Whether you’re a professional artist, hobby artist, or your kiddos are in need of supplies, it’s important to choose environmentally friendly art supplies for all your artistry needs.

Now, what do I mean by ecofriendly art supplies?

I mean ones that are less harmful to the environment than traditional acrylic or oil paints (for example).

This article is going to concentrate mostly on paints because they are the main environmental offenders for artists.

Hopefully, this article provides you with some environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional non-ecofriendly paints.

Is acrylic paint environmentally friendly?

No. Because I am not an expert on acrylic paints, I am going to refer to artsy.net to help field this question.

Acrylic paints contain the same pigments as oils, but their vehicle is acrylic polymer emulsion, and their binder is acrylic polymer. When they dry, the components of the vehicle evaporate—meaning that water, propylene glycol, and ammonia are released into the air. Some of the commonly added acrylic mediums also release formaldehyde as they dry.

Paints labelled non-toxic are considered safe for humans, but are not necessarily safe for the environment. Propylene glycol, for example, is safe enough for use in the food and cosmetic industry, but has a disastrous effect in aquatic environments, meaning that pouring acrylic waste water down the drain is damaging to waterways.

Is acrylic paint biodegradable?

No. Again, I am going to refer to an expert and the excellent research by ontheprairies.ca to help answer this question.

Acrylic paint is made from a synthetic resin binder called acrylic polymer emulsion (basically liquid plastic) which is a chemical produced by a chemical process, the thickeners, defoamers, preservatives and other additives are chemicals and even the synthetic pigments used to make the colors are chemicals. They may be present in small enough quantities that they can be labelled non-toxic and non-hazardous, but they are still there. 

Because there are so many chemicals involved in the making of acrylic paints, they can leech out into our waterways and soil so you do not want acrylic paint to biodegrade on land or in water.

On the Prairie has ironed out a disposal method for acrylic paint so as to minimize damage to the environment. Check it out here.

natural earth paint

What paint is environmentally friendly?

For casual painters and kiddos, Natural Earth Paint could be what you are looking for.

Features include:

  • Ten natural earth & mineral pigments in 2 oz. packets
  • Packaged in biodegradable plastic bags
  • 4 oz. jar of refined walnut oil
  • 4 oz. jar of Eco Solve: non-toxic and plant-based paint thinner/ brush cleaner
  • Eco Oil Painting Guide & Mixing Instructions
  • 100% Post consumer recycled gift box

This kit includes top-quality pigments, sustainably harvested from around the world.  These paints are free of fillers, additives, synthetic preservatives, toxins, petroleum-based pigments and heavy metals.

They even sell ecofriendly bamboo paintbrushes to complete the set. 

Features include:

  • Three eco-friendly paint brushes with bamboo handles
  • The ferules are of recycled aluminum 
  • Bristles are vegan, made of corn fiber
  • Almost 15 centimeter long 

For more serious artists and talented adults and children, try Cobra solvent-free oil paints.

Features include:

  • The water mixable oil colours of Royal Talens
  • Always produces a wonderful and long-lasting result without the use of solvents such as white spirit and turpentine
  • Equipment is easy to clean with soap and water

So give either one of these a try for a more ecofriendly oil paint experience.

Is watercolor eco friendly?

Watercolor paints are not entirely ecofriendly. They are safer than acrylics as they are water-based and do not contain solvents.

What you need to be aware of is that many of the pigments used to color the paints contain heavy metals, which if disposed of improperly can pollute soil and waterways.

Luckily, there is a plant-based option called Lutea. Their watercolors are made from organic plant materials from around the world.

Need a good eco-friendly notebook to sketch or paint on? Check out this article.

If you want a more in-depth article on even more environmentally friendly art supplies, let me know in the comments below.

Cheers, and have an awesome day!



  1. Diane

    Can someone inform me of the environmental safety of Heritage Acrylic paint?

    • Kathy

      I tried researching the ingredients of Heritage Acrylic paint without much success. All the information I found (which was not much) said that the paints are ‘environmentally friendly and safe and non-toxic’. Just be aware that even acrylic paints that are labeled non-toxic are made from chemicals that can leech into our waterways and soil, so it is important to dispose of them properly (https://ontheprairies.ca/acrylic-paint-environmental-effects/). I Hope this helps!

  2. Becky

    Hi, I know this was published many months ago, but I just found it now and I just want to say thank you!! You have answered many questions I had at once and saved me many hours of research. I hope this article inspires a lot of people. It definitely inspired me!

    • Kathy

      Thank you so much! I hope it inspires you and others as well!

  3. Jade J

    So glad I came across this! I would love to hear your thoughts about gouache too.


    Can anyone comment on the Australian non petroleum acrylic paint called hydrocryl?

    • Fanny

      Hi Dorothy, my opinion is while Hydrocryl is safe and non-toxic for you to use it is not great for the environment as it is not biodegradable. I actually can’t find anywhere on their website where they mention that their paints is not made with petrochemicals. If you go on the Hydrocryl website there is absolutely zero mention of the environment and the sustainability of their product, just their safety. In my opinion their product are classic acrylic paints meaning that they are made with plastic. Natural Earth Paint, as mentioned in this article, has great options for watercolour and oil paints. They do have a natural acrylic medium that you can use with their pigment and although their product is 100% plant-based it is still not biodegradable. I guess it depends what you want to use the paint for. Hope that helps!


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