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It’s kind of weird how I’m home all of the time and, yet, I’m not managing to get a whole lot of work done. I think a lot of it is the stress of not being able to get out. I’m going a weensy bit stir-crazy and so I flit from one project to another without really finishing anything or accomplishing much. Straight up, I have about 12 projects all in the works, all in different states of completion.
But when I sat down to recreate my original watercolor salt paintings post with new photos I found that I easily knocked out 4 different paintings quick-smart. In a word, salt paintings are just plain fun. Whether you’re four or forty this is an easy craft that uses stuff you have already around the house.
In fact, I went all OCD on this and tried a bazillion different things I had at home and tested the results. From salt, to paints to paper, you’ve got tons of options to craft salt paintings, very likely, without having to purchase a single item.
To Make Salt Paintings You Will Need:
- Black Paper
Readily available options include construction paper, cardstock or poster board. Construction paper is the cheapest but it’s not very rigid. If it bends all crazy some of the glued on salt might break and come off of the paper. This might be an issue if you have kids that would get super upset about this. If you scrapbook you might already have some cardstock on hand. I had TONS of black card stock that never got used from value packs. It’s a little bit rigid and works super well. You can even get a 50-pack of letter-sized black cardstock from Walmart for under $5 if it’s in stock in your area. They also sell all black Black poster board works best of all because it doesn’t flex a ton but it’s also the most expensive option if you are purchasing materials.
Now, obviously you don’t HAVE to use black paper. It’s traditionally used with salt paintings because it makes the paint colors really pop, but feel free to experiment with other shades. (or what you already have on hand).
My preference for salt paintings is to use fine sea salt because the pieces are a good size. Coarse sea salt, however, is just a little TOO big. No matter the paper, it tends to fall off a lot after the glue dries. You can make coarse sea salt finer in a food processor, if you have one. (This is what I did). Regular table salt is my second choice and works well, too.
More often than not, in salt paintings you’ll use watercolor paint. But what if you don’t have it or can’t get it right now? Besides watercolors you can also use food coloring. To get good color, add a lot of food coloring to small amounts of water. You can also water down acrylic paints. To get somewhat transparent color (so the salt beneath twinkles) add only a drop or 2 to a small amount of water. Lastly, you can also use alcohol inks. I actually busted out my homemade alcohol inks using Sharpies and rubbing alcohol and the color is FANTASTIC.
FYI, acrylic paint in water and alcohol inks may not spread and blend as well as other paints. You know how yellow and blue would make green? With these blends the blue takes over the yellow because it’s darker instead. Also, the alcohol in the inks might sort of discolor the black paper where it spreads a bit, just FYI. I don’t think it’s too noticeable and the tradeoff for the bright colors is worth it for me. Plus I had a LOT of homemade alcohol inks to use :)
You can also pull the cartridge out of old markers and put them into a small amount of water. The ink inside will seep out to create a thin ink similar to watercolors. This method is exactly how we made the alcohol inks just using water. Be sure to hit up that tutorial for more help, if you need it.
Elmer’s School glue is awesome because you can squeeze the bottle and draw right on the paper. Even little hands are strong enough to easy squeeze the glue from the bottle. Tacky glue works even better with less loss of salt once dry, but that dry time is a lot longer for some reason. And that bottle is a lot more difficult to squeeze to get the glue out. Small hands might have a really hard time getting this thicker glue to easily come out of the bottle. Heck, sometimes I can’t squeeze Tacky Glue out of the bottle in a continuous straight line, let alone draw with it.
But Honestly, Use What You Have
As you can tell from my in depth analysis, since I’m redoing this post during the time of self-quarantine, I decided to test a LOT of materials to see what works. My photos in this tutorial are using black construction paper, Elmer’s School Glue, fine sea salt and my homemade alcohol inks.
But this project is for fun, not for inclusion into MoMA. Use what you’ve got on hand and have fun with it! And play around with your materials. Use pink paper, try to mix up your own type of paint, use a mix of different kinds of salt. Whatever works to keep your kiddos busy is a win in my book!
How to Make Salt Paintings.
First step is to get the salt onto the paper. Setting up your workspace well will ensure this is a fun and easy craft for the kids.
Place a larger piece of paper onto your work surface. I’m using a piece of poster board cut down out of scrap to be about 3 inches bigger than my construction paper on all sides.
Make sure your glue isn’t all gunked up and easily flows when squeezed. Place about a quarter cup of salt into a small plastic bowl or something not breakable or heavy.
Draw With It
Using your glue like a pencil, draw onto your black paper creating whatever scene you’d like. You want the glue to be similar to in the photos above. Really thin, wispy application of glue will dry to quickly to salt the entire piece at one time. Really thick glue lines will take AGES to dry.
If you can work sort of quickly, you can draw the entire scene at once. But if it takes a little bit longer to get your idea onto paper, work in sections so your glue doesn’t dry.
With the glue still wet, pour the salt onto the paper. Shimmy and shake to cover the entire page with the salt. Pick up the paper and pour the salt back into its bowl. You might have to do this a few times to apply salt to all of the glue.
DO NOT LEAVE PILES OF SALT ON THE WET GLUE. I learned this one the hard way. The salt takes on moisture in the glue and more and more salt will begin to stick to the paper. Your nice, drawn lines will become huge, fuzzy shapes that might not look anything like what you drew.
When you’re happy with the coverage of salt, set the paper on a flat surface to dry. Make sure the paper can stay as flat as possible while it dries so your paper doesn’t get a permanent curl in it.
Let’s Add Paint!
After the glue has dried mix up small amounts of watercolor paints and grab a small paint brush. Remember you have lots of options when it comes to paint. Use actual watercolors, food coloring in water, acrylic paints in water, the ink from inside of markers in water or alcohol inks.
All you need is that small paint brush to apply little drops of color onto the salt. You don’t need a ton of paint so if you have littles that might get overly excited be sure to give them a super fine paintbrush rather than something bigger. A little brush just can’t take on much more paint than a few drops at a time :)
Mix and match colors to watch them combine when wet. This is a great way for the kids to see that yellow and blue make green, for example. Remember how I said that acrylic paints and alcohol inks won’t blend quite as well? You can see how my dark green and light green are pretty distinct areas. But it’s still pretty :)
And completely defying all I said, here yellow and red do make orange :) Like all things artistic, sometimes you just can’t foresee exactly what’s going to happen.
Once you’ve applied color to the salt it’s time to allow the piece to dry again. Set someplace flat and wait it out!
Whether you make abstract shapes or draw out scenes of aliens or paper-sprawling florals, this project is fun for all artistic skill levels!
- No special equipment is required.
- Black Paper (we used construction paper)
- Table Salt
- Watercolors (or other paint or ink watered down)
- School Glue
- Using your glue like a pencil, draw onto your black paper creating whatever scene you'd like.
- If you can work sort of quickly, you can draw the entire scene at once.
- With the glue still wet, pour the salt onto the paper.
- When you're happy with the coverage of salt, set the paper on a flat surface to dry.
- After the glue has dried, mix up small amounts of watercolor paints and grab a small paint brush. Apply drops of color to the salt. Only a small amount is needed. It will spread through the salt and bleed with surrounding colors.
- Once fully painted, lay flat to dry. Once dry, handle infrequently to prevent salt from breaking away from the painting.