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La Jolla Mom - Homemade Watercolor Paints | Kids Activities and Recipes

How To Make Homemade Watercolor Paints

Watercolor Paints

Homemade Water Color Paints

There are moments when you just can’t run to the store and need an emergency paint/craft/keep the kids busy plan. My 4-year-old REALLY wanted to paint, so I went online and found this recipe for homemade watercolor paints. I had all of the ingredients, so it’s highly likely that you have them too. Here is the recipe, though I adapted the process at little bit.

Homemade Watercolor Paints Recipe

  • 4 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • liquid food coloring

1.  Mix baking soda and vinegar until the fizzing stops.
2.  Add corn syrup and cornstarch.
3.  Mix until it has a uniform consistency. It will be crumbly.
4.  Divide into mini muffin tin, styrofoam egg carton or plastic candy mold.
5.  Add about 10 drops of food coloring. Mix red and yellow for orange, red and blue for purple, and so forth. Stir in the muffin cup with a popsicle stick, knife or coffee stirrer. You’ll need to smash the color into the paste. This will be a little bit tedious. Eventually the paints will set to have a wet film on top.
6. Let the paint set for a few hours or overnight.

I like putting paint in a muffin tin because I can put water in one row of cups for my daughter to wash her brushes off in. Despite these photos, it’s better if you put the water in the bottom row. This way I can just dump the water into the sink without it running over the paints. Otherwise, I just blot it out with a paper towel. No big deal. The muffin tin also allows us to store the paint for as long as we need to.

When it comes time to wash the muffin tin, put it under the faucet and it will all rinse out in seconds. Easy clean up.

The paint does dry a little bit lighter than it goes on originally, likely due to the cornstarch. I am really pleased with how vibrant the colors are going on. Less water on the brush is more with these paints too.

If you are really in a bind,  it’s super sticky but light corn syrup mixed with food coloring will also do in a pinch. I talk about this recipe in 4 Homemade Finger Paint Recipes Analyzed.

I’ve created a FREE download for my Facebook fans to reference. It has our favorite recipes for playdough, finger paints, watercolor paints and slime. Click here on Recipes for Kids Crafts to go get it.

  • Barbara - May 14, 2013

    Hi I just found your site and must say it’s fantastic. I have grand kids and this will be a great cost saver. Plus they can help!!! But about using Kool-Aid for the coloring, I wouldn’t really suggest it because if it gets on the carpet it might not come out. (Especially the RED ones). I own a Carpet Cleaning Company in Phoenix and that’s the color that’s the hardest to remove.

  • cindy - March 7, 2013

    Would it be easier to mix the food coloring with the liquids before adding the dry ingredients? I haven’t made it yet but the granddaughters are coming this weekend so I must try it!

  • Michelle - June 30, 2012

    I mixed a pack of kool-aid and they smell fantastic. I added a little more vinegar and it was easier to mix…still set up the same. My preschooler class loved them and all natural and last much longer that the ones you can buy! Thanks for the recipe 😉

  • cswatts - March 24, 2012

    Do you have problems with staining clothes or skin? I’m looking for a way to make stamp-pad ink, too, but worried about food coloring staining. Thoughts?

  • Cheryl Antkowski - February 11, 2012

    Do you think that if you do not have food coloring you could use kool aid instead?

    • La Jolla Mom - February 12, 2012

      I haven’t tried it yet, but I don’t see why not. Let me know if you do and what you think.

  • Casey - June 22, 2011

    Finally tried these with my kiddos. Of course, they don’t look a whole lot like your pretty rainbow of colors and they were not so crumbly……but they turned out similar to paint! (Which is more than I was hoping for with my skills).

  • Jen - June 9, 2011

    One quick way I found to make watercolor paints when my kids were young was to get a few packages of Koolaid packets and mix with just a bit of water. They loved to paint with it and they could “scratch and sniff” their artwork.


  • Casey - June 2, 2011

    Good idea. I’m about to stock our craft cabinet that sits conveniently OUTSIDE so that paint and playdough don’t end up all over our house. I will be adding this to my bag of tricks!

  • La Jolla Mom - June 2, 2011

    I’ll post a pic (likely tomorrow) of what it all looks like dried. It will dry a little bit lighter, but still does the job.

  • Nicole - June 2, 2011

    Oh I love this! Will have to try it this weekend with the kids. Thank you!

    • michele - July 25, 2012

      I have 3 grandbabies age 2 and under, and your finger paints, play doh, and water color paints work wonders with babies.

      • La Jolla Mom - July 27, 2012

        Thank you! You are so kind to let me know! I have recipes for DIY bouncy balls and silly putty coming soon, which will be better for them in a year or so.

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I'm Katie Dillon, a freelance luxury travel writer who lives in seaside La Jolla, CA. This is where I document my recent trips around the world, the latest San Diego happenings and other fun lifestyle topics. Thanks for stopping by!

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