Encourage Art Skills with an End Roll of Newspaper (71/365)

Two or three times a week, our dining room table turns into a giant art project. We cover the table with paper, crayons, markers, safety scissors, glue, watercolor paints, and other items and our children get down to the important business of creating something.

One time, it might be paper snowflakes. The next time, they’ll draw a giant alien landscape with a purple sun, blue trees, and red-skinned aliens with huge black eyes and long spider-like legs. The next time, decorated paper airplanes. After that, a detailed family portrait. You get the idea.

The only problem with this is that having enough paper to handle all of these projects can really add up. We could easily buy paper by the ream for our children to use in these projects.

Thankfully, there’s a much cheaper solution: an end roll of newspaper.

Encourage Art Skills with an End Roll of Newspaper (71/365)

A newspaper end roll is a giant roll of blank newspaper with most of the paper removed from it, leaving “only” hundreds of square feet of blank newspaper behind. When newspaper printers make the newspapers that people read, the blank newspaper comes on enormous rolls. These rolls are placed on a machine and during the printing process paper is pulled off of these rolls (think toilet paper in the bathroom), the articles you read are printed on them, and then the paper is cut to an appropriate size by a cutter.

It takes some effort to change these giant rolls of paper, so if the daily run has ended and a roll doesn’t have enough paper on it to handle tomorrow’s run, most newspapers will take off the partially used roll and put a new roll on the machine. They then take those partially used rolls into their office and sell them to the public to recoup some of the cost.

This is where I entered the picture. I walked into my local newspaper office, dropped two bucks on the counter, and walked out with an end roll of newspaper.

The roll still has thousands of square feet of blank newspaper on it, perfect for the art needs of a six year old and a four year old. It’s perfect for making paper snowflakes, giant landscapes and murals, paper airplanes, paper masks, paper crowns, paper maiche sculptures… the list goes on and on and on and on.

We often cover a large portion of our table with blank newspaper when engaging in art projects. The children (and sometimes the adults) will collaborate in drawing a giant picture, then we’ll hang it up somewhere for a week or two. Or we’ll cut out large squares of paper and make paper airplanes to fly around the house. Or we’ll turn it into paper maiche and sculpt something (we wrapped it around a balloon last year to make a helmet, for example).

The possibilities are endless, and for only a dollar or two, it’s a really good deal. You’ll likely have enough newspaper on that end roll to use until your children have completely outgrown kitchen table art projects.

Not only that, you can use the blank newspaper for other purposes, such as wrapping gifts. We wrapped several items in newsprint this winter, with all of us drawing Christmas trees and candy canes all over the packages.

An end roll is an incredible bargain, particularly if your children are even remotely interested in art.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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  1. rebecca says:

    Another similar idea: I have contacted office supply stores and asked about purchasing damaged reams or entire boxes of printer paper. More often than not, if shipments get damaged in any way, dirty, water, crushed they are damadged out because no office wants to use the paper. So go in and offer them a few bucks for a ream, or 10$ for a whole box. Works great.

  2. kc says:

    The three (3!) paragraphs you devote to describing what an end roll is and how you bought one could be condensed as follows:

    “A newspaper ‘end roll’ is a byproduct of the newspaper printing process, and can be bought for as little as $2 a roll.”

    Does Cut Media pay by the word?

  3. Andrew says:

    If you prefer cut paper, you can go to a mover and buy reams of the stuff for very little money.

  4. Steve says:

    Good luck finding a newspaper still in business!

  5. Nate Poodel says:

    My grandmother has a roll of this very paper. My nieces and nephews refer to it as “Granny’s Giant Paper”. And, it has provided hours and hours of fun.

  6. Steven says:

    Clear, concise, complete. I’m with kc on this one. When there’s too many details, my mind says, “Blah, blah, blah…” and I skim most of the article, trying to grab the key points. A lot of the time, I’ll miss some important point and comment based on my comprehension of a quickly scanned article. There’s a time and place to paint a detailed picture. Fiction writing.

    In writing where you’re trying to offer people practical advice, less is more. Get to the point. Not every article needs to be 1,000 words, especially when you can make your point in half.

    That said, I think this is a great idea.

  7. David says:

    To say that a roll can be bought for $2 a roll is to say only that a roll can be bought for $2. Simply put, denizens of vitreous accommodation should not engage in lapidation.

  8. deRuiter says:

    Wordy, circuitous, circumlocutory, diffuse, garrulous, logorrheic, long-winded, pleonastic, prolix, rambling, verbose, all which indicate the author must be being paid by the word.
    #7 David, I like this! Not a clue what it means, but it has STYLE, “Simply put, denizens of vitreous accommodation should not engage in lapidation.”

  9. MattJ says:

    Does Cut Media pay by the word?

    Considering how many folks responded to complain about his verbosity, (and how many comment every time to complain about his writing generally) it would be humorous if they paid extra for every comment.

  10. David says:

    A “denizen” was originally an inhabitant of a particular country or region, as distinct from a “foreigner” who lived outside the place; nowadays the word means “inhabitant” in the more general sense. “Vitreous” means “composed of glass”, and “accommodation” includes houses. “Lapidation” was originally used in the specific sense of a punishment by stoning to death, but in the general sense means the throwing of stones. The meaning of the sentence as a whole is left as an exercise for the reader.

  11. kc says:

    David, OK, strike “a roll” from the end of my sentence. Good catch.

  12. nancy says:

    This is a great idea. I did this with my grandchildren the week before Christmas. I used a roll of plain white shelf paper and rolled it out on the dining room table. I sat with them and colored too to give them ideas. They were occupied for a couple of hours. I used some to wrap gifts and some to keep as memories.

  13. SLCCOM says:

    You can also get envelopes from printers if you ask for their misprints. Then you just put your own address label over the wrong label. This is great for non-profits.

  14. Carol says:

    Hi, I would have liked to have seen some of the kids’ artwork in the photo for this post.

  15. Sara says:

    Here is yet another terrible picture. You are trying to convince people of how much fun and creativity one can get out of a cheap end roll of newspaper, and yet the picture is totally boring — a beige roll of plain paper shot against a scratched beige wall and a dirty beige carpet. There were all kinds of possibilities for a photo for this article — photos of some of the projects you’ve done, or photos of kids having fun creating their artwork — but instead, Brittany portrayed it in the blandest way possible. If this is the best photo she could take for this subject, I don’t think she’s getting much out of this “internship.”

  16. Kris says:

    When I was little, this bland roll of paper that apparently doesn’t photograph well was my second favorite thing to play with after my legos. We used it to draw on, make clothes with, tape up to TV trays and make forts with and eventually use the empty cardboard tube as a makeshift sword or wiffle ball bat.

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