Back to School Guide for Art Students - 4 Must Have Items for This Semester

A few things I wish I had on the first day of school instead of finding out the hard way

With Summer coming to an end and the temperature starting to cool, I can’t help but get the feeling of going back to school. It’s been a while since I had to worry about back to school shopping as an art student but it made me think. If I was going back to art school what would I buy to make sure I crushed it this year?

Some of the best items for an art student going back to school that I have found are:

  1. Weather Resistant Backpack
  2. Weather Resistant Portfolio Big Enough To Carry Your Projects
  3. Noise Cancelling Headphones to Help Concentrate
  4. Food Container to Pack Lunches for between Classes

A Backpack that looks good and feels good

Being a student in a visual arts program can be tough. As an art student, you are expected to attend liberal arts classes as well as studio classes which usually means you have to carry multiple bags. I remember the first year I went through a few different backpacks due to either the weight ripping the straps or the weather getting into my bag and ruining my books. It was a tough first year and this is when I realized that a backpack wasn’t something to skimp on. If you think about it you are wearing the backpack for a majority of the day. Another problem with backpacks can be that some of them look plain ugly or have too much branding which was always something that I never liked.

My absolute favorite bag that I have purchased and still use today is the Timbuk2 Rogue Laptop Backpack. This bag fits all the requirements. It keeps my books and materials dry no matter rain or snow. It also has minimal branding and logos on it which I can appreciate. I have my backpack in black since I prefer my bags to be a little less flashy as to not draw too much attention. In this bag, I can fit my 15in Macbook Pro, a few books, a carrying case of pens, charger, and a water bottle. All that without feeling uncomfortable or worrying about the bag getting ripped up.

The Best Backpacks for Art Students

You can also check out the Timbuk2 Spire Backpack which is slightly bigger and the same design if you need extra space. 

If you’re looking for something that has a little more personality than I would recommend the Fjallraven Kanken pack. I have never used this but my friends love this bag. Particularly because you can get it in all sorts of colors and the durability is amazing. Not to mention that Fjallraven uses recycled materials to produce their products. 

Protect Your Artwork With a Portfolio

When you’re not in a liberal arts class or art history class, chances are you’ll be traveling to a studio class. This usually means carrying multiple sketchbooks that are larger than your average backpack and a ton of pens, pencils, brushes, etc. During the fall season depending on where you are, things can be pretty easy as long as the weather doesn’t drastically change. However, once that first heavy rain hits you might panic like I did and wrap all your precious supplies in garbage bags hoping they don’t get soaked on your way to class. After this happened a few times I knew it unavoidable in New Jersey. I would need to find a solution that I could rely on as the winter and spring can be pretty long here.

Enter the Prat Start S2000! This is the same backpack I ordered when I was in school. The larger 24x27 version is big enough to carry all of your larger sketchbooks for class and even some canvases. This got me through all the wind and rain and made traveling to class way more bearable. It comes with backpack straps so you can carry it more comfortably but it also has a shoulder strap and handles if you have your regular backpack with you. Now with any of these portfolio cases, I do not recommend standing out in the rain for longer than 30 minutes. That is my recommendation with any bag quite frankly but this bag will keep your artwork and supplies safe for more than a few blocks of walking in the rain. 

The Best Portfolios for Art Students

The S2000 also comes with exterior bands for a poster storage tube which is also something I recommend. Since I was a design student, I spent a lot of time printing out large format posters and the only real way to transport them without ruining them is to roll them up. This simple tube helps to make sure that the person that sits next to you on the bus or train doesn’t crush that project you spent hours on.

If you need a portfolio that is a little bigger check out this one that is 24x36 or this one which is 34x42.

Concentration is Key

Whether you are in the studio, library, or a study hall. Finding that flow state where you can pump out a few solid hours of consistent work is so important. For me, there was no better way of knocking out my art projects than to put on my headphones and lock myself in the studio for a couple of hours. I would consider myself a pretty big headphone enthusiast to this day. I am always looking for the most comfortable headphones that I can wear for hours, something that cancels out the noise around me, doesn’t look terrible, and of course, sounds good.

Today I use the Sony WH1000XM3 as my headphone of choice when I’m at my desk working for a few hours or in a studio. They are Bluetooth headphones so they allow me to move freely without being attached to my phone which is great when you are working on drawing or painting. They feel great on my ears and I don’t have to worry when I wear them for more than a few hours. They also come with this great function that allows you to also hear the surrounding noise when you have them on.

Headphones for Art Students

The Sony WH1000XM3 is definitely at the top of the price range and for a more all-purpose, budget-friendly set of headphones, I use the Jaybird X4. I use these at the gym, commuting, and at work, all the time and these also are a great headphone for less than $99.

Save Some Money Packing A Lunch

I have always been a pretty big eater so when I’m hungry, I know that I’m going to be less productive. Packing lunch with me would help avoid this slump and also help me save money. This bowl from Porter is perfect for any leftovers or lunches you want to pack. It comes in ceramic or plastic and has a ton of colors to match your vibe. 

Lunch Boxes for Art Students

If you aren’t in your junior or senior year of college, scheduling your classes can be sort of hell. When I was in university, juniors and seniors got priority for picking their schedules. This left a lot of the less desirable class times for anyone after them and usually meant you would spend an entire day going back and forth to class. I didn’t have a meal plan either so I wasn’t able to pop into the dining hall whenever I wanted. I would buy my groceries from the local store on campus and cook when I got back to my apartment. I found that one of the best things to do was to pack any leftovers I had and take them with me for lunch the next day. 

Another great item to have is a refillable bottle. I always go for the larger sizes like a 36oz or 40oz this way I stay hydrated and have to fill up less. You also help by reducing single-use plastic!

Good Luck This Year!

Whether you are going into your first year of art school or your last. You can’t go wrong with a functional backpack, a solid portfolio, some headphones made for concentrating, and a container to pack a lunch. These are a few things I wish I had before heading back to school. 

If you have any other suggestions or questions feel free to tweet them to me @jonsorre

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Creator of Wellfed. Curious designer and lover of all things type. Always hungry.

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