How One Professional Illustrator Organizes Her Art Supplies

Organization can quickly fall apart fast when you are in the thick of a project. While there are plenty of strategies for organizing art supplies in order, these are just some of the ways I have found to keep my materials readily available as needed. My system has made it a lot easier and faster to get order back when a project is finished.

keeping art supplies organized

If you use art supplies, you will inevitably have messes to deal with.

After turning in finished artwork to children’s book publishers, a fellow illustrator and I were talking about our next projects. My friend said that before she did a single thing, she had to clean up her studio that looked it had been ravaged by a tornado. My mind visualized the same scenario I had left at home that morning — pencils mixed with colored pencils, paint tubes strewn about, and rulers, papers and packing materials everywhere.

My studio is just a small corner in my dining room.  For this reason, I have an extra need to keep it looking somewhat together. This is what it looks like after the clean up and right before the next project begins. Trust me…it gets messier and messier as a painting progresses.

how to organize art supplies in small spaces

Finding your own kind of order

First and most importantly, you need to know just how much order you really need. Whatever your comfort level is, here are a few things to consider:

  • What art materials you use for your work and how much space will they take up
  • How much storage space you have
  • Which supplies are essential and which can you live without. Also factor in the supplies that you may not use often but want to keep or hope to get inspired to use someday.

After you work all of that out, you can start to see just how to fit your essentials into your storage space.

art supply closet

Make the most-used easy to reach

My two top shelves of art supplies are dedicated to the supplies I use the most frequently. The bottom shelf is mostly my files and reference material that I only need now and then.

keep art supplies easily accessible

Divide and conquer

Now that you know what your essential supplies are, try to figure out ways to keep them organized within their assigned space.

Tiny boxes are great for special pen tips, replacement blades for sharpeners, charcoal and so on.

A sugar bowl holds used pencils that are now short, but not ready to throw out. A ceramic bowl one of my kids made in school holds sharpened, erasers, clips and other small items.

Inks, watercolor mediums and watercolors in glass bottles all sit together.

keeping art supplies separate and organized

Larger boxes hold my tubed watercolors and my colored pencils. Another box is for my pens, and a couple of pastel sets are left in their own boxes.

keeping art supplies in order

Coffee mugs are great for keeping order, too. My metallic colored pencils here are separated from the others so it is easier to find them. You can change how you separate your supplies according to your current needs as you go along.

organized art supplies

My palette, paintbrushes and pencils are all together in a large coffee cup and are usually left out on the table within reach.

art supply organizing

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