Are Your Art Supplies Vegan?

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The good news is that being vegan can ultimately reduce your stress levels. The bad news is that there can be some stress involved in comprehensively avoiding animal products and byproducts in all aspects of your life. While you can easily spot and avoid these products when it comes to your diet and lifestyle, it's not always quite so straightforward in other areas. When you want to express yourself creatively, it can be surprising to learn that your art supplies might not actually be vegan. Papers, paint, pencils — surely these items don't contain any animal products or byproducts? Many of them do, and it's a matter of knowing what to look for since many art supplies aren't explicitly labelled as being vegan. But how are animal products utilised in art supplies?

Common Animal Products in Art Supplies

Animal products can be employed in the manufacturing process of certain art supplies. Bone black (also known as bone charcoal) can be used in various colouring implements, and this isn't exclusively for the colour black either. Additionally, many paints contain a milk protein known as casein, and this is typically extracted from cow's milk. Some watercolours can also contain ox gall (made from bovine gall bladders).

Your Art Paper

It's not just the implements you use to create your art, and the very paper you use can conceivably contain trace amounts of animal products. A surprising number of types of personal hygiene paper products (such as toilet paper and tissues) use animal-derived fatty acids and gelatine as part of the manufacturing process. This is rarely seen in art supplies, but it cannot be ruled out that drawing paper and blank canvases have not been treated with gelatine.

Do Your Homework

Although it might be a surprise to learn that your art may not have been as vegan as the artist who created it, it's possible to avoid these problematic art supplies. Not all manufacturers will have any type of labelling pertaining to the manufacturing process of their products (as in whether it's vegan or not), so some research is required when you purchase supplies online. Some online retailers will have taken the initiative, and will clearly note which of their products are vegan, sparing you any confusion.

Ask the Staff

You can employ a similar strategy when physically buying art supplies. Opt for a specialist shop, where the staff are likely to know the origins of the products they sell. Given the increasing popularity of veganism, it's a reasonable assumption that you should be able to make an informed choice, so it's about finding a retailer who knows their stock. 

Some vegans may be shocked to learn that they've inadvertently been creating art using animal products and byproducts, but it's not as though it's impossible to find all the vegan art supplies you'll ever need.