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Cornstarch Paint

July 6, 2011

I’ve been working on some planning. Next month we’re doing two mornings of “Messy Art Camp” for anyone in our mom’s group who wants to join us.  I tried to find something like this locally for Mia but had no luck, so after seeing MaryLea’s Mom Would Never Let Me Do This at Home Camp, I got it immediately and I decided to jump in and start planning for the preschool crowd.

The first step in our planning was to test out some of the projects and supplies. We have some allergies with some of the little ones in the group and I’d also love to minimize newly purchased supplies and use as much as we can that’s recycled or homemade to control ingredients, so we started out by testing the Cornstarch Sidewalk Paint. {Side note – Obvious, but still saying it anyway: if corn is an allergy problem for you or your group, this wouldn’t be the best option!}

Cornstarch + Food Coloring + Water = Paint!

Well, sort of.  I remembered today that the last batch we made last week I had squirted a touch of dish detergent into the paint to make it easier to clean.  Turns out, this also helps to minimize the crazy texture that happens when you mix cornstarch and water – it’s fun, but not conducive to painting. When you mix straight cornstarch and water, a sort of solid starts to form at the bottom of the mixture. It’s kind of crazy(and fun for kids)  – it seems solid, but as soon as you add movement to the mixture(i.e. picking it up), it melts back into a liquid. So that texture was fun, but made it a bit harder to paint since the separated part was watery, though the kids didn’t notice at all.

This batch was our third  test batch.  The first was water + cornstarch + food coloring + a touch of dish detergent each mixed in their individual compartment of a muffin tin.   We used that to paint the driveway and walkway and it was a slam dunk.  The second attempt…well, let’s just say that it was a batch for the trash can since I wasn’t really thinking when I decided to try mixing it all in cardboard egg carton compartments.

This third batch(the pictures today) was the test batch to see how we did using this same paint on paper.  It dried chalky on the driveway and sidewalks, so I wasn’t sure how it would go, but it worked surprisingly well. Other than the texture issue(that we’ll solve next time around by adding the dish soap back in), it worked like a charm.  And since we’re using it outside, the chalky texture worked really well to be able to brush off and hose off the remnants after the painting was done and the little ones were napping, while still staying on the paper and drying like actual paint.

A few notes:

  • The pictures do the job of showing what we did, but that’s about it – sorry! It’s hard to get fancy while playing with cornstarch and food coloring and having a 2 year old and 4 year old helping and anxious to get painting!
  • The first and second batch that I did, I mixed the cornstarch and food coloring in the compartments first, then added water.  This was fine, but it’s a little bit tough to mix it up and wound up being time consuming.  The third batch(pictured below), I mixed a big batch of cornstarch and water in a separate container, then poured a bit into each of our individual compartments and added food coloring there.
  • We’ve used both a muffin tin and a jello jiggler egg mold as palettes to hold the paint and both worked well.  They liked the muffin tins a bit better for painting on the sidewalk so that they could use the bigger brushes and get more paint out, but I didn’t think it was a huge deal.  If/when we’re doing this with a bigger group, I’ll likely mix the batches ahead of time and use something like bigger containers and larger brushes anyway so that the kids can dig in and cover more surface area.
  • I used both regular food coloring and gel food coloring in the different batches and it made no difference at all.  I was adding enough water and such a little amount of food coloring that the liquid effect didn’t matter in the slightest.
  • Use a good amount of food coloring! The kids didn’t care a ton, but once it starts to dry on a surface, the colors fade a ton.
  • THIS IS MESSY! Do it outside and/or majorly cover surfaces. Especially since there’s food coloring in there.  Our walkways and porch didn’t get stained, but my legs did where they were painted and received dribbles of paint and so did the kids’ hands where they were just diving right in with fingers. Make sure you wear old clothes!

Steps For Making Cornstarch Paint:

1. Mix a batch of cornstarch, water and a squirt of dish detergent or your favorite soap.

2. Mix by adding a little at a time of both the water and cornstarch until you have the quantity and texture that you want.  I made about a cup here and just kept adding a little at a time until it reached a thick, paint-like texture.

3. Pour it into the containers you will be using. I used the bottom of a jello jiggler egg mold here because it’s what we found first, but for any more than my own two kids, I would have used much larger containers and made a lot more paint.

4. Add food coloring into each container for the colors you want.  My 4 year old had  great time mixing up colors with me and “inventing” new colors and guessing which colors we needed to make them.

5. Carefully mix each one.

6. That’s it – you’re ready! Grab some brushes and/or some fun things to try to paint with around the house and get painting!

Up next: Testing out using cornstarch to make Finger Paint and Gloopy Goop!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2011 2:27 pm

    What a timely post! We went to “art camp” today!! A friend had the same idea so we got together to do some fun art projects. Sidewalk paint was one of them! We mixed corn starch and water together, poured into empty yogurt cups, then added food coloring – so each kid could take the yogurt cup to different areas. She also had spray bottles with water and food coloring in them to spray a sheet that was hanging on a line. That was also a huge hit! She found an idea online to mix clear hand soap and water for finger painting. It made the colors stay separate instead of mixing together to end up brown and it was easier to clean up than finger paints alone. It was probably the best summer morning we’ve had so far! Happy Summer, Lillian!

  2. July 13, 2011 3:18 pm

    Thanks for this quick and easy idea! I saw this post, whipped up a batch and my kids are outside using their paints now.

  3. August 1, 2011 4:11 pm

    I remember doing this as a kid. We used the same ‘recipe’. It was so much fun!

  4. chrstina hardeman permalink
    June 22, 2012 9:31 am

    love it! going to do it for my infant toddlers messy day!!

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