Organizing The Art Studio

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My superbly talented logo designer and artist extraordinaire Ariel Markowitz swapped client roles with me when she signed up for one of my virtual organizing service packages.

She wanted some guidance with how to organize all of her art supplies (by the way, homegirl issued me her artist inventory- list was longer than a yoga mat! Turns out those artist folk need a whole banana load of tools to make their masterpieces). We both agreed that I would share the information I gave her with you all. Spread the love among the creative community and whatnot. Let me walk you through it:

-Storage Set Up: Shelves & Bins

Because there are so many small tools and categories of tools, you want a system that provides you with many separate storage locations. The prime candidate for accomplishing that is the magical combination of shelves/ cubbies and storage bins. {You really can’t go wrong using that mix in any space.}

Any type of shelves or cubbies will do, regardless of whether they’re wall-mounted or freestanding. When it comes to the storage containers though, I would advice selectivity. Whereas in other areas a storage bin of banana leaf, wicker, or canvas can look more appealing, in the art studio I recommend sticking to plastics, metals, and woods. These are types that can be easily wiped up should arty things occur (read: paint spills, glue drips, et. al).

Ikea Expedit Bookcase // 9 Cube Storage Cabinet // Galvanized Utility Bins // Stacking Organizer Bin // Sterilite Storage Box // Hobby Box // Clear Square Hinged Box // Frosted Tote // Whitewashed Wood Bin

Sort and categorize all your tools in a way that makes sense to you. You can separate very specifically, storing only one type of object per bin (for example: one whole bin just for painting rags), or you can organize by activity (example: one bin for all “painting tools,” including rags, pants, brushes, etc). I would let quantity be the ultimate judge. If you use one medium very infrequently, you’ll likely have only a few items devoted to that activity, meaning that one bin for all relating tools should be appropriate.

-Storage Set Up: Drawers & Carts

Alternatively–or, if space permits, in addition–shallow drawers or carts can be successful in the studio. A cart will obviously make your supplies mobile, a definite asset if you have a larger studio space with multiple work tables. As with the shelves, use storage trays or bins to keep tools sorted, and place those on your cart.

Drawers can work effectively in the studio as well, although I would advice against deeper drawers. Stick to shallow drawers that will inhibit the accumulation of clutter, and ensure you retain access to all those little supplies.

Don’t even think about skimping on the drawer organizers; get yourself some shallow drawer dividers, or some slim, hinged boxes which will fit comfortably inside (some may prefer this option to the dividers, as it allows you to remove all associated tools from the drawer and bring them over to wherever you’ll be working).

Art cart // drawers // 5-Bin Storage Tower // Storage tray // Storage Box // 6-Compartment Box // 1-Compartment Box // Shallow Drawer Organizer

Now onto a few areas of specificity.

– The Essential Supplies 

While all tools can be stored in the aforeblogged storage bins, there are a few items that you might like to keep out for easier access [You might still store the brunt of your things in storage bins, but then select a few items from your larger collection to keep out on your work table. Be careful when doing this though, if you fear that having multiple storage locations for one item will trip you up.] This might include: paintbrushes, pens and pencils, scissors, markers, etc.

Use glass jars, metal cans- really any cylindrical canisters will do- to hold these things upright. If you want to make those jars mobile, pop them all onto a storage tray and viola, you’ve got yourself an art caddy.

Whitewashed Wood Bin // Glass jars

Image credits: The Creative Salad, Sweet Bestiary, Sight Unseen

– Paints

Paints can be a little puzzling, so we’ll address those directly as well. Let the type of storage space that you have determine the preferable container or system. Below, a few suggestions:

storage basket // nail polish wall rack // drawer spice rack // drawer divider

image credits: unknown, Casey LeighMy Simple Country LifeDesign SpongeBHGClean Mama

– Real Life Application 

Okay, so now that we’ve concluded the studio lesson, let’s take a look at how all these concepts look in real life:

Image credits: (top two) ErinZam, The Glitter Guide, BHG

Image credits: Traditional HomeStudio PebblesA Beautiful Mess 

 Image credits: Martha StewartMartha Stewart, Martha Stewart
 Image credits: Martha Stewart, Design SpongeRemodelista, unknown (think it was Serena and Lily Studio in Traditional Home), Original Youth

There you have it, class dismissed.

I hope that was helpful. Let me know what systems you’ve used in your studio or with your art supplies that’s helped you Live Simply.




19 thoughts on “Organizing The Art Studio

  1. Ken

    Hi Annie, I am in the process of selecting how to set up my studio, and making selection of cupboards and drawers. Your page is very helpful. Thanks, Ken

  2. Crystal

    Greatly appreciated and beautifully presented. My specific question and issue is a little odd- I live in Hawaii and loathe I have geckos running about my studio. This means that if it isn’t covered it will have gecko poop in it or on it within a day. So the plastic shoeboxes work well for many things but I am wondering if you have any other ideas about storing brushes up right or I also have a hard time trying to decide what to do with my papers. If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them!

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  6. Karlie

    Thanks for this, so helpful, as my “studio” has become a catch-all room for everything. It is so messy that I can’t even work in there, let alone find the things I need to work, so I just get more, and then don’t have a place for the new things, either, except when I clear a space on the floor.

  7. Kathryn

    Hi Annie, I have a very small studio space. Im looking for a good way to store stretched unpainted canvas. As well as paintings. Do you have any suggestions? I’m thinking shelving of some sort.

  8. Kristen

    I just set up my studio – I have a space for painting, a space for drawing, a sewing machine, bookshelves/storage, a desk with a computer, and a chair for reading. It’s awesome! Total dream come true. I got two of those blue carts from Ikea and they work great for storage. But be warned, if you have kids around, they will figure out they work pretty great as scooters in no time.

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  10. Jean

    That was so helpful and informative! Thank you for putting this togethe. I currently have a desk and a 5×5 expedit for storage. However I was thinking of replacing my expedit with an Ikea Hermnes system like this one for fabrics I have. They seem to look cleaner with the glass door. I don’t see a lot of people using Hermnes in their studios so wanted to know what your thought was on that. Thanks!

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  12. summer

    been browsing the net for ideas on setting up my art studio… this is the best i’ve seen so far. thank you for these good ideas 🙂

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