There’s a lot around the house that students can experiment with and incorporate into art projects. Here are some of our favorites.
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Most colored flower petals can be rubbed into paper to make lovely patches of color.
Mix turmeric with a bit of water and you’ll create am earthy yellow ochre.
Dissolve matcha powder in water to get a subtle pale green wash.
Hair dye has bright, vibrant colors that are great for painting!
Rub dandelion flowers onto paper and you’ll get a brilliant yellow color!
The leaves of a tulip make luscious colors when rubbed onto paper.
Japanese Maple Leaves
The deep maroon color of Japanese Maple leaves makes a rich patch of red when rubbed onto paper.
You’ll get beautiful brown wash with a touch of red with balsamic vinegar!
Sprinkles produce lovely soft colors and dissolve easily in water.
Maple leaves rub easily onto paper to create a bright, saturated green tone.
Pomegranate juice produces a deep red that has a lovely touch of purple.
“My aim was to use the soy sauce like watercolors, I reduced the soy sauce with water to do the lighter and mid tones and pure soy sauce for the darker tones. The toothpaste was for the white highlights, which if i was to do it again I would probably change for some other item. Using these household items has really sparked some new ideas, which is always great. You can jot the ideas down and come back to them at a later time, or just dive right into new exploration.”Chloe O’Sullivan
“I took a reflection photo of a self portrait, then printed and highlighted my reflection with the beet and turmeric color. The turmeric was used literally as a crayon. I drew a face with pencil and added a butterfly colored with beet and turmeric diluted in alcohol drops.”Milagros Santos
“I really enjoyed working with the coffee and vinegar! I typically use watercolor and the coffee behaved very similarly. It was very, very light going on, so I attempted to darken it by adding more coffee grounds, but even then it was too light to give me good contrast. I revisited the list on the site and noticed the balsamic vinegar which turned out to be the perfect color for the darker areas – it worked really well with the lighter washes and gave me the depth I was looking for. Where the balsamic went on heavily it dried to a sticky looking sheen – I suspect it is not archival. 🙂 But it was a really fun experiment!”Simple Triskell
Let some saffron threads soak in water and you’ll get a soft yellow ink great for light washes.
Foundation makeup is very smooth and spreads beautifully with a brush.
Rubbing the petals of violets produces a beautiful patch of blue!
You can create a lovely subtle greyish lavender color when rubbing lilac flowers onto paper.
Eye shadow blends well and can be rubbed with your fingers to get soft, painterly patches of color.
Tea makes a lovely soft ink wash that is delicate and subtle!
Jello can be like watercolor; just be sure to heat the water so the jello dissolves.
Rub your wet fingers into Kool-Aid powder to create dry and patchy marks!
Toothpaste spreads easily, is translucent, and sometimes sparkly!
“I put all my home art supplies on the kitchen counter and tested mustard and paprika with a basting brush. Surprised to capture an idea of home, I set the slip of paper in the window to give it a little light. Then I snapped a shot when the sun rose over my neighbor’s house.”Sally Webster
“I would never have considered using coffee to paint with if I had not seen other artists get such a cool effect. For this sketchbook page, I tried using instant coffee granules and water with different dilutions. The coffee blooms and flows when applied wet-on-wet like watercolors, and a thicker mixture lets the brush texture show.”Rowenn Beth Kalman
“After using a toothbrush to test several colors, I was drawn to turmeric, beet, and açaí. The turmeric was selected to be the background, and the two other samples were cut up into shapes to collage. I quickly glued down some shapes and cropped the image to highlight the toothbrush brush strokes.”Sally Webster
Cocoa powder creates a warm brown ink wash!
Cut a beet slice, dip your brush in water, and massage your brush on the beet slice like a watercolor cake! Boil the beets to make liquid ink.
Intense and bold colors are what you’ll get from food coloring, add water to create a range of gradients.
Blush lets you make a soft blend of colors that is light and airy.
With all the colors, shine, and sparkle, you’ve got all the painting tools you need with nail polish.
Coffee produces a subtle raw umber color that can be used to create the effects of ink wash.
Lots of flower petals will produce patches of color when rubbed onto a sheet of paper.
You’ll get a beautiful vibrant blue when you rub grape hyacinth flowers into a surface!
“The beet root juice was so much fun to paint with and I loved the colour, but it got patchy at some point and I panicked, but it blended easily when I went over the edges. I would definitely try it again.”Sara Boeisa
Q-tips are great for stippling and creating an impressionistic look.
The serrated edge of a plastic knife creates a beautiful texture reminiscent of cross-hatching. Works well with liquid inks and acrylic paint.
Get any dark colored fabric and draw with a bleach pen. Wash the fabric and you’ll have a lovely range of gradients in the fabric.
Mascara has a thick intense black tone, and the applicator makes beautiful textured marks!
Cut up sticks of beets and draw! Dip the beet sticks in water to get the color to flow more.
Pipe cleaners make terrific marks and textures!
Shoe polish feels painterly and slick. Gesso your surface to create a juicier, more luscious mark.
The soft edges of a feather create a smooth, fluid stroke with paint!
Plastic forks create a beautiful set of marks that cover paper quickly, play with the speed of your marks! Works well with liquid inks and acrylic paint.
An old toothbrush makes great textures for painting!
The uneven tip of a twig produces a broad range of marks. Dip into any liquid ink to draw.
Dip a comb in paint and you’ll create lovely patterns that you can layer over each other!
If you have a fireplace, you’ve got natural charcoal in it. Natural charcoal is more crumbly than manufactured charcoal, and is like vine charcoal.
Find any soft flat surface: styrofoam, foam board, etc. and push pins in varying directions.
Toilet Paper Tubes
Using a single toilet paper tube, cut, curl, and fold the tube into an abstract sculpture.
Brown Paper Bags
Versatile and sturdy, any brown paper bag has sculptural potential. Bags with handles spice it up!
Aluminum foil is incredibly versatile, create delicate petals of form or twist and crunch the foil to create structured forms.
Tear apart corrugated cardboard sheets and reveal the textured pattern inside. Cut, curl, fold, twist, anything is possible!
Arrange dried beans into a mosaic, then eat them!
Sand & Rocks
Use rocks and sand to make a pattern. Layer colors and textures over each other. Look at Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration.
Bend, fold and twist Q-tips and then assemble them together.
Find any soft flat surface: styrofoam, foam board, etc. and push nails in varying directions.
There’s a lot you can do with a single sheet of toilet paper: twist it, fold it, tear it! Use glue or water to dramatically transform the toilet paper.
“I really wantd to try 3D art, but I can’t afford clay, and my hot glue gun was stuck at school. That’s why I decided to work on something that is available in my house. Toilet paper tube is very accessible and easy to work with, which makes it just the perfect material to start with. Cutting and forming the tube was very easy.Neil Espinosa
Following the natural curve of the tube creates graceful forms. When cutting against the curve, the forms created are much stiffer. Lastly, the supply allows me to work in a large quantity, which is just amazing.”
Many postcards are artworks in themselves, you can’t go wrong with the incredible range of visuals in postcards.
Use up those awkwardly sized scraps of wrapping paper that will probably go in the recycle bin anyway in a collage!
Some of you might remember when getting a photo meant driving to a store to have the film developed. Sift through those boxes of photos!
Cereal or Cracker Boxes
With tons of bold colors, and text, cereal and cracker boxes can be cut out and used for any collage.
Xerox or print out copies of any sheet music, a broad variety of shapes blended with text can be beautiful and rich visuals for collage.
Sandpaper comes in so many colors and textures, perfect for spicing up a collage.
A lot of us have old sketches, paintings that we probably won’t be needing again! Recycle your artwork and give it a new life.
Magazines have an amazing range of colors, textures, and words, great to add variety to any collage.
For those of you who read newspapers the “old fashioned way,” put them to good use after you read them in your artwork!
Black & White Illustrations
Xerox or print out illustrations from any era, you’ll discover tons of graphic shapes and detailed textures depending on the era of illustrations you choose.
We know cutting up a book feels practically sacrilegious to some people, but old books can have beautiful visuals if you’re willing to sacrifice them!
That junk mail is probably going into the recycle bin anyway, so you might as well transform it into an artwork.