Monday, June 3, 2013

Make Your Own Paint and Tips For Painting With Littles

The consistency of this paint is between watercolor and craft paint.
As an artist, I have plenty of experience producing and packing up a painting station and dealing with some of the common mishaps of artistry. I am also a profoundly messy artist. It is not uncommon to find me at the end of a painting day with oil paints smudged up and down my forearms, my thighs and my face.

As a mama, I have plenty of experience painting with wee ones. My kids see me painting and what a good time I’m having, they want to paint too! You know what? Paints aren’t cheap and kids go through them quickly. I’m always running out.
What’s a frugal artist-mama to do? Well, make my own paints, of course! So along with giving you a few tips for painting with kids, I will give you paint recipe using materials most of us keep in our kitchen. Mind you, these paints are staining. Make sure your kids are wearing old clothes and don’t give them this paint the day before their scheduled portraits.

Plenty of space to let her artwork dry.
Set up a work station with lots of space. If you’re worried about your table top or flooring getting stained, you can purchase an inexpensive vinyl table cloth that can be wiped down and reused over and over. Kids are messy and the best creativity comes from being allowed to get into the project.

Have several clean shop rags ready to clean up spills or blot paint brushes. We prefer not to use paper towels at my house and instead we use inexpensive shop rags that can be washed and used repeatedly. I find this much more convenient (as I always have plenty) and Earth friendly than throwing away dozens of used paper towels. It’s also much less expensive.

Use a wide flat bottomed bowl for rinsing their brushes, rather than a skinny jar or glass. Those glass jars are tricky when you’re a little one. I prefer a margarine tub or something similar that will sit flat, hold plenty of water and be difficult to tip over.

Give them paints in individual cups (recycled yogurt cups work well) rather than a pallet. There will be less mixing of the colors. I find that giving my little ones paint pallets with small wells of colors becomes a big muddy mess as they can’t seem to help themselves from trying to pick up all of the colors at once. Maybe that’s just my kids…

Make sure you have a place set aside beforehand to dry the artwork.  My kids like to paint in sprees and will have several drippy sheets of paper by the time they’re done. We often designate the covered porch for a drying spot, but sometimes it’s rainy or windy. The kitchen table is handy if we take the time to clear it off. What’s annoying is having to run around with a soppy wet sheet of paper and finding no good place to set it.

Play some music. When kids are just learning to paint and draw, much of what they create is interpretive. Music can help get their creative juices flowing and keep them into their painting for longer periods. This would be a great time to play some jazz or something with a lot of feeling and  movement.

Don’t instruct them. That would be so boring! We know the sky is blue, so what if they want to make it green? Who cares if their apple tree looks more like a bush than an actual tree? What of it? Just let them be, let them play around. Interfering will just throw up creativity blocks and maybe even put them off of painting. Just as forcing kids to read books they don’t enjoy can put them off of reading, trying to make them paint or draw the way you want them to can put them off of art completely.

Have the kitchen sink clear before you start. Wow. No brainer, right? Except I always forget to do this and I find myself scrambling to clear the lunch dishes out of the way to have a place to dump the dirty water, rinse the brushes and clean the kids.

Now that you have some handy-dandy Painting with Littles advice, here’s a quickie paint recipe if you’re interested.

This is half an egg yolk with 2 tbs. water and 1 tbs. flour.
6 yogurt cups (preferably with lids)
3 egg yolks – make sure you get all of the white part off.
6 tbs. flour
12 tbs. water.
Food coloring

In a small cup, beat the egg yolks until there are no clumps. Add 3 tablespoons of water, and then the flour. Add the rest of the water, until you have a slightly thickened consistency. Divide this up between the six cups and add the food coloring. I used McCormick brand that I bought at a regular grocery store, however, you can use natural food colorings and even make your own.

For the paint shown, I used between 20 and 50 drops of coloring of McCormick Neon. These are just rough estimates. Have fun and fool around with the combinations.

These colors are very vibrant, and also quite staining.

Red: 50 drops of pink
Orange: 40 green, 10 pink
Apple Green:  20 drops of green
Dark Green: 30 blue, 10 green
Blue: 40 drops of blue
Purple: 40 drops of purple

*When my little girl mixed the green and the purple, it made a perfect black!

You can add a bit of water if necessary to lighten the colors more. As you can see in the pictures, the colors are quite vibrant. Once your little ones are finished painting, you can put the lids on the paint and keep them in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Happy Painting!


  1. Love this!
    We have made our own bath paints, but never 'paint' paints. Thank you. Sharing!