Vegan, Vegetarian and Eco art supplies

Vegan, Vegetarian and Eco art supplies

Choosing to use animal free art materials.

Having a lifestyle that matches your choices can be difficult in today's current market. It's fair to say that day to day items such as toiletries, cosmetics and certain foods are clearly marked, such as the Leaping Bunny logo and the sunflower Vegan Trademark are internationally recognisable making it that little bit easier. But with paints not so much. 
Here I'll help explain what to look out for. I don't want to put you off; it's just to make you aware of what's in your materials. Remember it's a modern world we live in the choice is yours.

Brushes or bushy tails?

Natural hair bristles are used for different types of painting and range from mammals such as; hog for oil painting and squirrel for wash brushes. Plus there's also camel, goat and pony hair all for various uses. If you want to move away from these try instead to look for synthetic bristles, they tend to be nylon or polyester and have improved in quality over the years. They are very durable and will work with all paint types. All (except the Poundland special) should be labeled accordingly. Synthetic brush filaments can have a very similar appearance to natural bristles; some are dyed and baked to make them softer and more absorbent. This is known as taklon.

Undisputed the finest quality watercolour brushes Kolinsky sable, are produced using the winter fur from the tail of a male Siberian weasel. 

Paints and additives

Paint can be hard to distinguish as they're divided in to professional quality; paint that contains naturally occurring pigments and so called inexpensive student quality using synthetic man made colours. Certain paints retain their traditional age-old formulas and can contain some animal products:

 a resin like secretion from the female lac insect, used to give a glossy finish and as a binder in inks, such as Winsor & Newton drawing inks.
Cochineal comes from various types of lac, scale insects; its secretions are used to make a strong carmine dye. This can appear in paints, ink and even food colouring.
Bone black made from the charring of bones to produce very dense black. Sounds like something to be done at witching hour!
Ox gall a watercolour medium based on the animal protein from gall bladders of cattle, and acts as a paint flow improver.  
Tempera paints use an egg to bind the pigments together, this paint has fantastic longevity and pre-dates oil painting.
Honey for many uses as a preservative, to increase colour vibrancy and smoothness. This is now in all luscious formulations of Sennelier watercolour. 

Daler Rowney state that none of their products are tested on animals. The following Daler Rowney paints do not contain animal products or by-products:

All Artist Oil Colours with the exception of Ivory Black and Blue Black.

All Georgian Oil Colours with the exception of Ivory Black, Prussian Green and Cerulean Hue.

All Cryla and Cryla Flow colours with the exception of Ivory Black.

All System 3 colours with the exception of Raw Sienna.

Please note: CotmanWatercolours are all Vegan apartfrom the following colours: Ivory Black, Raw Umber & Viridian.

Go Eco

Watercolour paper is often sized; which means it is coated in a gelatin based glue to make the sheets less porous, and more workable for example Saunders Waterford paper. Good quality watercolour paper that is not sized is very hard to find. Instead you could use eco - friendly sketch pads and sketchbooks, such as a highly sustainable bamboo pad and a 100% recycled drawing pad, or heavyweight cartridge paper.

Draw the line

You may be surprised to know but some pencils contain beeswax or casein glue (an adhesive binder based on animal proteins). I recommend Faber Castell Polychromos, these artist quality colour pencils are comprised mostly of vegetable oil and high quality pigments. They're extremely popular with professionals and adult colouring book enthusiasts alike for their smooth colour and light-fastness. Personally a favourite of mine. 


  Faber Castell Polychromos pencils have 120 superb colours in the range, available individually or in sets.

Derwent also offer great ranges in pencils that are suitable for vegans and vegetarians:

All Coloursoft pencils - soft, bright and blendable.

All Inktense pencils - vibrant and water soluble for pen and ink effects.

All Graphitint pencils - water soluble graphite in tonal colours.

All Art Bars - wax based, high pigment watercolour bars.

All Aquatone pencils

All Metallics pencils

All Graphitone pencils

All Pastel pencil and Pastel blocks - slightly chalky, powdery and blendable.

All Charcoal Pencils and XL Charcoal Blocks - rich and easily blendable,

Derwent Graphic pencils in the following grades only B, HB, F, H, H3, H4, H5, H6, H7, H8, and H9

This information is correct at the time of publishing (08/16) some product formulations may have changed, and some companies may have other products that are tested on animals. Please contact manufactures directly for up to date materials lists.


Larissa Brierley
Larissa Brierley

9 Responses

Janine Baldwin
Janine Baldwin

August 20, 2021

Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Paints are all vegan except for Raw Umber and Ivory Black. I’ve just emailed them to check and they confirmed that.

Jennifer Green
Jennifer Green

August 16, 2021

You can make your own gesso, recipes online & it’s really easy

Sandrine Maugy
Sandrine Maugy

March 08, 2021

Thank you for all the info. Regarding watercolour paper, not all size is animal-derived gelatine. Farbiano watercolour papers (for example the excellent Fabriano Artistico) are sized beautifully and they contain no animal products.
Your “Undisputed finest quality” sable brush is quite subjective :) I actually prefer synthetic brushes, the new ranges in Pro Arte and Princeton Neptune for example being in my opinion superior to natural hair brushes.

Debbie Andrews
Debbie Andrews

April 15, 2020

Thank you so much for this information, it’s invaluable. Please don’t ever delete this post – I have bookmarked it! :-D


June 28, 2019

So the only company that does vegan graphite is Faber-Castell?


January 24, 2019

Vegan-friendly graphite pencils are seldom discussed. Most graphite pencils 2B and softer contain tallow. The role of tallow is to ease the graphite onto the paper surface. I contacted several manufacturers and only one company, Faber-Castell, produces a graphite pencil set (9H to 9B) which are vegan-friendly. If you buy individual graphite pencils from Derwent please consult their website for list of vegan pencils, the harder pencils are fine but softer ones are not. Other colour pencil sets that are vegan are Faber-Castell Polychromos, All other ranges from Faber-Castell, Caran d’ache Luminance pencils are also vegan-friendly.


January 24, 2019

Hello Shirley, Generally gesso is not vegan. However, there is one option from Golden GAC Acrylic Polymer 100 (doublecheckvegan blog). Regarding, sized canvas I read that Loxley produce canvases that maybe suitable but I recommend contacting the company directly. As a vegan, I use Fabriano Tela Oil paper which has a nice textured feel to it and this is vegan. I would recommend reading some blogs by doublecheckvegan, vegan womble, veganartstuff, etc for a list of vegan art materials.
I am a bit surprised that Saunders watford paper is vegan. So I will look into this. There are some excellent watercolour papers produced by Fabriano (Artistico, etc), Hahnemühle (cezanne, turner, bamboo mixed media) which are all vegan-friendly. I would also like to point out there is a vegan certified unsized 100% cotton watercolour paper produced by DMD Watercolour Paper Ltd and I recently bought it on Amazon. Hope you will update this blogpost. There are lots of vegan-friendly cruelty-free art materials. Many thanks!!


January 24, 2019

Shirley Wellstead!
I use sterteched organic hemp canvas, I stertch it myself, then prime it with a mix of startch and arabic gun. Totally vegan. Traditionally startch was used to prime canvas and paper so look into it perhpas.

Shirley Wellstead
Shirley Wellstead

January 16, 2019

I am a Vegan looking for stretched canvases that are primed. I live in the UK. Can you suggest a good supplier please as I am not having much luck. Also is Gesso vegan as there is no mention of how it is made up on the tin. Thank you.

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