Introduction: Student Art Supply Storage Solution

About: Husband. Father. Artist. Musician. Teacher.

As a high school art teacher, organizing supplies in a way that is efficient and effective can be challenging. After finally being fed up with communal art supplies disappearing, being mishandled, and having to reorganize them after every class (no matter how well trained the students were ) I decided to take on that challenge.

Having tried organizing art supplies by table, by class, etc., I’ve found this new method I'm introducing to be by far the most effective to date. Every student is assigned a colour coded art box that contains everything required for any given unit. Supplies can be rotated based on what medium you’re currently studying. I have item checklists for each art box iteration (flavour) so that students know exactly what should be in their art boxes at any given time.

These checklists are posted on a bulletin board near the art box storage cabinet. There are monthly checkups to make sure that they’re keeping them in good order and to see if any supplies need to be replenished or replaced. Each student is responsible for their art box which means that they’re equally responsible for replacing any "misplaced" materials. All supplies are colour coded also, so it’s easy enough for stray pencils found under tables to be returned to their respective box.


  • Appropriate toolboxes or containers for your application (I used Stanley's Sort Master Juniors)
  • Art supplies
  • Either a label maker, acrylic paint, adhesive labels, or coloured stickers

Step 1: Choosing a Suitable Container

As teachers, we're restricted by limited space and a limited budget. Unfortunately, I've found that not all containers/toolboxes will work for this application. When I started looking originally, I brought a slew of art supplies with me to different stores to see which toolboxes worked best within my budget. I tried to avoid anything too tall or bulky, so that I could stack as many as possible on existing shelves in my classroom. You’ll also want to avoid toolboxes that have removable sorting containers and opt instead for ones with removable dividers. Be sure that longer items such as paintbrushes and rulers fit within the compartments of the containers without requiring modification to either the toolbox or the art supplies.

After trying roughly 30 different options, I settled on the Stanley Sort Master Juniors. They also happened to be on sale and came in packs of two! I have since found viable options at the local dollar store, so don’t be discouraged by budgetary constraints!

Step 2: Colour Coding

While thinking about how best to organize the art supply boxes, I started colour coding supplies and the boxes themselves. I found that simply dipping the end of items into acrylic paint to be a quick and easy method of colour coding supplies. Alternatively, labels or stickers could be used to identify the supplies.

For larger classes, you might find that numbering the boxes and art supplies might be more efficient. I recommend using a label maker for this as permanent marker usually begins to rub off after only a few uses. Another option is to have students in different classes share an art box when limited by space or budget. I have provided a checklist document if you would like to get an idea of the types of supplies that I include in the different art box flavours.

Once everything is colour coded you can start to sort and organize everything!

Step 3: Sorting and Organizing

I played around with different divider configurations before settling on the current iteration. The containers have a stationary section in the middle with five compartments. I used these for smaller items such as erasers, pastels, conté sticks, pen nibs, linoleum cutters, and pencil sharpeners.

Flanking the middle sections to left and right, are sections reserved for mostly drawing materials such as graphite pencils, charcoal pencils, markers, blending stumps, blending brushes, and other larger items such as palette knives, craft sticks, etc. The longest section at the top (entire width of the toolbox ) is reserved for the longest supplies such as paintbrushes, scissors, and rulers. The paintbrushes are swapped out depending on medium; I have sets for acrylic, oil, and aquarelle.

Try out different configurations based on your needs and the supplies you'll be using. You’ll find that the students will often develop their own way of organizing their art box based on their own practice. At this point you can start divvying up your materials per student and filling up the boxes!

*In order to keep the b-stock organized (the supplies that you swap out based on what you’re currently studying ) I also purchased a rolling cabinet with shallow plastic container drawers that I use to store all supplementary supplies for every student. This makes swapping out the art supplies efficient and easy.

Step 4: Storage and Closing Remarks

To store the art boxes, I use a locking cabinet with shelves; however, you could simply store them on open shelves or stacked together in a cabinet or on a counter.

I guarantee that using this method will enable your students to spend more time creating and waste less time gathering the necessary materials to start. They also make cleaning up much quicker! You may be wondering about wet paintbrushes. It's best if paintbrushes go back into the boxes dry, but if they do go in damp and are left unattended for long periods (holiday breaks ) they could start to mold up and affect the other supplies in the box. A way to prevent this is to drill aeration holes into the sections in which the paintbrushes are stored.

To get you started, I have also included an Art Box Assignment and Monthly Assessment document to use as a way of keeping track of the art boxes once they are implemented!

Please let me know in the comments if you try this out in your classroom or if you have any other winning art room organization tricks or tips!


Mr. Ham

Classroom Organization Challenge

Second Prize in the
Classroom Organization Challenge