ashar will go back to Andrea for outpatient PT in the months following the surgery too. They’re saying she’ll be back to full activity in about six months, which is mind-blowing.

Relatedly, this whole experience has helped Ashar be ready to pursue counseling for anxiety and some of the other things she struggles with. We don’t talk a ton about it, but Ashar has ADHD, autism and OCD on top of the anxiety, and life is just hard for her sometimes. She is my hero, because every day she gets up and keeps trying. Adding a counselor and a psychiatrist (who’s going to help Ashar find an anti-anxiety medicine that’s a good fit) to the “medical mix” was also scary, but Ashar thinks it’s really helping.

As a fun side note, that is largely thanks to the Nemours team too. Ashar had to have a full-spine MRI, which was done under sedation, and they gave her some Versed to help her relax before starting the laughing gas and sedation. The change in her with the Versed was basically nothing short of miraculous. She wasn’t silly like she got as soon as the gas hit her – she was just CALM. “I feel OK,” I think is what she said. When we explained that medication absolutely can help other days be more like that, she – on her own – asked her counselor to make her a referral to psychiatry for medication support.

I could say tons more about this whole experience – and I’m sure I will – but for now, let’s just say that we expect focusing on the prehab, the surgery, the rehab and the accompanying anxiety to take up the better part of this year (and to be a learning experience for all of us).

Separately from that, though, Ashar has other plans and hopes. And we have four other adults in the household who are living and learning as well. Here’s a short look at some of the rest of our lives.

Ashar’s non-surgery goals

Disclosure: This post has some affiliate links. I only link to things we legitimately use and recommend, so if you see such a link, it's because we really do believe in the book or item!
  • OK, so this one is surgery-related, somewhat: Walking Dead Season 9 premiers Oct. 7 and her goal is to be home from the hospital to watch it
  • Turn 19 (“I just feel old. That’s my last year with ‘teen.’ Then I’m 20.” That’s what she said when she was telling me what to write.)
  • Continue with Outschool – she’s taking a 10-week forensics class with one of her favorite teachers, Thomas Jones, who she’s had several classes with in the past year.
  • Visit Georgia to see where the Walking Dead is filmed and eat at Norman Reedus’ restaurant
  • See Alice Cooper in concert (spoiler alert: She does that this week with her best friend, Leah.)
  • Go to another Walker-Stalker Con to see Norman and Jeffrey D. Morgan)

As a quick wrap-up of the past year, Ashar says:

  • She didn’t know about Outschool before but now it’s a big part of her life
  • We saw Fall Out Boy in concert (that was just on Sept. 1)
  • She graduated!
  • She did a ton of work on Shakespeare, including acting in Antony and Cleopatra as well as The Merry Wives of Windsor – and she points out that she would not have met her best friend, Leah, if they hadn’t done Merry Wives together, so she is super grateful for that
  • She read a lot about serial killers, and did some related Outschool classes on unsolved crimes, which is how she found Thomas Jones, mentioned above. Seriously, if there was a Thomas Jones fan club, she’d be president.

Ashar’s Mommom’s plan

My mom, Ashar’s Mommom, is back on her feet again after a heart-medication tuneup over the summer. She may still have more adjustments in the future, but she’s starting to feel a good bit better and has a lot of fun stuff planned for her and Ashar to do.

Some of their highlights:

  • Cooking and baking – including making more pretzel rolls, which Ashar loves
  • Sewing – including making a “button monster,” which has been on her and Ashar’s want-to-do list for easily 3 or 4 years now
  • Rock painting – which moved up on the list after Ashar found my mom a painted rock while Mom was in the hospital earlier this year; it was such a great experience that they’re going to spread some joy of their own that way

Mom also is staying involved with Stephen Ministry at her church. She started the program there, and campaigned and campaigned to get her friend Barb trained as a fellow Stephen Leader so that she could ensure the program will be successful even if her health keeps her from being as active in it. So her goal for this year is getting Barb fully up and running, and staying involved as much as she can herself!

She also wants to get to the beach, which I think sounds amazing.

My goals

  • Graduate with my Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security – Public Health Preparedness next May – that’s a mouthful
  • Get two or more papers published in academic journals
  • Present at an international conference for work (happening in late October, because NOT LIKE I’M GOING TO BE BUSY OR ANYTHING)
  • Finish the 2018 calendar year having read 100 books (currently at 75)
  • Get back to tae kwon do and training regularly so that I can test for my third-degree black belt by summer 2020

Last year, one of my big topics of interest was prison reform, and I did a ton of reading in that area. That’s probably the deepest dive I’ve taken into a non-grad-school or non-work-necessitated subject in a long time, and it’s still something I’m exploring.

I also earned my second-degree black belt in tae kwon do, which was great. And then I promptly proceeded to stop going to class when grad school kicked my butt two semesters in a row. Which is why the goal above is to get back to it – again.

Also, Kaitlyn and I get married in March. So, again, not busy or anything.

Kaitlyn’s goals

Kaitlyn, being efficient, wrote me a great summary that I will not try to edit or paraphrase:

Following up on last year, I read 6 of the 9 books on my list — I still plan on reading Bit Rot (at some point); Full Dark, No Stars; and Big Science. Although I do think I cheated a bit by “reading” Ready Player One as an audiobook.

Overall, I think I did a pretty good job keep on-track with my topics, although I probably didn’t hit science as hard as I wanted to, so that’ll be something to focus on this year (and hey, Big Science will help). Learning Python turned out to be surprisingly useful professionally, as I used it both in our freelancing and at my day job.

This year my topics would look something like:

  • Frontend JavaScript (Vue)
  • Recent history of technology
  • Science fiction
  • Sociology of technology (how we interact with technology and how it shapes our world)

Man, my topics make me sound super narrow, but that’s really only a majority of what I’m reading, not the totality. Together, those probably equal 65% of my current to-read list, but the other 35% include some mid-70s history, American Revolution history, what I call modern history (in-depth dives into things that happened in the last 50 years), general fiction, and YA fiction.

Chris’s goals

Chris has been in the middle of a HUGE, HARD transition at work. He has been the sports editor for LNP (a regional media organization) for several years, and this summer he was named the deputy opinion editor. It’s been a long transition and it involved him working something like 24 days out of 30 or something crazy like that, so he has not had time to put together a full list, but when he does, I’ll add it here. I know that he and Ashar are still planning to do a model train setup in our basement, which should be awesome!

Read more about our unschooling approach

If you’re newer to Unschool RULES, maybe you’re wondering about this radical unschooling thing we do.

Here are a few posts that tell more about our lives!

Join the NOT Back-to-School Party!

Unschool Rules: Part of the 2018 iHomeschool Network Not Back to School Blog Hop Want to see what my fellow iHomeschool Network bloggers are learning this year?

Check out the rest of Curriculum Week 2018 at the Not-Back-To-School Blog Hop here (and you can link up your posts, too!)