When choosing art supplies for kids, don’t forget the paper! Paper for children can be anything from a sketchbook or a stack of colored construction paper to a roll of easel paper or fancy decorative papers. Quality varies widely as does price. So how do you decide what paper to buy?
We’ve tried many different kinds of papers over the years; here’s our list of tried-and-true papers for kids art:
Note: This post was updated from the original on 3/12/2014
Choosing Paper for Children :: The Best Papers for Kids Art Activities
When choosing paper for children and their art activities, you’ll want to consider what art materials the kids will be using with the paper as well as value (which I define as a good intersection of quality and price).
Paper for children’s drawing, painting, and collage
We buy this heavyweight (80 lb) white sulphite paper and use it for a lot of our drawing, painting, and collage projects. It’s our general all-purpose kids art paper. I keep a stack of this in the studio and also have a basket of it near the dining table.
If you’re only going to get one kind of paper, this is the kind I would suggest (or something similar).
I also often purchase large sheets of poster board from Target for 39 cents each. Sometimes I cut them down to smaller pieces and sometimes I keep them whole. I love letting Maia work large, and this is a cheap way to provide this size (2 x 3 feet).
For a free option, you ask a mat and frame shop to save their mat remnants for you. They are thick and great for painting or collage. We use these quite a bit! You can also re-use paper grocery bags (just cut them open) and cardboard for art.
Paper for watercolor painting
For watercolor painting I use this watercolor paper from Discount School Supply, the Strathmore 300 Series watercolor paper, or the Strathmore Kids paint pad. All are decent quality for a decent price. You can also use any paint (like tempera) on watercolor paper, and we do, but it’s more expensive than other paper so you might not want to. We also paint with watercolors on poster board and mat board.
Note: If your kids are really into watercolor painting and you have the budget, try out some of the better quality watercolor papers. You get what you pay for with watercolor paper.
Paper for the kids art easel
I like the roll of easel paper offered by Discount School Supply the best so far of the ones I’ve tried. The paper is sturdy enough to paint on, unlike the easel paper from Melissa & Doug, which I think is on the flimsy side. The paper roll from IKEA is pretty good, too.
Paper for children who want to work BIG
We buy this brown contractor’s paper at Lowes for about $10 a roll. It’s super economical! We use this for big projects such as body tracing or when we want to cover the table with paper and have a family draw fest.
You can also buy large rolls of white butcher paper, but be prepared to spend more. We finally bought some and really love it—our roll is lasting for a long time, which is a bonus.
Paper for children who like to work tiny
Whether your kids like to work small, draw small, paint small, or whether you just want to change things up for them and offer a variety of paper sizes for art, then have small paper available. This can simply mean you cut regular-sized paper down into smaller pieces—totally acceptable!—or you buy a pack of blank index cards as I often do. It can mean using Post-It notes for art, finding a mini sketchbook, or getting an inexpensive multi-colored notepad.
Paper for the writing table, the kids’ room, and the travel bag
Besides the basket of white sulfite paper mentioned above, which travels all over our house, I also keep inexpensive spiral bound sketchbooks at the kids art table, in their bedroom, and in the car. I pay about $2-3 per sketchbook (at Target or the drugstore) and then don’t worry when the children use it for all sorts of drawing, writing, cutting, and taping projects.
We also buy the beautiful sketchbooks from Stubby Pencil Studio—more money, but lovely and high quality—and the art journal kits from Artterro. The kids usually get one of these for their birthdays and Christmas.
Colored construction paper
Colored construction paper is a childhood staple, but the the kind you get at the drugstore is usually pretty poor quality. We use the colored construction paper from Discount School Supply called Tru-Ray Sulfite construction paper —it is very inexpensive yet the color and paper quality is much better. The colored paper that IKEA sells is also good.
Okay, so this one isn’t paper. But a real stretched canvas is a great, albeit more expensive, surface for kids art. Plus it looks great on the wall or shelf as is—no frame required.
Recycled and upcycled paper for children’s art
I LOVE Susan’s idea of keeping a collage box of bits and pieces of interesting papers! I’ve been keeping a stack of papers and cardboard that was destined for the recycle bin, but Susan’s collage box takes that idea to a whole new level.
Other fun papers for children’s art
One paper that we don’t use is newsprint. I can’t stand the stuff! It’s so flimsy.
What papers do you use the most in your house for children’s art?
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