Free art supplies: Paint color chips from the home improvement store

[Note: When I first posted this hack, I mistakenly thought Andi was talking about actual paint samples, but several readers pointed out she was referring to paint chips, the colorful cards that display different paint colors. Sorry about the mixup. — Ed.]

Andi’s a braver mom than I…my kids didn’t go anywhere near non-washable paint till they were in preschool.

My daughter (she’s two and a half) loves to color and cut anything she can get her hands on. Some of our favorite free art supplies are paint color chips. Whenever we go to Home Depot we grab a handful of them. We have used them for various cut and paste projects, like mosaics and collages. She also likes to make small postcards out of them to give to family members. I imagine there are a lot of things you could do with these small swatches of color.

By the way, I included a picture of these no-spill paint pots because my very organized mother in-law swears by them (my kids do their painting at HER house.)

Keeping a toddler happy at the home improvement warehouse
Muffin Tin Palette
Modified paper cups as paint holders
Quick cleanup tips for paint-loving kids


  1. Hayley says

    I could be wrong, but I think Andi’s referring to paint chips, as opposed to the liquid paint samples… or else she’s reaaaally brave ;)

  2. Annette says

    I have to agree with Hayley – sounds like she means the cards with the colors on them. I always tagged along with my dad to Home Depot because of those!

  3. says

    if you’re really looking for free art supplies, make friends with an interior designer. the ones I work with have stacks of paper paint chips, fabric & carpet samples, plastic laminate chains, etc that they are always updating and throwing out.

  4. says

    If you really think about it, doesn’t this border on theft?

    Sure, sometimes when we go into Home Depot, we do grab a single Mickey-shaped paint chip for our little one to play with during the trip, but really, those are for selling paint.

    Yes, you’re not asked to pay for them, so you’re not really stealing, but I really think it’s a gray area.

    And if everyone did start using it as their own personal arts and crafts program, then we do all pay for it as they raise the cost of paint.

    My 2 cents…

  5. regandbabe says

    you can also ask tile stores for discontinued tile samples, and construction places often have brick samples you can get in bulk for free or cheap (i’ve used these in my classroom to supplement our block area)

  6. Anonymous says

    I don’t think James is ruining the fun as much as he’s making a valid point about being civil and fair. Just because Costco might offer free samples of some of its food doesn’t mean a hack would be to take your family there for dinner.

  7. Trace says

    I’ll see your two cents, and raise my own two cents.

    A few years ago I collected a ton of paper paint samples to use for color-word practice in my K classroom. For me, all it took was a quick & cheerful explanation/request at the paint counter, on a trip when I was already making several other purchases. In one trip, I collected 300+ samples of many colors without making a dent in the innumerable samples on display. We’ve been using & RE-using these “color cards” to great effect ever since.

    Most paint samples have the name of the color on the front & back. Those that include a color word (Sea Green, Lemon Yellow, Pink Frosting, etc.) go in one center where kids can hunt for the color words, play sorting/matching games, etc. Those that are more abstractly named go in another center for sorting, patterning, etc. And of course, my students are always inventing ways to explore these sets that I had never thought of.

    Also, they’re small and fairly durable (the cards, not the kids…wait, maybe both), and after three years are still in fine condition for all sorts of creative pursuits. :)

  8. Trace says

    Whoa, sorry so long-winded there. I just couldn’t resist…

    quick tangent, similar idea: just today, I picked up twenty different road & attraction maps at a rest stop, and I’ll add them to our Geography station a few at a time for free exploration. There’s great value to be found in real-life print sources of all kinds if they’re obtained and used appropriately. Share; enjoy; repeat. :)

  9. Parent Hacks Editor says

    I can really appreciate James’s point…it’s good to consider where the line is in this case. In any case, really. Our local natural grocery has the greatest food samples ever, and my kids love to eat out of the little cups. They’d help themselves to a million samples if I didn’t stop them and explain the limits.

  10. Stacy says

    As an interior designer, I take home hundreds of paint chips from big box stores each year. The cost of manufacturing these chips is built into the marketing of the brand. I doubt that a few dozen is going to eat into their profit margin!! I say, grab handfuls of these for your kids, it’s a great introduction to the colors beyond basic primary colors.

  11. says

    Wow. I had no idea this was going to create a controversy of sorts. I’ve certainly never had any intention of robbing the Home Depot blind. At the most we’ve only ever taken 10 samples and we’re only there every 3 months or so. Methinks some people may need to lighten up a little… I liked Stacy and Trace’s comments.

    Oh, and I’ve never taken my kids to Costco for dinner either. :)

  12. jane says

    my local home depots, lowe’s, and other area stores are very happy to donate these items.