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Do You Need Help Choosing the BEST Paper for Children and Kids Art?


Choosing paper for children doesn’t have to be complicated! Here is the Artful Parent’s guide to picking the best paper for your kids’ art activities.

drawing with tempera paint sticks
Photo by Rachel Withers

Updated July 2021

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. 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. And here is our list of tried-and-true paper for kids art! And for even more ideas, visit the Artful Parent Amazon shop!

choosing the best paper pinterest

This post contains affiliate links. Choosing Paper for Children

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).

girl drawing with marker

Paper for drawing, painting, and collage

1. White paper

We use this Ultimate Art Paper the most for our drawing, painting, and collage projects. It’s our general all-purpose kids art paper. We keep a stack of this wherever our kids like to work and draw.

If you’re only going to get one kind of paper, this is the kind we would suggest (or something similar).

We also like this heavyweight (80 lb) white sulphite paper for all-around use, as well as this mixed media paper.

2. Poster board

We also often purchase large sheets of poster board, both white and in different colors. You can cut them down to smaller sizes or shapes, or keep them whole. If you have a child who likes to work big, this is a great way to let them do so!

3. Mat remnants

For a free option, you can 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!

4. Cardboard and paper bags

You can also re-use cardboard and paper grocery bags (just cut them open) for art.

paper - kids art supplies

Paper for watercolor painting

For watercolor painting, we use this watercolor paper from Discount School Supply, the Strathmore 300 Series watercolor paper, or the Canson Watercolor Pad (this comes in a variety of sizes!). 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.

boy drawing at easel

Paper for the kids art easel

We like the roll of easel paper offered by Discount School Supply the best so far of the ones we’ve tried. You can also find it on Amazon. The paper roll from IKEA is a good value and works just fine.

easel and big paper for drawing

Paper for children who want to work BIG

We love this roll of brown kraft paper. It’s super economical! We use it 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. We finally bought some and really love it – our roll is lasting for a long time, which is a bonus.

And you can always roll out some of your easel paper on the floor as well. Keep in mind it might not be as wide as the ones listed above but still fun for kids to draw and paint in a different way.

choosing best paper pinterest

Paper for children who like to work tiny

Whether your kids like to work small, draw small, paint small, or you just want to mix things up, trying offering a variety of paper sizes for art. Small is especially fun!

Cut regular-sized paper down into smaller pieces or buy a pack of blank index cards as we often do. Post-It notes, mini sketchbooks, or white labels for sticker making are all great options for drawing small.

journals and small paper for drawing

Paper for the writing table, the kids’ room, and the travel bag

Besides the basket of white paper mentioned above, which travels all over our house, we also keep inexpensive spiral bound sketchbooks at the kids art table, in their bedroom, and in the car. If you pay about $4 per sketchbook, you don’t have to worry when your kids use it for all sorts of drawing, writing, cutting, and taping projects.

And for more special occasions, like birthdays and Christmas, there are so many fun sketchbook options!

Colored construction paper

Colored construction paper is a childhood staple. We love Tru Ray Heavyweight Construction paper is the best! And AstroBrights cardstock is fun for its vibrant color.

girl doing double doodles

Other fun papers for children’s art

We use contact paper and colored tissue paper quite a bit, often for various stained glass projects. And while it technically isn’t paper, 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.

How about you? What papers do you use the most in your house for children’s art?

More of Our Favorite Kids Art Supplies

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Do You Need Help Choosing the BEST Paper for Children and Kids Art?


  • Reply
    marylea @ Pink and Green Mama
    July 21, 2010 at 9:34 am

    This is a FANTASTIC list !! Thank you for sharing : )

  • Reply
    July 21, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Thanks for such a comprehensive list!
    We buy packs of watercolor paper for a really reasonable price at our local school supply store and it is our favorite for paint and oil pastels. But we have the same problem of going through paper faster than oxygen. I finally started buying composition notebooks at back to school sales (25 cents each). This way my daughter always has her “sketcher” book. When one is full we start a new one. We even made a fabric cover for it to make it more personal. I don’t love art on lined paper, but it is cheap and my daughter doesn’t seem to mind for those times when she just wants to draw letters and shapes with her markers. It probably wouldn’t work for an older child who would be bugged by the lines though (my daughter is only 3). We also have a collection bucket in the garage (that drives my husband CRAZY) but we throw in cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, paper scraps, etc. We’ve recently had to add a fabric scrap bucket because right now that is the favorite collage medium around here. I think our next purchase will be the brown paper rolls from the home improvement store.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2010 at 10:36 am

    really like the tip about the lowe’s paper. economical, indeed!

  • Reply
    July 21, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Just in time!! I am running out of easel paper and water color paper and was contemplating from where I must order.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2010 at 11:59 am

    We bought the newsprint from Discount School Supply (500 sheets)! We also use computer print paper all the time, as well as construction paper. I love the contractor’s paper at Lowe’s idea—we’ll pick some up when we go there for Build and Grow (build wood toys for free some Saturdays if you don’t already know). They seem PERFECT for body drawing!! How awesome! I also love the sulfite paper idea. i will also try checking out frame stores for scraps! That’s amazing, but sounds a little like too good of a thing for a person living in the LA area.

  • Reply
    Dawn Lange
    July 21, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Ooh, thanks for the recommendation on easel paper. We’ve been using the Melissa and Doug and every time I try to unwind a piece, I get so mad because it is SO hard to pull through. It just rips and keeps ripping down the middle.

  • Reply
    July 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Wow this is finally a great post about art. Art just appears on whatever we choose to create it. Great post, congratulations. I am painting through synesthesia which makes me see colors when I hear names and numbers. These colors I transform in paintings. Colors are my life.

  • Reply
    Discount School Supply
    July 21, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Thank you so much for the mentions of Discount School Supply paper and art materials! It’s so fun to see our products out there in the real world getting used in wonderful, creative and open-ended ways. Thanks for sharing your great ideas, and for including our materials in the fun!
    -Laurel from Discount School Supply

  • Reply
    July 21, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    great list, gal. i have already started cutting up magazines for the collage basket. i have to be careful or it is a time sucker! it’s been a lot of fun. i want to get a bit more before i put it out for the kiddos. ;)

  • Reply
    July 21, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    We use a lot of what you mentioned. I also save every bit of thin cardboard from packaging. We have a drawerful, in all shapes and sizes, and it’s a very popular paper source in our house.

  • Reply
    Logo Design
    July 22, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Wow its a nice advice i like it my child like to painting.
    So its a informative post for me.
    nice blog.
    I like this blog.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Thank you so much for this list! I am always trying to figure out the best paper to get for various art projects and this is a huge help!

  • Reply
    July 24, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks for sharing your paper resources! What a great list…my shopping cart is already starting to fill up. We use a lot of the $5 rolls of easel paper from Ikea for sidewalk-style drawing and floor drawing. You can’t beat the price, especially if Ikea is less than 5 miles from home. And I agree with you: newsprint is horrible, and we rarely use construction paper. Why do materials designed for kids have to be so terrible? Related to Susan’s collage box, I also save and chop wrapping paper scraps…they’re often beautiful and the images are so varied.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Thank you so much for this post and for your response to my earlier email. I just bought a pack of sulphite paper. We have been doing more art this summer, so much so that my son says excitedly, “Let’s do an art project!” He’s even thinking of his own. The other day, after we finished eating pistachios, he wanted to make a collage out of them. I borrowed “Nature’s Art Box” from the library, which has great activities. We tried to make the cornhusk hat, but the husk kept curling up. And yesterday, in the car, he asked to draw–he’s never asked that before! I’m so thankful to you for helping me bring interesting and creative art ideas to our home.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    We get the end rolls of newsprint from our local newspaper. They’re great for covering walls and floors for drawing fun.

  • Reply
    July 26, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    I adore paper! We have all sorts in the house, in boxes and bags and pads. Right from when the kids were first able to pick up a crayon I wanted them to always have clean new paper to work with – so we have used photocopy paper as the always available paper for them to grab and draw on. The children have spent many many hours drawing over the years and the artworks are easy to store in the boxes the reams of paper come in. If we want to paint I will use better paper – but for pencil and felt drawing this has been a brilliant economical paper.
    I love the range of papers you use, and the your recommended uses for each.
    Sarah Craftylocks

  • Reply
    Halley's Mommy
    November 23, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I ditto everything you’ve said here but also want to add one… The giant lawn and leaf bags that we always have extras lingering around in the winter… they’re usually 2-ply and if you cut open the sides, nearly the size of two toddler bodies! We buy ours from the hardware store when it’s leaf bagging time, but I know some area communities have free bags just like these available (just depends where you live I think).

  • Reply
    July 4, 2011 at 8:08 am

    This may be too messy of a suggestion but what we were doing for the longest time is making our own paper. Take any newsprint, old drawings, ads, or leftover office paper and tear it up (the kids like doing this). Put it in your blender or food processor (even the hand spin ones work), add water and create a slurry. Get an old screen and staple to a wooden frame (or use an old window screen) and pour in the slurry over top of a catch basin. You can also just dip a small screen in a bin of the slurry, move it around and lift out. Leave this to drip dry and once done pull off of the screen. You can make this as complicated as you want, playing with dyes, flours, different papers, ect. If you don’t want grey paper you will have to be careful of your paper source. At any rate this is what we used for craft paper in our house.

  • Reply
    Denise Logan
    April 12, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    It was great to get material recommendations. I am always on the look out for undiscovered products! Here is a great new children’s educational art activity book, “Denise Logan’s Amazing Art Projects for Children”

  • Reply
    January 6, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    I didn’t read all the comments, however, if you have a book printing company in your area, many of them will give away the end rolls they have for free. We call the company in our area and go pick up as many roll at a time as we want. The rolls are large butcher paper rolls. 3-4 rolls will last our daycare a year or more.

  • Reply
    August 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Okay, on your body tracing illustration the paper is white but you say you are using contractor’s paper from Lowe’s which is brown. In the picture are you actually using the easel paper? I find it only 18″ wide.
    I love all your craft and painting ideas. As a children’s librarian, I am going to use quite a few this year during pre-school StoryTime.
    I actually bought the contractor paper and used it as dirt for our Summer Reading Program this summer. Wonderful texture!!!!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    January 19, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    I just bought a roll of butcher paper at Costco and miraculously it fits in our paper dispenser from IKEA. The paper seems to do the trick for the few things we’ve used it for like crayons and poster paints. The paper seems to have a coating on it, but doesn’t seem to interfere with anything so far. Do you have any experience with butcher paper?

  • Reply
    Lena Romanoff
    October 29, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    Where can I buy sticker books for kids so they can trade stickers and keep their own collection neat? Thank you.

  • Reply
    February 29, 2020 at 12:03 am

    I want to buy the paper you suggest, but the linked don’t work anymore & the names aren’t listed for some of them.

    • Reply
      Jean Van't Hul
      March 1, 2020 at 3:59 am

      Hi Victoria! I’m so sorry about that. I guess it’s time to update that post. Which paper (or papers) are you interested in specifically?

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