Readers often ask me how I organize art supplies. The truth is that I’m the sort of person who does best when there’s just a bit of chaos, so my supplies aren’t neatly filed away. But, there’s a method to the madness! In this video, I’ll give you a tour of my workspace and where…
In 2017, I posted a virtual tour of my workspace. At that point, my art supply organization skills were yet to be put to the true test: surviving a toddler’s curiosity. I learned the hard way that the more concealed your supplies are, the better! Today, I’ll give you an updated tour to give you an idea of how I have arranged my space to keep my supplies safe and handy.
My husband, Hernán, and I share an office. (For years, he was TPK’s web developer. He still jumps in to help out if I need it! Now, though, he works remotely for a company in California.) We found two matching farmhouse desks at a flea market, which we pushed together to make one big work surface. I’ll bet you can guess whose side is whose!
Whenever I organize art supplies, I try to make sure the things I use the most are close at hand. I have two thrift store finds that store my most reached-for goodies: a desktop organizer and a little plastic bin cabinet. My favorite inks sit nearby, along with a little cup of art water.
The desktop organizer holds all of my pens. I freely admit that no one needs this many pens — or rulers, for that matter. But, as an art supplies junkie, my motto is, “You never know …!” So, I keep everything at hand. Straight pens are on the left, oblique pens that I don’t use a ton are in the middle, and oblique pens that I use often are on the right.
My plastic bin cabinet has little drawers that hold everything I need. Four of those drawers are occupied by postage stamps! I’ve organized my stamps into four categories: canceled (i.e. just for decoration), low denominations (1¢ – 7¢), middle denominations (8¢ – 15¢) and high denominations (16¢+).
The alternate drawers in the bin hold my nibs, metallic watercolors, erasers, white mechanical pencils, and wax seals.
While I found my desktop art supply organization treasures at flea markets, you can find similar items online.
I have been using Papaya! planners since my university days. I’ve tried other planners, but this is the one that works best for me because of its large spaces to write to do lists and the fact that it lays flat. I start off every day by making a to-do list, which always makes me feel organized and on top of things.
I usually keep my planner open on my desk. That way, I can get up in the morning, sit down, write my to-do list, and start the day! As I complete tasks, I check off the squares beside them, which is such a cathartic feeling.
The Southeast Wall
My wall — the southeast wall — is full of exemplars, artwork, and photos. I love being able to look to my right and see things that make me feel good, like the photo of my grandpa from the 1950s and the “I only open my mouth …” sign that always hung in my great-grandmother’s living room. (If you could have known Grandma Jean, you would know how fitting it was for her! She was such a character.)
I also keep exemplars on the wall for quick reference when I’m working. The framed white calligraphy on black paper exemplar is Janet Style. Underneath it, you can see Circus Style lettering on the left and George Style on the right. My printer lives underneath the artwork, perched on a little console that holds watercolors, markers, inks, and other supplies.
The Hoosier Cabinet
If you can find a Hoosier cabinet, you’ll love how easily you can organize art supplies in it! Hoosier cabinets used to be a staple in kitchens because most houses didn’t have built-in cabinetry. My hoosier cabinet houses inspirational books and magazines, and it safely keeps my brush pens out of Remy’s reach.
The opened cabinet is a bit less organized than I would like. Behind the doors, you’ll find extra inks, art water cups, crayons, and documents that are waiting to be sorted. Open the drawers, and you’ll find lots of extra inks , computer cords, and a plethora of paper.
The Photo Station
I prefer to use natural light for my photos, so I usually take them during the day. Sometimes, though, I need to take photos at nighttime. In that case, I use this little corner desk to style and take my photos (with the help of these lights). I’ve never seen anything like this desk! It’s got a delightfully odd shape that saves space.
The closet is on the north side of the room, and it acts as a home for a lot of things that I otherwise wouldn’t know what to do with. To the right of the closet, I keep a bulletin board of special paper scraps. The bulletin board is directly in my line of vision, and it has meaningful photos, artwork (the Paris map!), and things like washi tape and greeting cards.
Inside the closet, there are two plastic bins. I keep blank envelopes in the first drawers of those bins.
The second set of drawers hosts printer paper (left) and miscellaneous supplies like heat guns, tape, and ribbon (right).
In the third set of drawers, I keep blank cardstock (left) and snail mail goodies like blank cards, post cards, and knick knacks (right).
I sometimes find it difficult to figure out how everything fits together when I see photos of a home or a room online. To help demonstrate the layout of the room and where everything is, I made this ~6 minute long video tour. It’s just a casual iPhone video — nothing fancy — but hopefully you enjoy it!
How to Organize Art Supplies Yourself
How you organize art supplies depends on a few factors. First, you have to figure out what kind of work environment works for you! I like to surround myself with a collection of eclectic pieces — thus all my flea market finds — and artwork that makes me feel good. Second, think about your personal organization style. Is it better for you to organize your supplies into subcategories, or can you throw all related items into a drawer and call it good? (I like the latter approach!)
Finally, I’ve found that your season of life has a big impact on how you organize art supplies. Before I became a parent, I used to keep everything on shelves in the closet. Once my toddler was old enough to make mischief, though, he delighted in opening the closet and pulling everything off the shelves! So, I changed my organization system to accommodate both of us.
While I am lucky enough to have a room that’s dedicated to my artistic endeavors, you can — and should! — work with what you have. TPK started off at a tiny desk in a studio apartment that Hernán and I shared. At that time, I dreamed about having a room like this one, but I was fine with organizing my supplies in that little desk and keeping some supplies in a nearby closet. As Theodore Roosevelt said: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
I hope that this article gives you some inspiration about how to organize art supplies! Or, if you’re already organized, I hope it was interesting to see my workspace. Thanks so much for reading, and have a wonderfully creative week!