As fall begins to settle in, I will begin some painting on the horizon. I have been going through my materials to see what is ready to work with. As I am doing this, and considering the best possible source for paint, I have been paying close attention to labels on paint. As an educator, I have always been very aware of what materials are being used with which groups of populations and the individual at hand. I know folks who will not get their hands dirty or even their smocks during an entire painting session, while others are curious enough to see what the stuff tastes like.  With that in mind I thought I would break down the most common labels one finds on paint. 

CA PROP 65 or Proposition 65 or Proposition 65 WARNING: 

This label and icon will take on many forms as it is posted on art materials, gas stations and coffee shops. 

  • Shown to cause cancer, birth defects
  • Warning label required even if on traces of harmful chemicals are present. 

Should one use it?

Avoid using especially with young or sensitive populations. When using, use ventilation, protection and safe studio practices.

Arts and Creative Materials Institute: ACMI CL

  • "Caution Label" 
  • Contains Toxic or Hazardous, but may be used with caution.
  • Not all materials are reviewed by ACMI

Should one use it?

Maybe: Protect yourself when using and use safe practices with product.

Arts and Creative Materials Institute: ACMI AP

  • Certified non-toxic
  • Not sufficient quantities to be toxic or cause chronic health problems
  • Great for sensitive populations

Should one use it?

Sure. Especially with sensitive populations.


About ASTM D 4236. ASTM is American Society for Testing and Materials. When you see this on the label it does not mean it is toxic or non-toxic. It simply means that the product has labeled the appropriate materials and warnings based on the contents inside. This is why you might see it on so many tubes of paint!

In the thought of prepping for some upcoming painting I have been thinking a lot about the life of paint and the life it will live. An example is when one buys a tube of precious paint that is toxic, that tube should it not become a painting will not be able to be composed in the garden. It would become hazardous waste. When that tube of paint becomes a part of a work of art and is hung on a wall it will "off-gas" in the the environment in inhabits. When that painting does not stand the test of time, it too becomes land fill. After going through so many levels of what may or not be in your paint it can be a little overwhelming. Does this mean one should avoid painting? Not at all! I think the more information one has on their environment the more thoughtful we can be at practicing safe studio practices.