School art supplies
School art supplies are designed primarily to enhance student creativity. When a tube of paint or oil pastel stick is described as “student grade,” this means that there has been a sacrifice of quality for price. Of course, this can be the ideal situation for many beginners. This is especially true when school art supplies have been purchased for preschoolers or elementary school students.
For these age groups, the opportunity to use a lot of materials experimentally can be the ideal learning situation. In addition to this, materials designed for younger ages have taken into consideration their special safety needs.
Many professional art supplies have proven to be highly toxic. Oil paints and mediums in particular can have effects of nausea, headaches, and lightheadedness. When used incorrectly, paints with certain pigments such as cadmium and chromium compounds have been linked to cancer.
The Art & Creative Materials Institute is a non-profit organization which provides labels detailing the safety of certain supplies. The AP seals they place on many products denote that the product is safe for adults and children. Their CL seals imply that cautions are required for use with certain art supplies. This means that CL products should not be used by younger children or irresponsible teens.
It is important that children in grades six or lower use only art supplies that are explicitly labeled “non-toxic.”
Perhaps the most familiar brand of school art supplies for elementary students is Crayola. They are most commonly known for their children’s crayons, markers, and colored pencils. The company also provides such things as paints, clay, and outdoor chalk. Crayola was one of the first companies to make all its art supplies non-toxic.
Beyond elementary school, student grade supplies take on a different meaning than being simply non-toxic. For instance, when it comes to such things as paints, student grade supplies usually use less pigment and more binding material.
Pigments are what provide the actual color for paints. Examples of these colors include things like ground up mineral salts such as lead, zinc, or cadmium. They can also be earth materials such as sienna, umber, or ochre. These pigments make up the costlier portions of paint. A rarer pigment will result in a more expensive paint.
Student grade paints may also make use of synthetic pigments which are cheaper than the real color they are representing.
The binder within paint is what holds it together and makes it workable. Watercolor binders include such things as gum arabic, and glycerin. Linseed and poppy seed oils are popular binders for oil, while acrylic polymer emulsion is used for acrylics.
Once an art student has a better understanding of his or her material preferences, then it is time to get into higher quality media.
Some may hold the opinion that school art supplies should not be used
after elementary school or that more professional grade materials should
not be picked up until it comes to upper level art classes. However,
training a serious student with higher grade materials as soon as she
or he is ready can open more possibilities earlier on, placing the student
a step ahead. At the same time, many professional artists have enjoyed
the extra challenge of working with lower grade materials.