Quality paints for kids?
April 19, 2013 8:44 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find paints for kids that are "professional" quality yet not "professionally" expensive? I bought Crayola paints and they are terrible. I am looking for something (a) reasonably priced but pigmented enough get my toddler excited about colors, (b) doesn't require swirling a brush for a good long minute to get the color going, (c) available on the internet. I don't mind if they are messy/unwashable. I don't know anything about colors so please specify both the brand and the type of paint in your recommendation. If the paper makes a real difference, please recommend that too!
posted by rada to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've heard lots of good things about these liquid watercolors from Discount School Supply.
posted by belladonna at 8:51 AM on April 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dick Blick Art Supply may be useful to you. My kids' homeschool art curriculum uses Dick Blick materials and I've been very impressed. They have a huge inventory that includes professional-grade supplies, so prices vary, but these art kits for kids might be a starting point.
posted by not that girl at 8:54 AM on April 19, 2013

Crayola makes slightly higher-quality acrylic paints under the Liquitex brand. It comes in tubes, so is a little on the thicker side, which might not be what you're looking for? I also just did a couple of small projects around the house using Martha Stewart's line of craft paints that are available at Michael's, and was surprised by the quality of them. Great color choices, and it's thinner (not watery, but it's easier for kids to use with a brush, I'd imagine). I ended up buying two sets of them on Amazon - see here.

Paper does make a difference -- look for a watercolor pad for kids. It shouldn't be too expensive, and will save you the mess of having the paint/water bleed through the paper.
posted by ella_minnow at 8:57 AM on April 19, 2013

I bought my kids some big squeezy bottles of ready-mixed poster paint from an online supplier that sells mostly to schools. They cost less than £1 (UK) each, and the colours are very good. I'd be very surprised if something similar wasn't available wherever you live.
posted by pipeski at 8:58 AM on April 19, 2013

Are these what you're thinking of, ella_minnow? I love them and I think they'd be just the thing for OP.
Liquitex Basics
Cheap and available dang near everywhere.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:00 AM on April 19, 2013

fiercecupcake: I forgot that Liquitex released the "basics" line -- you're right, those could work well. They used to only make those in the primaries and black and white (which is great if OP is interested in experimenting with color mixing, which it sounds like might be the case?), but I see from the link that now they come in a wider range of colors too.
posted by ella_minnow at 9:04 AM on April 19, 2013

We use the Crayola finger paints as regular paints, so they are still washable but much brighter.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:18 AM on April 19, 2013

I came in to recommend the Colorations Liquid Watercolor paints that belladonna linked to. The colors are very vibrant and the kids who come over always want to paint with them. Colorations also has a glittery version of the watercolors which are also cool. You're also going to want some paint cups with lids to pour it into and watercolor paper which is thicker than your average paper.
posted by biscuits at 10:22 AM on April 19, 2013

Best answer: Student grade art supplies have professional quality without the price.
I used to buy my kids the cheap acrylics for basic paint sessions (craft store and liquitex) but one thing to remember is that acrylics are PERMANENT once dry, and they tend to dry in minutes, especially the cheap ones. So unless you are vigilant about covering up your area and clothing, you are going to be doing some heavy-duty cleaning after and possibly throwing out clothing as well.
As for paper, if you are using acrylics or anything thick like poster paints, your best bet is to get some bristol/poster board sheets from the dollar store and cut them down to size. They are about $1ea. Card stock works great too and is very inexpensive.
What we generally use in our house now is watercolor. You can get a very cheap student set of either solid or liquid watercolors for a decent price and they are washable. The tubes of liquid watercolor you premix with water on a small pallet like this or the solids you can pre-rinse under warm water to make them not as frustrating to mix up.
For online ordering, you didn't mention where you were located but in Canada DeSerres has great prices.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 11:35 AM on April 19, 2013

Winsor & Newton makes the Cotman line of watercolors as their student line and it is quite good. A set like this or this would be what I would pick for a kid. If you do get the tubes instead of the half-pans, you probably have to have someone vigilantly supervising to dole out a spot of color at a time, lest the kid squeeze the whole tube out at once.
posted by fancyoats at 12:39 PM on April 19, 2013

I noticed that the liquitex basics "Conforms to ASTM D4236; Safe for educational use", which means it's been tested on toxicologists.

I was going to fuss about the Cotmans, but that is also ASTM D4236, which surprises me a bit.

I think I might skip teaching watercolor until the kid is 12-15. Without good paper, good brushes, and good paint (artists quality, preferably) a kid or adult can't do much more than make messes while they're learning. Whereas with the acrylic, tempura, or gouache, it's a more immediately rewarding.

Card stock works great too and is very inexpensive.
Maybe a ream of heavy cover stock paper would be good.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:17 PM on April 19, 2013

Best answer: Please be very, very careful in selecting paints for kids. Look for the ASTM D4236 certification. A lot of the ingredients in artist-quality paints (and, to a lesser extent, any non-kids paints) are very toxic. We're talking cadmium, cobalt, and lead. Stuff that's dangerous even if said kids are past the "put it in their mouth" stage.
posted by duien at 3:43 PM on April 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Please be very, very careful in selecting paints for kids.

this this this. cadmium and cobalt are not only poisonous, but also (somewhat) radioactive. Pigments, in general, are often very toxic metal salts...and though most are safe once dry, many can be very poisonous while wet (with acrylics, being a plastic base, often somewhat safer than oils which leach into skin easier). The only reason they are still used in paints for adults is that there just isn't any substitute for them. ask about safety ratings at the art supply store and they'll tell you how to read the tubes.

that being said, you can usually find a good set of student-grade (and by student-grade, they mean older art students, not toddlers, so check each tube for safety rating anyway) acrylics, for not much money (i got a set of Louvre brand acrylics (24 12-ml tubes) for under 20 bucks...good colors, too)...and in general, more toxic pigments tend to be more expensive.

Another factor to be aware of is that some pigments are just, well, shitty, and require a ton of coats to cover well or take forever to dry or mix with other colors poorly, or etc. Again, this is usually because nothing else under the sun makes That Color. In any set of colors there will be a few of these.
posted by sexyrobot at 3:01 PM on April 20, 2013

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