An Artist's Guide to Minimizing Waste

An Artist's Guide to Minimizing Waste


"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." - Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

A man named Terry Swearingen once said that we are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to. Especially as artists, we go through a lot of materials. Even with all the do-overs, warm-ups, and leftover supplies, there's still plenty we can be more mindful of when it comes to taking care of the planet we call home. We've come up with a list of alternatives for you to practice in your art-making so that you can give back to our earth, one project at a time!




It's no secret that paper is arguably the most used and disposed of thing artists use. If you have a Watercolor Box subscription, for example, in just one year counting the watercolor sheets alone, you'll have received a total of 96 sheets of paper. Say that you use one of those sheets for your warm-ups in every project. If you discard the practice paper when you've finished, that's at least 48 pieces of paper that were wasted. Multiply that by the number of subscribers, and suddenly that number jumps from double digits to the thousands! Instead, set aside your mess-ups, warm-ups, and projects you just simply don't love and put them to better use!


Cut up those unwanted pages to make unique bookmarks! Adding a plastic sleeve and tassel is an easy way to dress these up and give them as gifts.

watercolor painting inside a plastic bookmark sleeve with golden tassel


If you're searching through our Digital Downloads Library to find an outline for your next project, consider printing a different outline on both sides of the paper! Since you'll be tracing this onto your final paper, having a different project on each side is an easy way to save paper while creating reusable outlines.

outline of koi fish project on one side and ocean waves outline on the back side



Not only are the boxes your orders come in cute and stylish, but they're also super practical! Next time you think about throwing your box away after receiving your supplies, try these tips to improve organization, productivity, and the environment!


This little storage hack features two different kinds of boxes that you might have received with your order. The more reusable boxes, the less waste entering our waterways! Use your subscription box and The Good Stuff boxes to neatly store your paints. Organize them by color to make it easy for you to find the right shade. It doesn't hurt that it's also very aesthetically pleasing. 

open art subscription box with bottles of paint color coordinated in separate smaller containers inside

close up of paint bottles in smaller boxes that come inside subscription boxes


Even if you don't have a specific purpose for every project you create, it's important to hold on to your works of art! You'll be glad you did when you look back on old projects to see how much you've improved. Use an old subscription box to easily store all your finished projects and keep them safe!

open subscription box with completed projects pouring out of it


Art Journalers, this one's for you! Want to create art on the go? Convert an old subscription box into a travel case! By taping the empty bags your Prompt and Technique cards come in to the lid, you can have them handy for when inspiration hits wherever you are. Even if you don't art journal, you can use this same technique for reference photos with Lettering or Watercolor. A Butcher Tray Palette fits perfectly in the box and is also magnetic, so you can attach magnets to the bottoms of any essential supplies you have to keep it in place! TIP: Use an empty candle jar with a lid to hold water for your paintbrush. Big thanks to Art Journaling member Sunny Seleste for this amazing idea! 


If your creative space could use a mini-makeover, we sent you free decor! Open your subscription box to find an encouraging reminder to yourself on the lid. Cut it out and place it in a frame for a polished, store-bought look!

inside of subscription box lid cut out and placed inside a frame


Now that we've gone over ways you can re-use the packaging your online orders come in, let's talk about the actual supplies you're using to create art!


It's time to ditch the paper towel and replace it with a tea towel! Not only is this method more environment-friendly since it's reusable, but it also works much better than a paper towel does when it comes to absorbing excess water. 

paint brush on a tea towel


If you've been using plastic or paper cups for your paint water, you need this reusable glass! It's great for making the earth a little happier and letting you know it's not your drinking water. 

reusable glass filled with water that says this is your paint water


Just as most cardboard and plastic products are bad for the environment, so are the leftover paints we're often rinsing down the drain. Prevent excess waste in one simple step: use less! No, really—liquid watercolors go a long way, so you usually don't need more than just a few drops for a single project. You can always add more if needed!

small clip of two single drops being squeezed out of paint bottle


If you have another idea on how we can show more love to our planet, share it in the comments!

subscription art boxes stacked on top of each other



  • Great tips. Thanks you!

  • I love all the tip saving ideas and look forward to using them. I am new to this. Waiting on my first kits. Where do you get the little sleeves for the bookmarks? Neat idea 👍♥️

    JoAnn Watkins
  • LOVE IT! Great Ideas – I’m so glad you are switching to a tea towel! I have used old face cloths (or dishrags) for painting for 20 years – rinse when done and use again. They can go right into the laundry as well! (Mom wanted to know where all my face cloths from college went…) I also love the fact that you can just add a little water to bring watercolor paints back to life and use on the next project. Can’t do that with acrylics!

    Heather Sistah Sunshine
  • I have to mail gifts often that usually include a painting. The subscription boxes are perfect for that! They are sturdy and pretty!! I never throw one away and I encourage my recipients to reuse it. I love the boxes and everything from Lets Make Art!! You all have changed my life! I paint every day ✌🏼❤️

  • I use the subscription boxes to also keep my outlines. I almost always resize them so I have a box for small outlines and then one for the full size outlines.

    Charlene Woods

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