Kids’ paint – it’s just paint, right? As an art teacher, I get asked a lot of questions about which paints are suitable for kids. There is also a lot of misconception about ‘washable’ paints. Here’s a breakdown on paint so you know what your child is using.
Choosing paint feels similar to when choosing milk – there are so many varieties that you are both spoilt for choice and confused all at the same time! The easiest way to know if it is student grade or a professional paint is the price and usually packaging for kids looks brighter and more child-like as well.
WILL IT WASH OUT? There is also a big misconception about student-grade paint washing out of clothes. Even if it says ‘washable’ on the packagaing, it will still stain. The only way any fabric stands a chance of coming clean is if it’s washed immediately and even then I don’t like your chances. Watercolours are the worst because they soak in so quickly. Go in knowing it won’t come clean and you won’t be disappointed.
WHAT DOES ‘LIGHTFAST’ MEAN? Not such a common question, mainly because why would a company advertise a product that is going to fade? Lightfast means that the product is not prone to fading under normal lighting – usually reserved for professional grade, meaning all your kids’ paintings will fade over time – sorry!
ACRYLIC PAINT This is a fast-drying paint that, depending on brand and how much water is added (or acrylic mediums), can resemble a watercolour painting or oil painting. Acrylic paint is water-soluble and becomes water resistant when dry. Acrylics became commercially available in the 1950’s. It is the main choice of paint in many schools, particularly secondary schools because it dries quickly, is well priced for student grade and cleaned up with water and goes a long way.
TEMPERA PAINT Also known as ‘egg tempera’ because of the binder in it, it’s a very fast drying paint and dates back to being one of the oldest forms of paint around, earlier than oil paint and was used in a lot of Egyptian decorations before the 1500’s. It is common in schools but not to the extent of acrylic paint because of its at texture and fast drying. Crayola sell Tempera paint however it seems to be a lot more popular in American primary schools than here in Australia. It can also be purchase in hard discs however you can’t mix colours. It’s more of a primary school paint.
POSTER PAINT Poster paint is water soluble even when dry, meaning colour will change if wet paint is applied over an already dried area and will appear muddy. It will also crack, especially if applied to a surface such as canvas. It comes in limited colours, is very cheap and is named ‘poster’ because it really needs to be used in a quick application for colour pop rather than painting skills. It comes in both liquid and hard forms but not really recommended for anyone who is doing a painting of any value. It is thin in colour and will drip easily but in saying all that, remains a popular choice for kindys for its ease of use and that the very young are only just starting to learn to use a brush.
WATERCOLOUR PAINT Also referred to as ‘aquarelle’. How it is made is quite technical to explain. For kids, I recommend the cakes (dried discs) which are readily available. The great thing about watercolour cakes is that they are very easy to use and there is almost no clean up involved. Not to be used for a large painting but very useful for smaller work. Because they require water to mix them, they apply very thin and will dry quickly. Not the cheapest paint around however they will last a long time and they travel well too. They are a favourite in the art room.
WASHABLE PAINT Not a fan, cannot nd much information on them, have used them before and do not recommend. For one it doesn’t wash out of fabric, it is thin, messy and can be easily avoided and replaced by a better paint mentioned above.