Animal-derived materials were essential for artists of the past – rabbit skin glue, dye made from crushed beetles, egg tempera, and pigment made from cow urine, to name a few examples. As art material technology develops there are more and more options available. Here are some vegan art supplies for artists who want to make more animal-friendly choices in their practice.
Watercolour papers are traditionally treated with a gelatin size to reduce the absorbency of the paper (gelatin is extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals), but there are a number of watercolour papers that are treated with synthetic size instead.
Note that some of the papers below have been made on a machine that uses woollen felts to give surface texture to the paper, this can be controversial in terms of whether the watercolour papers can be classed as vegan or not as the paper comes into contact with woollen blankets. However, the paper itself does not contain animal-derived ingredients, so it is down to the individual choice of the artist as to whether the watercolour paper is suitable for them.
Watercolour papers that are treated with synthetic size:
- Canson Heritage
- Canson Moulin Du Roy
- Fabriano Artistico
- Fabriano Watercolour
- Fabriano 5
- Global Fluid Easy
- Jackson’s Watercolour Paper Blocks
- St Cuthberts Mill Botanical Ultra Smooth
- Stonehenge Aqua
Yupo Paper is a non-absorbent synthetic paper made from polypropylene. No animal products are used in its production, and it is suitable for watercolour, acrylic paint, and alcohol ink.
Drawing and Pastel Papers
Like watercolour paper, some drawing and pastel papers are treated with gelatin size. The below papers are sized with a synthetic sizing agent and are confirmed to be vegan-friendly by the manufacturers.
- Fabriano Accademia
- Norfolk Cartridge Paper
- All Strathmore papers
- Snowdon Cartridge Paper
- Surrey Cartridge Paper
It’s worth bearing in mind that watercolour paper also makes an excellent surface for drawing, so you could also choose from the watercolour papers in the previous section.
Pastel papers prepared with synthetic size:
- Clairefontaine Pastelmat Paper
- Colourfix Pastel Paper
- Daler Rowney Ingres
- Fabriano Ingres
- Fabriano Tiziano
- Fisher 400
- Hahnemuhle Velour
- Hahnemuhle Lanacolours Pastel Paper
- Lux Archival
- Sennelier Soft Pastel Card
Canvas is a plant-derived material, made using either cotton or linen. The following canvas surfaces are confirmed to contain no animal-derived ingredients, such as animal hide size or glue:
- Belle Arti Cotton Art Board
- Jackson’s Handmade Boards
- Jackson’s Premium Cotton Canvas
- Jackson’s Premium Cotton Canvas Art Boards
- Jackson’s Ultralite Linen Boards
- Pebeo Natural Linen Canvas Boards
- Winsor and Newton Classic Canvas
The word ‘gesso’ is a bit of a misnomer here, as gesso is traditionally made using rabbit skin glue and whiting (chalk) and shouldn’t be confused with the modern acrylic primers most artists use today. The following gesso panels do not contain any animal products – either in the gesso, or in the panel support:
For artists who prepare their own painting surfaces, rabbit skin glue is a traditional glue used to make gesso and to seal unprimed canvas and raw wood panels. An alternative to rabbit skin glue, although not exactly the same, would be the Gamblin PVA Size – PVA Size would be considered a vegan product as it is a neutral pH polyvinyl acetate glue thinned with distilled water. PVA provides a good size layer that seals the fabric but does not re-absorb atmospheric moisture, swell and shrink like rabbit skin glue does.
Most drawing inks, including india ink, cannot be considered vegan because they contain shellac, a resin secreted by the female lac bug. There are a couple of ranges that are not shellac-based:
- Daniel Smith Walnut Ink
- PH Martin Radiant Watercolour Dye (non-waterproof)
- Winsor and Newton Calligraphy Ink (non-waterproof)
Watercolour Paints and Traditional Gouache
Some watercolour ranges contain honey, which helps keep the paint rewettable after drying. Another common addition to both watercolour and traditional gouache paints is ox gall, a dispersing agent derived from bile obtained from the gallbladder of cattle. The following ranges do not contain either of these ingredients and are considered vegan, but some include pigment PBk9, which is derived from animal bones:
- Daniel Smith (except Sepia, Ivory Black, Joseph Z’s Neutral Grey and Payne’s Gray)
- Holbein watercolours (except Ivory Black)
- Lukas 1862 (except Ivory Black)
- Royal Talens Rembrandt (except Lamp Black)
- ShinHan Premium (except Ivory Black)
- Qor Watercolours (except Ivory Black)
Ox gall can also be used as an additive during painting to improve the flow of watercolour paint. Golden QOR Watercolour Synthetic Ox Gall does not contain animal ingredients and is a good vegan alternative.
The following traditional gouache ranges are certified vegan, with the exception of certain colours that contain pigment PBk9:
- Daler Rowney Designers’ Gouache (except Neutral Grey 2, Paynes Grey, Lamp Black, Cool Grey 1,2, & 3 and Warm Grey 1,2, & 3)
- ShinHan Professional Designers Gouache (Except Ivory Black)
- Winsor and Newton Designer Gouache (except Ivory Black, Raw Sienna, Winsor Green, Spectrum Yellow, Intense Blue, Sky Blue, Purple Lake, Prussian Blue, Linden Green, Flame Red, Burnt Umber, Bengal Rose, Primary Blue, Lamp Black, and Spectrum Violet, which all contain ox gall.)
Acrylics are made using pigment and acrylic polymer resin. With the exception of those containing ivory black PBk9, acrylic paints do not contain any animal products. The following ranges are certified vegan and are not tested on animals:
- Amsterdam Standard Acrylic
- AV Artist Acrylic (except Ivory Black)
- Daler Rowney Cryla Acrylic (Except Ivory Black)
- Daler Rowney System 3 Acrylic (except raw sienna)
- All viscosities of Golden Acrylic (except the colours Bone Black, Jenkins Green, Prussian Blue Hue, Terre Verte Hue, and Neutral Gray 2 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8)
- Jackson’s Artist Acrylics
- Jackson’s Studio Acrylic
- Lascaux Artist Acrylics
- Winsor and Newton Professional Acrylic (except Ivory Black and Payne’s Gray)
Oil paints are made using plant-based drying oils. Some ranges, however, include a small amount of beeswax in the binder. The following ranges are vegan, with the exception of a few colours:
- Daler Rowney Artist Oil Paint (except Ivory Black and Blue Black)
- Daler Rowney Georgian Oil Paint (except Ivory Black, Prussian Green and Coeruleum Hue)
- Gamblin 1980 Oil Paint (except Ivory Black and Van Dyke Brown)
- Gamblin Artist Oil Colour (except Ivory Black, Van Dyke Brown, Terre Verte and Asphaltum)
- Holbein Duo Aqua Water-Mixable oil paint (except Ivory Black and Sepia)
- Isaro Oil Paint (Except Ivory Black)
- Jackson’s Professional Oil Paints (Except Ivory Black)
- Jackson’s Artist Oil (Except Ivory Black)
- Langridge Oil Paints
- Michael Harding Oil Paints (except Ivory Black and Payne’s Grey)
- Winsor and Newton Artist Oil Paint (except Blue Black and Ivory Black)
Wax is a key ingredient in coloured pencils, including oil-based pencils. However, all Derwent Coloursoft pencils, Derwent Metallics, Derwent Pastel pencils and Derwent Graphitone are all free from animal ingredients. Faber-Castell Polychromos and Albrecht Dürer pencils also contain no animal ingredients, using inorganic and synthetic materials and materials of plant origin. Faber-Castell have not initiated any animal testing on products or materials for 22 years, and do not use casein glue in packaging.
Brushes are traditionally made using natural animal hair, from hog brushes for oil paint to soft sable brushes for watercolour. In recent years there have been huge steps forward in synthetic brush technology, vastly expanding the options that artists have. The following brushes are made using synthetic hair, and do not include any animal-derived glues in the body of the brush. There are too many vegan brushes available to list all of them, so we’ve featured some that are designed specifically to mimic natural hair:
- Da Vinci Casaneo (synthetic squirrel for watercolour)
- Escoda Modernista Tadami Synthetic (synthetic mongoose for oil and acrylic)
- Escoda Marfil Chengdu (synthetic hog for oil and acrylic)
- Escoda Versatil (synthetic kolinsky sable for watercolour)
- Jackson’s Akoya (synthetic hog for oil and acrylic)
- Jackson’s Kite (synthetic kolinsky sable for watercolour)
- Jackson’s Crane (synthetic hog for oil and acrylic)
- Pro Arte Bristlene (synthetic hog for oil and acrylic)
Read this post to find out more about the development of synthetic brushes.
Here is a really useful PDF which lists many of the Winsor and Newton products, detailing whether they include animal derived ingredients.
This is by no means a definitive list, and if you have any products to add please let us know by leaving a comment.