Offering an easy, low-mess alternative to liquid paint, sticks with compacted pigment are an ideal choice for classrooms and mixed-media artists of all ages. For the most part, water soluble versions of these sticks are made of tempera paint, which is easy to blend and mix and is also nontoxic and quick to clean off most surfaces. Sold in twist-up tubes, tempera paint sticks can be used directly on dry paper without any water, offering a smooth, pastel-like consistency that dries quickly. Another water soluble option is the gel stick, which has a different formulation and may be slower to dry. Our picks below will help you find the best tempera paint and gel sticks for your project needs.
1. KingArt Studio Mixed Media Gel Stick Set
Young and seasoned artists alike will enjoy these highly pigmented sticks from KingArt, which are made of water-soluble wax to deliver buttery strokes. This set comes with 24 vibrant colors, from classics like Naples yellow and cobalt blue to less common ones like rose, primrose yellow, and aqua green. These quick-drying sticks are acid-free and lightfast to create long-lasting works, and they show up well on dark paper. They can be used alone but also layer beautifully, and you can use a brush to add water and blend colors.
2. Sargent Art Tempera Paint Sticks
Great for quick painting projects with minimal cleanup, this set of 12 nontoxic tempera paint sticks includes bright and dark tones. They are fast-drying and lay down smoothly, and the colors show up bold and bright. It’s also very easy to achieve consistent coverage, but artists who are seeking tools for more complex layering should keep looking.
3. Creativity Street Glide-On Metallic Tempera Paint Sticks
This small set of paint sticks comes in metallic hues of pink, green, blue, purple, silver, and gold. The colors are opaque and have a noticeable shine, and the long, comfortable-grip tubes have large twist dials at the bottom that allow you to push up paint. They also have caps with pocket clips—helpful not only for carrying but for preventing sticks from rolling off a table. The paint glides smoothly on paper, is quick-drying, and is AP certified nontoxic for stress-free creative experiences.
4. Faber-Castell Gelatos Dolce II
Faber Castell’s Gelatos are a fascinating medium. An outgrowth of the company’s gel sticks for children, these color sticks fall somewhere between chalks, crayons, and watercolors. When dry they deliver buttery, vibrant coverage, and when wet they can create more subdued, subtle strokes. Like many pigment sticks, they come in convenient twist-up tubes to reduce mess. This set is particularly nice for artists who want to learn, on their own, the possibilities of Gelatos. It includes not only 24 sticks but also a watercolor brush, three stamps for “inking,” and a palette knife for playing around with layers. Also included is a clearly written and illustrated guide.
5. Shuttle Art Tempera Paint Sticks
This large, 32-pack of tempera paint sticks gives you loads of color choices: You get 20 classic colors as well as a half-dozen sticks in metallic tones and a half-dozen neons. Although designed for children, they are also a great pick for adults who want to experiment with tempera. This paint formula is smooth-gliding and easy to blend (before they dry in 90 seconds), and colors leap off the page. Most sticks are very opaque, although some colors are slightly sheer. (SLUG FOR PRODUCT CARD) Wide variety of colors. These twist-up tempera paint sticks come in a smartly curated selection of complementary hues with different finishes.