10 Tips to Stretch Your Art Supplies

Over time, the cost of art supplies can really add up, and this is especially true for large families with many children. Here are some tips to help you stretch your existing art supplies, and find great alternative supplies from things you already have in your home:

  1. Paint — To stretch paint, combine 1 tablespoon of tempera paint to 1 cup liquid starch, or sprinkle powdered tempera into liquid starch.ย 
  2. Glue — Many times you can thin glue using a 50% glue and 50% water mixture. Apply with a paint brush.
  3. Recycling Bin — Look in your recycling bin for free cardboard from cereal boxes, use egg cartons for crafts or to hold paint. Paper towel tubes, and oatmeal canisters are some of our favorites for homemade musical instruments. For more ideas, click hereย and here.
  4. Pantry — Make mosaics or photo frames using dry beans, rice, or pasta. Try cutting up straws to make beads, and don’t forget about potato stamps. Paper plates, coffee filters, and cupcake liners can all be used in craft projects as well.
  5. Medicine Cabinet — Try painting with Q-tips, cotton balls can be glued to projects for a 3-D effect, and old sponges can be used for sponge-painting. For more ideas, click here.
  6. Paper — Do you really need to use the entire sheet of paper? Many times half a sheet will do. Use the backs of paper too. Don’t forget grocery paper bags, and junk mail envelopes for free sources of paper too.
  7. Crayons — When crayons run down to little stubs, remove the wrappers, and chop them into small pieces. Fill mini muffin tins with them. Place in a 150 degree oven until wax is melted (about 15 to 20 minutes). Remove after they have cooled, to make new crazy crayons!
  8. Markers — When markers start to dry out, dip the tips into white vinegar and set so that the tips are standing up. Wait about 5 minutes, then blot the marker tip on some paper until the color starts to show. Place the cap back on, and let sit overnight.ย 
  9. Nature — Look to your own backyard for many free art supplies including: rocks, sticks, bark, flowers, and leaves.
  10. Make Your Own — Don’t have any paint? Make your own scratch and sniff paint, or sidewalk chalk paint!
Have a great tip for stretching art supplies that I forgot to add, or have you tried stretching your art supplies using any of these techniques? I would love to hear about it! Leave a comment and share your ideas with us!


  1. Infant Bibliophile says

    Thanks for the great suggestions. Of course there is always homemade playdoh. One of the money saving things my husband and I joke about (impressed with our cleverness) is that when our son was first interested in stickers, we gave him a few sheets of 1 cent stamps. They had birds on them, so they were just fine to him as stickers, but 1 cents/sticker is a pretty good price. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Valerie says

    Infant Bibliophile, I am loving the $0.01 stamps for stickers idea!! 100 stickers for $1! Can’t beat that! Thanks so much for the tip, and I’m embarrassed to say we haven’t tried homemade playdoh yet. Can you believe it? That’s a great idea too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. EntertainingMom says

    we’re about to do a fun project with some outdoor stuff… just checked out your sidewalk chalk paint and I love it… getting some corn starch at the grocery store today!!!

    (haven’t done my bubble post yet but I will let you know when I do!)

  4. MaryAnne says

    These are all wonderful ideas, and I love Infant Bibliophile’s stamps as stickers idea too!

    I haven’t tried out homemade playdoh either, although we have made salt dough (not quite the same). My mom used to make playdoh for us all the time growing up, so I don’t know what my problem is…

    What is liquid starch? Is it just corn starch mixed with water, or is it something you buy? I keep seeing it in your posts…

    I tagged you on my blog today, if you’d like to participate I’d love to see the answers to the questions ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Valerie says

    @ Entertaining Mom — Corn starch is great to have on-hand for last minute crafts and activities, and it’s very inexpensive. Can’t wait to see the bubble post! ๐Ÿ™‚

    @ MaryAnne — You can find liquid starch in your grocery store’s laundry detergent isle. It is made up mostly of corn starch and water. It worked really well for the paper marbling project, and it’s a great way to thin out paint too!

  6. sunnymama says

    This is a great list! Thanks for the ideas ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Great tips! Thanks!

  8. Lenetta @ Nettacow says

    Just wanted to let you know I linked to this and the paper marbling. Your ideas are the best!

  9. Great Tips Valerie! Thanks for sharing them with us!

    Check your credit

  10. Thanks Valerie,

    I added your tips at my blog. Great to refer back and forth to.