Learn how to easily make your own DIY liquid watercolor! This is a game-changer if you love liquid watercolor. I love this recipe for process art activities or if I need watercolor right away. It is the perfect substitute for food coloring and dyes. Plus, liquid watercolor is washable!
Are you following my Liquid Watercolor Activities board on Pinterest?
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I will be the first to admit that I LOVE liquid watercolors! I’m pretty sure that if I was told that I had to teach preschool on a deserted island, and I could only choose three teaching items, liquid watercolor would be at the top of the list. Yup, we would be using it inside coconuts, to make messages in the sand, and to decorate palm trees.
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DIY Liquid Watercolor
If you haven’t caught onto the liquid watercolor craze yet, then why not!?!? They are so incredibly awesome, and they have the effect of food coloring without the five-day hand staining (or permanent staining on clothes). I use them for art, the sensory table, science activities, sensory bottles, and as a substitute for dyes. It is child and preschool-friendly, and your options with it are limitless.
Liquid watercolor is a precious commodity in my house though, and we were almost out, gasp! I decided that if I could figure out how to make my own liquid watercolor recipe, that would be as amazing as finding it! Well, I am so excited to share that I have found a method to make a homemade liquid watercolor recipe, and the best part is that it is super duper easy. You definitely already have half of the ingredients, if not all of them.
Ingredients for Liquid Watercolors
Now here’s the best part, this is the EASIEST recipe to make. I am the queen of all things simple, and I couldn’t even believe what a breeze this was.
There are just two ingredients!
- Crayola Washable Watercolors
- Hot Water
- Mixing Bowl or Measuring Cup
Don’t skimp on the brand! I’ve tried other brands besides Crayola, and they just don’t turn out as nicely.
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How to Make DIY Liquid Watercolors
Remove the watercolor cake from its packaging and place it in a bowl or measuring cup. Cover with 4 oz of hot water.
Let the watercolor sit in the hot water for several minutes, or feel free to speed it up by stirring it.
It starts out like this…
…and becomes this.
And that’s it! You’re done! Look how gorgeous they are all together.
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The colors will initially look “cloudy” in their container, but after a couple of days, they will get that gorgeous translucent “glow.” Of course, it will not affect your projects either way, but I just want to reassure you that cloudiness is part of the process.
We are on a liquid watercolor frenzy now! I used to only have red, blue, and yellow around in an effort to remain frugal as I can mix most colors with those three. However, I splurged since these are so affordable. I bought a pack of 24 Crayola watercolors on sale for $4. It cost me under 17 cents for each color!
Liquid Watercolor Recipe Modifications
You can play around with the recipe, depending on how you plan to use the liquid watercolor. I’ve found that if you’re going to dye rice or paint something wooden, you want the liquid to be a little more concentrated. Try using 2 cake ovals in 4 oz of hot water.
For use on paper, coffee filters, or other absorbent items, I’d also make it a little more concentrated.
If you are using the watercolors for process art, you might like it a little less concentrated. Try useing 4-8 oz. of water to one cake oval.
Using and Storing the Watercolors
My kids absolutely love them! In the snow, they are super vibrant and beautiful.
My daughter wanted to make more and more snow pictures.
We especially love doing liquid watercolors on paper towels for fine motor practice!
For storage, I just found some old paint containers and other empty household items to put them in. The honey bear was a perfect one for the orange!
So now you know how super easy it is, I hope you enjoy becoming a frugal liquid watercolor fanatic too!
Done-For-You Teaching Resources
Get ready for fun and learning with all our preschool and toddler unit lesson plans! These thematic units are packed with literature-based activities that are easy to prepare and fun to implement. Each theme comes with recommended reading lists, songs, material lists, printable PDFs, and more! They are full of hands-on activities to learn through play!
Check out our colors lessons plans in our preschool store.
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This is fantastic!! My girls don’t like the cake watercolors all that much but love liquid watercolors. I think I’ll be transforming some of the watercolor trays we have!
Thanks so much, Terri! Aren’t liquid watercolors a blast?! I hope you all enjoy :).
Stacy Ransom says
Great idea! Why didn’t I think of that?! 🙂
Haha, Stacy. I know, isn’t this so easy! Apparently the liquid watercolor manufacturers thought of it ;).
Suzanne Schlechte says
This is great! I can refill my watercolours very inexpensively!
Yes, Suzanne!! It’s truly wonderful to have such affordable and nearly instant liquid watercolors!!
Jackie Currie says
Ohhhh my! I looove love loooove (I am literally SINGING those words in my head) this post!!!! I saw another recipe recently that called for food colouring and vinegar, but this looks so totally simple! I’m so trying this!
I am quite fond of your song, Jackie :)! Thank you so much!! For liquid watercolor fanatics like us, this is almost as good as it gets!!
Spramani Elaun says
You can do this with almost any paint. I do this in my art classes with my own paints.
Just don’t save to long. Most paints that are watered down also water down the self life. Be sure to make fresh batches each time do this for your kids.
It’s great to have you visit, Spramani! I can definitely see how an artist like yourself would need to remake high quality paints every time. Our preschool class reuses it (after a good shaking), and they still look great every time!
Dollar tree carries the water color pallets. Discount School Supply has refill kits 6 for $3.99 so less than $1 a set and you won’t have all the extra boxes to deal with.
Thanks so much for the comment, Kim! That is a brilliant suggestion!! I’ll be adding it to the post :).
I love this idea, especially because it sounds easy and frugal. How is the washability of these watercolors? I was tempted to buy them from the dollar store, but wondered if Crayola’s washable watercolors might be a better idea in terms of stains…
Thanks for visiting, mkmcpn! I find both Crayola and Colorations to be the most washable brands. The risk of staining with liquid watercolor is less just because it’s watered down. When I’m feeling a little risky, I’ll put the kids in my old maternity shirts that I don’t care about so that it covers them from head to knees. I definitely don’t trust tempera paints that aren’t name brand, especially colors like red, blue, and purple. I hope his helps!
Deanna Russell says
Hi Katie! This is an awesome website! All my kids are older but it is still so much fun to see all your ideas. Some of them are still usable even with the older kids! Thanks for sharing your website last week at BS. See you next week. 🙂 Deanna
Hi Deanna! It’s wonderful to have you drop by :). You are definitely right — lots of ideas here can be used for older kiddos too. Thanks for the sweet note, and I look forward to seeing you soon!
This is awesome!!!! I seriously can’t wait to try this with the kiddos!
Thank you so much, Chelsey!! It has completely revolutionized our liquid watercolor activities. Thanks for the sweet comment!
Mary Catherine says
Just stopping by to tell you how much I LOVE THIS! Thanks so much for sharing the tutorial with us. Cannot wait to try it out at home and school soon!! 🙂
Thank you so much, Mary Catherine!! And I thought I was a liquid watercolor fanatic before…I just ordered 18 packages of watercolor this week :). I hope you all love it as much as we do!!
Thank you so much!
You may just be my kiddos’ new favorite person. We found a craft that involves using a squirt gun to squirt liquid water colors onto the paper/canvas to make an art picture that they are asking daily to try. However, I haven’t been able to justify the extra expense amidst already having to buy school supplies. This definitely makes it much more affordable to do now rather than continuing to make them wait. Thank you so much!
That activity sounds incredibly fun, Tiffany!! I am so glad you all can enjoy some more squirt gun fun. Affordable is the way to go :). I so appreciate your comment!
Great ideas for process art for preschoolers!
Isn’t process art the best!?! It’s a pleasure to have you visit, Dawn :).
Love this idea! I made the liquid watercolors today and used them to color rice and pasta for sensory play. It seems as though it leaves a powdery texture on the rice and pasta…is that normal? Also, I have noticed some settling in the bottles…there is a white substance at the bottom. Did you experience any of that?
I’m so glad to hear you have already made awesome use of this, Veronica! There’s definitely some white settling in my containers too! As for the powder on the dyed rice and pasta, I’ve not run into that. We only dyed rice with it, and that was quite awhile ago. It’s possible I had some and just don’t remember though. I mostly use this for painting though.
I tried this today in preparation for my pre-k students tmrw! Just love the bright colors! Thanks!
That’s so exciting to hear, Kat!! I bet your students will be thrilled for the wonderful activities you have planned with them :).
I love adding liquid watercolors to my sensory tables! My preschoolers will love this. Thanks for the tips!
Colored water is the best! Thanks for stopping by, Jenny!
I’ve been looking for liquid water colors for a Vacation Bible school craft. This will be perfect! Do you know if they work good on canvas?
It sounds like your VBS is going to be lots of fun! I’ve not tried it on canvas, but I would put several oval cakes in and try it ahead of time just in case. Enjoy!
How do you recommend removing the paint pellets from the plastic containers? I tried and if I stick a knife in or push from the back then they crumble.
The Crayola ones usually just pop out for me. Is that the brand you are using?
I have crayola and they broke into crumbles. 🙁
Thanks for sharing! My kids are loving this. I’m going to ask a potentially silly question-how do you get the watercolor ovals out of their container?! There has to be an easier way than what I just did! Thanks!
Hi Betsy! I just push the back with my thumbs, and they come out pretty easily. Hopefully, yours will cooperate too. Have fun!
I have just purchased a tray of Crayola paints to try this. Do the colours keep their vibrancy or do they tend to fade over time? I am planning to die string.
Katie T. Christiansen says
The colors need to be shaken up but they do seem to keep their concentration. That sounds like such a fun project :).
This was great and so easy! I just made 16 colors in about 10 minutes. Luckily, I had an old revolving spice rack, and I just put all of them in there. I also have another suggestion for containers if anyone is looking for ideas for a lot of colors. I think the old breast milk freezer storage containers might work well also. The Medela ones are 2.5 oz.