I am fairly cheap. I think that can be a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that, for the most part, we live by a budget and don’t do anything crazy. The curse is that I have a hard time buying things that I know are going to get broken quickly or discarded or used unwisely. Like watercolors. Even though they are not terribly expensive, I still find myself cringing when they just become little colorful ponds for the kids to play in instead of being used for art tools.
Then I saw this idea from Jill @ Meet the Dubiens, which she found from Martha Stewart – how to make your own watercolors. Joy! I had everything on hand, and thought I should give it a go.
Food Coloring (Drops or Gel)
That is IT my friends. I found packs of 10 small containers at the dollar store when I was getting stuff for the light sabers – and they (obviously) cost $1.00 for the package. If you are looking for them, I found them by the mugs/ceramic plates/etc., NOT by the other reusable storage containers. You may try checking both places in your store – I’m not sure whether organization is consistent from store to store.
For one container size, you will need:
2 T. baking soda
1 T. vinegar
1 T. corn starch
1/4 tsp. corn syrup
My containers were 2.3 fl. oz. and were filled just under halfway with this recipe size, just to give you a gauge. I ended up making 8x the recipe, which gave me these measurements:
1 c. baking soda
1/2 c. vinegar
1/2 c. corn starch
2 tsp. corn syrup
Step 1: Mix the baking soda and vinegar in a LARGE bowl. Yes, as soon as my kids saw these ingredients together they knew it meant one thing – VOLCANO! So, plan your bowl size accordingly, even if doing a “single container” batch.
Step 2: Once your fizzing has stopped, add in your corn starch and corn syrup and mix well. This will give you some seriously cool stuff – Jill termed it as “Gak” or “Ooblek” consistency. All I know is that when I stirred it, it went from solid to liquid, and if I had some drip overboard that I could pick it up and it would be solid until I dropped it back into the container with its friends. Super cool.
Step 3: Separate into individual containers and add your food coloring. Jill used gel coloring; Martha used normal drops; I tried both. I think the normal drops ended up producing a better finished product as far as usability goes, but you have more color control with the gel. You may want to try both if you have them on hand and see what works best for you. Use a fair amount of color to get brighter results. The kids were great at stirring here.
Step 4: DRY OVERNIGHT. There will be a liquid left on the top when you go check on them in the morning. I just poked at the “solid” below to make sure it was firm, and then dumped the top liquid off. I figure if the bottom is solid, the liquid on the top will not do much to help things out.
I was excited to see if these would actually work – and they DID! I painted a rainbow like Jill’s daughter so I could see the colors in action:
One tip – make sure you add enough water when you are painting. We occasionally would end up with small paint pieces on the brush that would not brush color onto the paper well (see the yellow and green in the rainbow) – if you dip the brush slightly in water, it works like a charm. Just make sure you add water.
Here is a masterpiece from my 5-year old:
Pretty awesome! His colors were the ones that I used food coloring with – again, they tended to work a bit better, so he preferred them.
Since my boys did well with them and had fun, I decided to finally let my 2-year old use watercolors. She was very excited. And went straight for the pink.
She had a blast, and I didn’t feel like I had to stand over her and make sure she was using the paint “appropriately” – she could just have fun! I know how to make more (good thing too, huh). :)
And, for those of you who are curious, I washed out my son’s old watercolor container and decided to see how many wells a single container recipe would fill. Turns out, it filled an even 24 wells (the whole tray filled three times). So you are essentially getting three 8-pack watercolor containers worth of paint for $.10 (yes, I priced it out). And you can make them from supplies at home. You could probably even do a little bit of food coloring in each well if you wanted to deal with a very small quantity and keep the “bought watercolor” look. Thanks Jill & Martha! :)
Awesome! We go through watercolors like crazy, so this just moved up to my next project. Thanks!
Awesome! It’s even fun making them too – volcanos to gak to watercolors. Pretty cool!