The Anatomy of Vegan Art Materials

June 25, 2022

Most artists create their masterpieces using conventional paints, mediums and papers that are oftentimes made of animal components or contain bone char, gelatin, ox gall, rabbit collagen, carmine, eggs, shellac, casein, beeswax, and many other animal-based ingredients. Art supply companies produce and retail high-end professional brushes that are usually made from hairs and fur of slaughtered animals such as pigs, horses, squirrels, and others captive animals. 

Luckily, ethical alternatives are now available for artists who prefer art supplies that are cruetly-free and vegan. These materials neither contain animal ingredients nor are they tested on animals. Vegan art supplies are available in both student and professional grades. 

Tips on choosing vegan art supplies

But how does an artist know if an art material is indeed cruetly-free? Take these pointers.

  • Some brands offer plant-based pigments for all acrylic and oil paints but there are brands include animal-based ivory black and colors with PBk9 in their sets. PBk9 is made from bone char.
  • Vegan adhesives and glues are available in the market. Binders made from the sap of acacia tress are also available for making paint. It is made of gum Arabic powder and can be used in watercolor and gouache paint. Natural resin-based binders can also be bought from these stores.
  • A variety of brands produce synthetic kolinsky paintbrushes of watercolor, as well as, calligraphy or Sumi-E brushes that are made with wood sourced from FSC-managed forests, and comprised of biodegradable components.
  • Most recent watercolor product lines are vegan, plastic-free and non-toxic, as well, except for Ivory Black, Sepia, Raw Umber, Viridian Hue, and Lamp Black which contain pigments made from animal bones. Some of the famous watercolor lines contain plant-based pigments and natural minerals. 
  • Vegan brush cleaners and restorers, as well as, canvases are also available from famous brands. Vegan chalks, charcoals (which can be created from vines and willow trees), graphite blocks (which are relatively cruelty-free) and crayons are sold in the market, as well.
  • Some gouache paints are vegan but other pigments may be animal-based such as ivory blacks, greys, raw sienna, and many other pigments. Plant-based materials are predominantly natural lime-based or contain natural oils. 
  • Vegan inks are also sold in the market. In fact, a completely vegan-run company, Culture Hustle, sells vegan inks. While other companies sell non-vegan inks in their product lines especially silver and gold.
  • Famous companies such as Faber Castell and Pilot also produce vegan pastels, pens, pastel papers, and pencils. 
In general, vegan art materials can equally match their counterparts when creating high quality artworks and are considered safe as they are free from VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) or have zero titanium dioxide. However, it's best to not rely on labels and directly double check with the manufacturer.

Image credit: Julia Volk | Pexels

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