How to Make Painted Paper

Painted paper is my very favorite art supply and you make it yourself! All you need is some paper, paints and a paint brush. Purchasing texture tools is optional but if you want some for free, look no further than your recycling container. Plastic forks, plastic containers/cups and even old sponges make the best texture tools. Making your own painted paper sure beats the heck out of store bought craft paper and you could use almost any paper to experiment on. In my classroom I stick with the school grade, tried and true construction paper (I use Tru-Ray Sulphite Drawing/Construction Paper). 

Prepping the Paint

The paints needs a little attention before you dish it out to the kids. One of the best purchases I made in the last two years was a stack of clear, plastic tubs (with lids) and my local restaurant supply store (Smart and Final). Best $7 I ever spent. I use these tubs to store mixed paints. Don’t just pour standard yellow into a tub; add some white. It’ll make the yellow creamy and bright. Instead of plain green, add some white and yellow for a cool lime. Experiment with your mixes and don’t worry about formulas. This is the fun part of prep work! My favorite combos are:

Red + Orange= Tomato Red

Green + Yellow + White= Lime

Blue + Green+ White= Seafoam Green

Have some fun with paints and don’t ask me for precise formulas (hee hee). You can do it!


Okay, this can be a daunting step for many art teachers (not so hard for small groups). Each child needs a works space, so lay out paper placemats (beat-up, painted-on 18″ x 24″ papers) on each table. Place a white sheet of 12″ x 18″ sulphite paper on each placemat. In the center of the table, place 3-4 tubs of pre-mixed tempera paint (more on this later) and a tray of texture tools. Place 3-4 brushes in each paint container. I know. That’s mucho brushes but just resign yourself to the fact that you’ll be cleaning forever later.

Painting the Paper

Before I let the kids go at it, I gather the whole group around one table and demonstrate the steps. First step; pick one color and paint entire surface on white paper with big, long strokes. After the first layer is applied, put brush back and chose a second color. Do anything you want with this paint color: swirl, dot, make stripes, go in circles, etc. The tricky thing is not to mix the colors over the entire surface. Of course, there will be many kids who will try this so don’t stress. This is what art class is all about. Experimenting. It’s way too fun not to blend and mix, so if this happens, resist the urge to ask the child to start following directions. I mean, who really cares?

You can stop at two layers, but why? There is so much more fun to be had!

Add another color and this time, try texturing the color once on the paper. Use a fork or store-bought texture tool to drag the paint into lines. Kids LOVE this. It really is a joy to watch children (and adults, too!) playing like this. I’ve never had a child not want to texture paint.

If you haven’t had enough, consider adding some SPLATTERS! Yay! You don’t need to bring out your splatter boxes here as everyone at this point is already covered in paint. Trick with splatter painting is using your finger to flick the paint off the brush. If the paint is watered-down enough, dripping can sometimes be the most effective.

Drying, Names and other Fun Stuff

Okay, now the problem part. The kids are done with their painting. Where do you put it? For many years I did not have a drying rack, so I lined the painted paper around the perimeter of the art room. I still do that if I need an overflow option, but essentially, I carefully place all the art onto a drying rack. It really helps to have a rack that allows the trays to swing up. If you don’t have this type of rack (like me), it can take a bit of angling to get the soggy paper into the skinny space. If you’re really having problems, try placing a dry sheet of paper under the soggy one. It will help stabilize it.

You may be curious about names. There are a few painted paper projects that require I place names on the back. My Repeat Fish Art was one of those projects.  Generally, I tell the kids that this is a shared project and everyone will use each others papers for the next part of the art project.

Incorporating Painted Paper into Art Projects

Sharing painted paper is by far the easiest to manage, so I plan ahead. When I set paint on each table, I do so in color schemes. One table might have blue tones while another has red tones. After a child has completed one painted paper, they place their artwork on the drying rack (with the teachers help), select a fresh pice of paper and move to another color table. Sometimes the option to move to a particular table isn’t available. I suggest that the student find an open space and go to that table despite what colors are on the table. There is usually no problems associated with this method.

Once the painted paper is dry, I use a cutter to cut all the paper in half. This makes the pieces easier to manage and it gives me an opportunity to sort into colors. I place stacks of similar colors into trays (I use aluminum foil trays that I buy from a big box store).

There is no doubt that is by far the messiest project you could do. It’s also the most worthwhile. There are so many projects that can use painted paper. It is such a valuable resource to have in the classroom not to mention what it teaches the students: Art Is Messy and Fun!!!

Here are some of my favorite painted paper projects:

Mister Seahorse

Fruit Crate Art Project

Autumn Collage Art


  1. amy says:

    “This is what art class is all about. Experimenting. It’s way too fun not to blend and mix, so if this happens, resist the urge to ask the child to start following directions. I mean, who really cares?”

    Yes! Thanks for including that. :)

  2. countryfun says:

    Agree – I’d be lost without my textured papers. We love doing just for the fun of seeing what we can come up with. I now have a textured tools basket that I’m always on the lookout to add to. There is always a stash around here for art projects.

  3. Jill says:

    Watercolors work well for this project also. The children mix their own colors in thier paint box lids. We then use the papers to create our own Eric Carle Style big book like The Very Sad Stag Beetle or the Very Friendly Dragonfly. Very Fun!

  4. pitsina says:

    We do the same using crepe papers.
    We make unic flowers in this way…….


  5. Sarah says:

    I LOVE this idea! This is also a great idea for the painted pictures that don’t end up with names on them and you just don’t know whose they are! Instead of throwing them out, incorporate them into your piles.

  6. Vicki says:

    I have the same kind of drying rack that you do. I found that placing laminated pieces of poster board cut to fit the drying rack is a great time saver for these kind of papers. You can just slip the poster board out and lay the paper on it then slide it right back in. I’ve been using the same laminated poster boards for the last 3 years.

    • Guiti Ravan says:

      Our school in China has limited resources for art. I collect all the glossy packaging of copy papers from our copy room, and I use them as placemat ,mixing acrylic paint (I spread out the left over paint on the same paper to dry up for other projects),print making,and a few more usage.

      • Patty says:

        Excellent idea. That glossy packaging is everywhere and perfect for acrylics. Good tip!

        • Claire says:

          Hi Patty,
          when you said resign yourself to cleaning brushes-no kidding- the outcome is always really worth it though! For stability for the drying rack, I use shims (the free cardboard between the paper towel/toilet paper stacks at costco. They are really big (40X40 ish) so I cut them in down and they work great!

          • Patty says:

            Fantastic tip with the shims. I will ask my student’s parents to save them. Someone else had the idea of laminating paper. That would work really well, too. Now I just need to do it!

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  8. [...] on this link to read about How to Make Painted Paper Create your own painted paper by using bright tempera paints and lots of texture tools. When the [...]

  9. [...] This project is simple. Set out 2 pieces of white paper per student and approx 3-5 tubs of paint (reds, blues, greens, yellows…mix it up) per table. Place large brushes in the paint tubs. I suggested creating two coordinating sheets of paper, explaining that one paper will be used for the bodies and the other paper will be used for details. Well, the kids barley listened and came up with their own agenda. Honestly? It worked out much better. When the painted paper dries, draw one or two fish (silhouettes only) on the back of the paper or on a separate sheet. Trace onto painted paper and cut out. Use the cut-out fish as a template to trace onto more painted paper. Cut out as many fish as you would like (alternating painted paper choices…the kids made two) and adding fins, tails, decorations, etc. Arrange fish on a sheet of black construction paper. Use metallic paint to add bubbles, scales and other embellishments. if you don’t have metallic paint, use oil pastels, gel pens, crayons, even glitter. Anything to add another dimension to the project. More instructions for How to Make Painted Paper [...]

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  12. Dan says:

    I use newspaper when I do my Eric Carle collage projects. It’s great because I have an almost endless supply of free newspapers and it holds up well to the paint. I’ve used regular white drawing paper before, but the newspaper does a great job acting like the tissue paper Carle uses.

  13. [...] first day of Kindergarten art, my students were knee-deep in brown, black and white paint. Making Painted Paper is fun. And messy. But don’t let the mess stop you. I rely on the generous nature of Kinders [...]

  14. [...] How to make painted paper (for use in other projects) [...]

  15. [...] Place green, yellow and white tempera paint in small plastic containers (yoghurt containers are great). Paint entire sheet with the yellow and green paint, mixing paint and dabbing as you go. There is no right or wrong way to apply the paint, so have fun. Once the base layer is applied, dab or splatter some white paint over the surface. Click here for more painted paper instructions. [...]

  16. [...] For the background sheet, place green, yellow and white tempera paint in small plastic containers (yoghurt containers are great). Paint entire sheet with the yellow and green paint, mixing paint and dabbing as you go. There is no right or wrong way to apply the paint, so have fun. Once the base layer is applied, dab or splatter some white paint over the surface. Click here for more painted paper instructions. [...]

  17. [...] to explore these different techniques. For instance, every year, my primary grades (K-2) do a Painted Paper Project. The technique is the same, but the subject is different. For [...]

  18. [...] Make Painted Paper by Patty at Deep Space Sparkle – we’ll use ours for some Eric Carle inspired art when [...]

  19. [...] For a complete photo-tutorial, visit my post on How to Make Painted Paper [...]

  20. I enjoy this type of activity as much as my students. My favorite paper making activity is gadget printing. I often cut up my own explorations and put them in the collage box. It’s pretty exciting when I see kids pick my specialty papers to incorporate in their art! I also cut up orphaned art they’ve created for the collage box and it’s even better to see them using that. My new favorite toy that I bought myself for Christmas is a die press and texture sleeves so my students can create textured paper for their projects and collages. And we’ve discovered that’s fun to draw and paint on too! Recently one of my kindergarten students made a bracelet from the textured paper. Another wrapped textured paper around a piece of wood and glued it on as part of a sculpture he was making. Making your own art paper is just one of the fun parts of the process of discovering and creating!

  21. Lori says:

    I am so hooked on painted paper for collage work and love your projects. I am so excited to be getting a huge drying racks-50 shelves with enough room for 2 18×24 papers on each shelf. And it is of the spring-loaded variety. I took over this position from my hubby and he had asked for one for years to no avail. I got it year one. Here is my trick–my room is so small that I began rolling kraft paper out in the hallways and leaving work to dry. My need was simply made ever so obvious.

  22. [...] Also try,  How to Create Painted Paper [...]

  23. [...] I like to try to keep one sheet to two to three colors, but it doesn’t really matter. You can also introduce combs, toothbrushes, and other texture-making things around the house to create some more dimension. [...]

  24. [...] More instructions for How to Make Painted Paper [...]

  25. [...] More instructions for How to Make Painted Paper [...]

  26. [...] Making painted paper is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so Friday presented the perfect opportunity: [...]

  27. Jayme Wiertzema says:

    Thank you for posting this! I am using it this week as my first project I will be doing with a group of kids! I have always wanted to do this and you explained everything very well. Thank you!

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