Eco-Friendly Painting Practices Every Sustainable Artist Must Know (2024)

The increasing knowledge of environmental degradation has proved to be one of the prominent problems in the modern-day world. Since people have become more conscious about their environment, promoting and observing environmental sustainability is now more important than ever.

While some artists are already working to protect the environment, others might not know how to start. But don’t worry! In this guide, we’ll talk about the best eco-friendly painting methods for everyone to learn.

Let’s jump right in!

Eco-Friendly Painting – How to Get Started

The initial steps when painting involves selecting the suitable painting medium and purchasing your paint supplies. For instance, do you want to use watercolor, acrylics, or oil-based paints?

Regardless of the type you choose, know that each paint type behaves differently based on application, blending, drying time, and general appearance. Also, they need a different kinesthetic motion to be used effectively.

When settling on the type of paint to use, it is important to factor in the environmental repercussions of each one. Acrylics, oil, and watercolor paints all have various effects on the ecosystem. But don’t worry much; there are several options you can still settle on.

Eco-friendly Painting Practices - various paints and brushes on a table

Now, let’s see the top eco-friendly painting practices in the section below:

4 Important Eco-Friendly Painting Practices

1. Choose Eco-Friendly Paints

As you might already know, acrylic and oil paints come with their own set of environmental impacts. Oil paints are not water soluble, meaning you’ll need toxic-based thinners to clean your brushes and other painting supplies once you finish your project.

While acrylic paints can be washed with a little warm water, most of them are made from petroleum-based polymers like plastics, and you may not want these materials to go out the drain either.

Watercolors, on the other hand, are the ideal option for novice DIYers and beginners. They are the most forgiving and least impactful of the three since they can be washed off using warm water without struggles.

Remember, the application methods of watercolors are different from the two above, and you might want to confirm how to apply them from the manufacturer’s manual or get professional guidance when using them.

On the contrary, watercolors may not be applicable if you want to paint your outdoor furniture as they can be washed away with rain. 

Eco-friendly Painting Practices - paints and brushes

2. Use Eco-Friendly Paintbrushes

Paintbrushes are available in various shapes and sizes. There are stiffer brushes that are perfect for painting acrylic and oil-based paints and softer ones that are best for water-based paints.

It is advisable to try with paintbrush starter sets before you decide on buying them as single pieces. Regardless of the medium, most starter sets have paintbrush variations you can choose based on your project.

Experts recommend choosing cruelty or synthetic-free options or durable ones made of nylon. Most of these are available in different sizes and shapes you can choose from, are made of nylon, and come with canvas carrying cases for a neatly organized kit.

In summary, though, the most environmentally friendly options we highly recommend are bamboo brushes instead of the ones made of plastics and other polymers.

3. Reuse, Recycle, and Upcycle Your Art Materials

The true meaning of sustainability includes observing ecological balance by staying clear of depleting natural resources.

One way this can be achieved in your painting project is through recycling and upcycling your materials and supplies. The best starting point is to reuse canvas; they have high versatility and can be easily reused just by adding gesso to them.

For artists who would like to experiment, we advise trying your creativity with upcycling. Look around for cardboard, paper, metals, blocks of wood, or other materials that should be discarded but can still be used creatively to form a masterpiece.

Eco-friendly Painting Practices - a portrait on wooden planks

4. Choose Sustainable Packaging Solutions

Artwork is undoubtedly a priceless thing, especially in the eyes of the maker, who takes pain in ensuring they are transported safely to their final destinations. So far, a common practice has been the use of bubble wrap to ensure there is no damage to it.

 However, bubble wraps, together with other polystyrene materials, have known and long-lasting effects on the environment, and there is a greater need to make a switch to eco-friendly packaging options.

Recycled cardboard, pulp, and biodegradable packaging peanuts are some of the common materials you should use to package your artwork in an environmentally sustainable manner.

More Useful Eco-Friendly Painting Practices

While the above practices are the major tips to follow in your quest for an eco-friendly painting project, there are others we cannot assume and are still important.

Let’s check them out below:

  • Follow proper paint disposal instructions: In terms of disposing of the excess paints you no longer use, it is imperative that you do so responsibly. Never pour paints, thinners, or solvents down the drain. Once you are done and don’t need these items, it is advisable to put them in a tight-fitting can or jar and have them delivered to a hazardous waste disposal place. Improper paint and material disposal is the worst thing you can do to the environment.
  • Remember to air paintbrushes, cans, and other physical materials before disposal: Even the smallest amount of spray paint left in an aerosol can is enough to cause irreversible damage to the environment. Before disposing of any can, paintbrush, and other supplies used during painting, we recommend leaving them open outside or in a well-ventilated area to dry and get rid of the toxic spray paint smell and fumes before disposal. You can then place them in trash pick-up once they are completely dried for effective disposal.
  • Try your best to reduce waste: People usually make the problem of poorly discarding paints they no longer want to use. However, the best thing to do is to try to use the excess paint that remains on another project if it is more than half a gallon. You can also mix the different colors to get a better hue that you can use on the next project you have in mind.

Check out this video by EZ Art Studio for more tips:

Eco-Friendly Art Materials to Try

Additional materials that may be necessary are clothes for wiping brushes and managing spills, a small container or cup for holding warm water to rinse brushes, and a paint palette.

Any ordinary plate can serve as a paint palette, and many watercolor sets come with their own palettes. However, if you prefer not to risk staining your valuable china, you can opt for a disposable paper plate instead.

Consider acquiring an easel to support your canvas during your artistic endeavors. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that you can find all of these items, such as easels, palettes, and smocks, in secondhand condition if you know where to search.

Before commencing your artistic pursuits, explore local thrift shops and secondhand stores for gently-used art supplies. You might be pleasantly surprised by the assortment available.

Eco-friendly Painting Practices - artist painting on an easel

Conclusion

There are numerous simple ways to embrace eco-friendly practices and minimize your environmental footprint. Going green doesn’t have to be as complicated as people think, even in common projects like painting a room, artwork, or furniture.

Consider following the practices discussed above to contribute to a healthier environment and protect yourself whenever you want to undertake any painting project. What’s more, most paint manufacturers are trying to adopt sustainable manufacturing processes to help bring you eco-friendly paints you can choose from.

About the Author

Paul Murray – Founder and Professional Painter

Paul is the founder of Pro Painters Guide and a seasoned painter and decorator. He has 40 years of experience painting interiors, exteriors, decks, wood and remodeling homes. He’s taught painting and artistry at Tao Arts School. He also runs a very successful business, Paul Murray Paintings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most eco-friendly art medium?

The most eco-friendly art medium is natural earth paint. It is a safer alternative to traditional art supplies because it is made from mineral and common natural materials that are non-toxic and free from harmful chemicals. Read the full guide to learn more about how to be an eco-friendly artist.

What is eco-friendly painting?

Eco-friendly painting refers to the use of environmentally conscious materials and practices in the process of painting, minimizing the negative impact on the environment. This includes using non-toxic paints, reducing waste and emissions, and employing sustainable techniques. Read the full guide to learn more about an eco-friendly painting.

How can I be an eco-friendly painter?

Invest in eco-friendly paint supplies. Besides health considerations, environment-friendly painters factor in all the processes entailed in the production of art materials. Read the full guide to learn more about how to be an eco-friendly painter.

References and Useful Resources

Architectural Digest: Eco-paint: Everything You Need to Know About Nontoxic Painting

Artist’s Network: How to Be an Eco-Friendly Artist

Our Endangered World: Is Acrylic Paint Bad for the Environment?

ScienceDirect: Petroleum-Based Polymer

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