Art Studio Organization

Jan 7, 2022 | 0 comments

In my time as an artist and creative coach I have met hundreds of artists, and almost all of us struggle with the same thing: art studio organization. Before I go on and tell you my tips for organizing your home studio, you need to know that my studio is never perfect. I think it’s practically impossible to have a functioning studio that is always clean and organized. Art is messy! Rather than worrying about what my studio looks like, I focus on what it feels like to be in there and whether or not I am able to paint freely and with joy. 

Dionne painting a canvas on an easel in her studio; a drop cloth is used on the floor, table, and as curtains. Brushes hang on the wall behind her.

No matter what type or size of studio you have, there are always opportunities to make it the best, most functional space possible. When it comes to art studio organization, there are a few important factors to keep in mind:

  • Visibility. I have found that the single most important factor in organizing my studio is to be able to see everything that I have so I can find the tools and materials I need quickly. Think shelves, not drawers!
  • Accessibility. Not only do I need to be able to see my product, but I should be able to quickly access it as well! If I have to unload a whole shelf just to reach the color in the back then my products aren’t as accessible as they should be.
  • Functionality. Last but not least: make sure that whatever organizational system you create is functional and realistic for how you create. A shelf full of paint pigments might look great on Instagram, but if you have to climb a ladder every time you want to get what you need.

That said, here are some of my favorite tips for cultivating a space that is conducive to creativity!

Art Studio Organization

Dionne in her art studio, talking to a phone on a ring light tripod. Canvases hang on one wall behind her and the other is covered in 6" shelves filled with paint and tools

Walls

When it comes to organizing, think vertically! Your walls offer a lot of opportunities for organizing your art supplies. You can also use wall space to hang up in-progress canvases while you work on others.

Shelving

I like to buy 6-inch shelving to put all around my studio. These are a great way to store your supplies so that you can see everything you need (told you that was important!). Don’t buy shelving that is too deep because products can hide behind others.

Hooks

An old piece of wood is used as a large hook upon which painting aprons are hung

You’ll want soooo many more hooks than you think! I love to think outside the box and go big with things like bits of old dressers or door handles to hang things like drop cloths, painting aprons, and even canvases. Smaller hooks, used on the wall or peg boards, are great for storing art tools and supplies.

Wheels

Carts, stools, chairs… Wheels make everything better! Adding casters or wheels to the items you use the most can make moving them around your studio (or home) much easier. I love using a rolling cart or toolbox to store the products I’m currently using on projects.

Art Supply Organization

Now that you’ve got the big stuff covered, it’s time to focus on the hard part: wrangling all those art supplies! I know from experience that having an art studio at home comes with lots of supplies. Not only are there the different mediums (I have used just about every kind of paint!) but there are all the paint tools, palettes, cleaning supplies… If you have a small space, it’s important to find solutions to store all everything you need without it a) taking over your house or b) getting lost in a closet somewhere.

Supply Storage

Paint brushes stored in old, cleaned out candle jars

Every artist I know loves to recycle or upcycle old containers into storage solutions! Look around your house to see what can be repurposed.

  • Cute jars, from jam or old candles or even pasta, are great for storing paintbrushes. If you have a large paintbrush collection, group them by type and label the jars so you can easily find the brush you need right when you ended it.
  • Stackable containers with lids are what I prefer to store my paint pigments in! 
  • Small bowls are great for grouping together all the small bits of supplies that you can’t bear to toss, like pastels and pencil stubs.

Paint pigments are stacked in clear jars with lids to show their color and save space

Preserving Products

A big struggle for a lot of artists is figuring out what to do with unfinished projects and the mess that comes with that! 

  • One of my favorite artist hacks is using Press’n Seal plastic wrap to preserve my palettes and wet paint brushes in between projects. This keeps the paint wet and supple until I’m ready to paint again. 
  • This is where a cart shines! Keep all your “in use” products on a cart that can be tucked under your work space along with the wet paintbrushes and palettes. This will help you keep your space tidy in between paint sessions.

Rolling tool box

Art Studio Tips

These aren’t exactly organization tips, but following these suggestions will help your studio stay clean and functional.

Protecting Your Space

plastic sheeting used to protect walls

Plastic Sheeting

The first thing I do before painting is to protect my walls with some plastic sheeting! This allows me to paint with freedom without worrying that I might make a mess. So much stress is relieved when I know that I can attack a canvas or piece of furniture without stressing. I prefer the Visqueen brand of plastic sheeting!

Drop Cloth

I love love love drop cloths!!!! Not only do they protect your space but they can be a new source of inspiration — I’ve made curtains and art out of them and incorporated them into furniture! 

Nail-Free Organization

Two easels in front of an old door

I made it pretty clear that utilizing your wall space is essential, but that’s not always an option! If you’re a renter or you need to protect your walls, please don’t feel like you’re forced to drill holes in your walls to have a successful studio. I often use old doors and shutters, leaned against walls, to hang things on! You can add hooks, nails, and screws without fear that you might damage something. Better yet, the whole door or shutter can be moved or put away if you need to change up the look of a room for entertaining or holidays! It’s a very versatile option that also looks gorgeous in photos.

Protecting Yourself

Get a Good Chair!

a comfortable, supportive chair is important!

I cannot stress enough how important it is that we take care of our bodies while we create. No matter what you’re working on, a nice chair with good support is worth every penny and inch of space it takes up. Please protect your back with a good chair!

Ventilation Matters

There are some products, like resin and spray paint, that should not be used in the studio unless you have proper protection and ventilation. Don’t ignore those warning labels! Get yourself good respiratory protection and work outside whenever possible if you plan on working with mediums that might cause respiratory distress.

Efficiency Tips

canvases hung on the wall of an art studio

Organization looks different to everyone because it’s all about tailoring the space to make your creative process as seamless and efficient as possible. 

  • I have found that working on two projects or canvases at the same time helps me keep up the momentum, get more done, and avoid muddying up the colors due to impatience! 
  • Keep the items you use most often on shelves that are within reach of your canvas. I’ve honestly lost count of how often I sit down at the canvas and realized I forgot to grab some medium or tool! This will save you time and annoyance.
  • I prefer to organize my supplies by type/size and medium/color but I suggest organizing them in a way that feels instinctual to you. 

As nice as it would be to have an Instagram-worthy studio, the goal is to make it functional and tailored to your needs. If you’re able to find what you need when you need it then you’ve succeeded!

Click here to see my original studio tour from 2019!

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