Read: Our Favorite Art-Themed Picture Books for Kids

Beyond creating art, there are so many ways to help kids develop an appreciation for art discovery, artists, and the gift of creative thinking. As a kid (and throughout my adulthood) reading about art was such a fun way to explore creative concepts. During a recent trip to the library I took a walk through the children’s section to look for some art-themed picture books and my mind was totally blown by all the new talent and wonderful reading options.

For the last month, I’ve been researching and reading to compile an ongoing collection of some of my very favorite art-themed picture and board books for all ages. I’ve organized my top picks into a few general categories so whether you’re hunting for a specific theme, lesson reference, or gift, they’ll be easy to sort through.

You can easily jump to the following art-themed picture book sections with one click:

OR use our quick-shop collection link: Want to quickly peruse our favorite picks to shop or save for later? I try to shop local and buy from independent book sellers whenever I can, but sometimes I need a specific title I’m unable to find locally. I put together a full clickable collection of art-themed picture books (board books and teaching titles too!) here on an Amazon shopping list page. You can use it to shop or just as a quick reference (if you do make a purchase through Amazon, we get a small affiliate commission that helps us re-stock supplies from time to time). *

barley and birch shop art picture book collection

So many of the books in this collection are favorites of mine to give as a baby shower or birthday present. Do you write inscriptions in books you’re gifting? My family always did, so picking out art-themed picture or board books and handwriting a personal message has always felt like such a simple way to give a meaningful gift.

Some of these picture books are newly published rarities, others are contemporary classics, but all will be a great introduction to modern creative ideas and inspire young artists to create!

Pair these picture books with our free printable kids art challenge for easy art-themed afternoons and lesson planning!

Picture Books with General Art Themes

Our definitive collection of art-themed picture books for kids.

Another by Christian Robinson – This vibrant wordless picture book uses simple lessons in perspective to introduce kids to one of the most fundamental building blocks of art and creative thinking – imagination.  Robinson’s unique style and rich palette make this an instant classic.

My Museum by Joanne Liu – Art is everywhere! Follow a young boy’s discoveries at the museum as he finds art in unconventional and unexpected places. The stylish illustrations feel like a trip to the Met!

The Forest by Riccardo Bozzi – Admittedly, art isn’t the main subject of this gorgeous book, but Bozzi’s painterly illustrations are so luscious I couldn’t bear to leave it out. Each page provides a wonderful visual introduction to handmade art, illustration and mixed media processes while telling a lovely story of adventure.

Let’s Paint by Gabriel Alborozo – This expressive celebration of art will leave you and your kiddo with a big smile on your face, ready to tackle a new art piece or learn more about some of the artists hinted at throughout the book.

Our definitive collection of art-themed picture books for kids.

Dog Loves Drawing by Louise Yates – This is my favorite book to gift with a sketchbook and pencil set! This sweet story is the best way to inspire a day of doodling fun.

Linus the Little Yellow Pencil by Scott Magoon – a darling book about a pencil that has lost confidence in his ability to draw (because even young artists can experience the frustration of an artistic block).

Art’s Supplies by Chris Tougas – Wild and wonderful illustrations, hilariously dotted with art puns – what’s not to love?? A great choice to pair with a mixed media art project!

Perfect by Max Amato – A brilliantly written picture book about the joy of art collaboration. The style and humor are so universally appealing this will be an instant favorite for anyone.

A collection of our favorite art-themed picture books for kids. | via barley & birch

Draw by Raúl Colón – This gorgeous wordless picture book perfectly illustrates the idea that art can open your world to travel, adventure and excitement!

The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco – A story for anyone who’s had a memorable, life-changing teacher. This poignant autobiographical tale serves as a reminder to encourage a child’s talents, taking the time to watch and work through learning challenges. The perfect book for art teachers and students to read together.

Chalk by Bill Thomson – Another clever wordless story that begins with a found box of chalk and ends with a lesson in the power of imagination. The illustrations are SO stunning – even if wordless picture books aren’t your favorite – I guarantee you’ll find something to love in this one.

Art & Max by David Wiesner – What is art, anyway? If the details in these dynamic illustrations don’t pull your kiddo in, the fun story of a beginning artist coming into his own and accepting his own unique style definitely will!

Our definitive collection of art-themed picture books for kids.

Be a Maker by Katey Howes – This sweet book celebrates the millions of things to make – through rhyming verse and colorful, kid-pleasing illustrations.

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis – How many things can a cardboard box become? Let your imagination run away with you as you explore a “not a box” together!

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont – Set to the tune “Ain’t Gonna Rain No More” this sing-a-long story explores the joy of painting….everything! 😉 

I am an Artist by Marta Altes – I love this quirky book for younger kiddos! Preschoolers especially seem to enjoy laughing along with this crazy little creator.

Our definitive collection of art-themed picture books for kids.

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds – An extra special story of finding one’s artistic style, and accepting imperfection to grow a unique creative voice. This one will resonate strongly with young sketchers and doodlers who like to imitate their favorites!

Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community by Susan Verde – This book checked all of my “favorite kind of kids book” boxes. An abandoned wall adopted by a young artist turns into a source of peace, mindfulness, and community. Timeless messages about the power of shared public art space in this one! 

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg – An absolute classic, that you most likely have either heard of or seen around at least once. And rightly so, as the important parable it teaches is that it’s okay to make a mistake.

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy – Tells the story of an actual urban art trail in San Diego, California (one of my former homes!). The warm colors and fun style are positively eaten up by little eyes! 

Our definitive collection of art-themed picture books for kids.

Art by Patrick McDonnell -Fun rhymes and playful swirls tell the story of Art and his Jackson Pollock-inspired dreams. A perennial favorite for readers from Pre-K to early Elementary!

The Line by Paula Bossio – Oh the possibility of a line! This simple story is a wonderfully imagination-expanding journey!

Ellie by Mike Wu – A beautifully sweet story featuring a lovable little “Ellie” who saves the day with a little art and a lot of color. Perfect for younger readers.

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle -You don’t have to look far to find SCORES of creative Eric Carle-inspired art project ideas for kids. This collection of animal art by Carle himself provides endless inspiration for young artists – along with the reminder to stay true to your own creative self.


The Museum by Susan Verde – Do you remember your first trip to the museum? This is a great book to read before a trip to an art show, gallery, fair or (obvi) museum.

Emma by Wendy Kesselman -A wonderful reminder that no one is ever too old to realize their artistic dreams. This touching story was a favorite of mine growing up!

The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg – An amazing adventure begins with the gift of a pencil! The tale of this imaginative (and suspenseful) journey suggests art is a key to other worlds…

The Art Lesson by Tomie DePaola – Oh how I adored Tomie DePaolo’s stories and illustrations as a kid – still do in fact! This sweet autobiography tells the tale of Tomie himself – what an inspiration!

Picture Books Exploring Famous Artists

Picture Books Based on Famous Artists

Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg

The Cat and the Bird: A Children’s Book Inspired by Paul Klee by Geraldine Elschner

The Scraps Book: Notes From a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert

It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate 

Picture Books Based on Famous Artists

My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey by Jeanne Walker Harvey

Jake Makes a World: Jacob Lawrence, A Young Artist in Harlem by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts 

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey 

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter

Four of art favorite biographical picture books about artists.

Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire by Amy Guglielmo 

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant 

The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs by Fiona Robinson

Dancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenthaler by Elizabeth Brown 

Four Kids Picture Books Based on Famous Artists

Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Björk

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews by Kathleen Benson

The Great Wave: A Children’s Book Inspired by Hokusai by Veronique Massenot

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford 

Four Kids Picture Books Based on Famous Artists

Magic Trash: A Story of Tyree Guyton and His Art by J. H. Shapiro 

Art From Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead 

Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity! by Sarah Suzuki 

The Sleeping Gypsy by Mordicai Gerstein 

Picture Books Based on Famous Artists

Georgia’s Bones by Jen Bryant

Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression by Carole Boston Weatherford

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky 

A Life Made by Hand: The Story of Ruth Asawa by Andrea D’Aquino

Kids Art Picture Books Based on Famous Artists

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock

Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall’s Life and Art by Barb Rosenstock 

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky by Barb Rosenstock 

Picture Books Based on Famous Artists

Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos by Monica Brown 

Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt by Patricia McKissack

Becoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Sonia Delaunay: A Life of Color by Cara Manes

Picture Books Based on Famous Artists

Me and Uncle Romie: A Story Inspired by the Life and Art of Romare Beardon by Claire Hartfield 

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman 

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons by Natascha Biebow 

Sandy’s Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder by Sandra Lee Stone 

Four Kids Picture Books Based on Famous Artists

A Bird or Two: A Story about Henri Matisse by Bijou Le Tord

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan

Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter

Matisse’s Garden by Samantha Friedman

Picture Books Based on Famous Artists

Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing by Kay Haring 

If Picasso Painted a Snowman by Amy Newbold

Miró’s Magic Animals by Antony Penrose 

Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors by Jane O’Connor 

Four Kids Picture Books Based on Famous Artists

Artists and Their Pets: True Stories of Famous Artists and Their Animal Friends by Susie Hodge 

The Little Paintbrush by Bjørn F. Rørvik

A-Z Great Modern Artists by Andy Tuoh

We’re All Works of Art by Mark Sperring

Picture Books Exploring Color, Pattern, and Shape

Kids Art Picture books exploring color shape and pattern

Zoom: An Epic Journey Through Circles by Viction-Viction

Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julia Denos

Pomelo Explores Color by Ramona Badescu

Perfect Square by Michael Hall

Kids Art Picture books exploring color shape and pattern

Wild About Shapes by Jeremie Fischer

The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo

Square by Mac Barnett

Green is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors by Roseanne Greenfield Thong

Kids Art Picture books exploring color shape and pattern

What Can I Be by Ann Rand

Picasso Loves Shapes by Judiee Lee

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni

Lots of Dots by Craig Frazier

Four kids picture books exploring color shape and pattern

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Follow the Line by Laura Ljungkvist

Blue vs. Yellow by Tom Sullivan

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Picture Books Exploring Emotion Through Art

Picture books for kids exploring emotion through art

Red by Michael Hall

My Color is Rainbow by Agnes Hsu 

Be Still, Life by Ohara Hale

I Feel Teal by Lauren Rille

Picture books exploring color shape and pattern

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly

The Color Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings by Anna Llenas 

Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger 

Interactive Art Workbooks For Kids

Art workbooks for kids

Art Play by Marion Deuchars

Herve Tullet: The Big Book of Art by Herve Tullet 

Mix it Up by Herve Tullet

Draw Paint Print like the Great Artists by Marion Deuchars 

Art workbooks for kids

Look! What Do You See?: An Art Puzzle Book of American and Chinese Songs by Xu Bing 

Photo Finish by Pascale Estellon

The Game of Sculpture by Herve Tullet

Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith

*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Amazon or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click-through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

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Amanda E.
With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.


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