I had been wanting to make these salt and glue watercolor painting for a long time.
Then we learned one weekend that our neighbors – who go to public school – were going to have a day off of school on a day when my kids and I were still planning to homeschool.
So we invited our neighbors over to join us for some STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning fun, and I finally had the chance to try this art project with a group of kids.
What I love about this process art activity is how it gets kids exploring art materials in a new way.
I mean, how often do you paint with glue and salt? And who knew that salt would cause the colors to run like a river on the paper? (Tip: there’s a science lesson in here as well – STEAM for the win!)
Note: For more awesome art projects, see my arts and crafts for kids page.
To make these salt and glue watercolor paintings, you’ll need the following materials:
- Construction paper
- Table salt
- Paint brushes
- Watercolor paints
Begin by using a brush and some glue to “paint” a design onto a sheet of construction paper.
Before the glue has a chance to dry too much, sprinkle a liberal amount of salt onto the glue.
Allow the glue to dry.
Once the glue has dried, shake the excess salt off.
Then gently dip your paintbrush into a watercolor paint, and touch the brush to the salt designs on the paper.
The water-absorbing nature of the salt will soak up the watercolor paint, causing it to flow like a river from salt granule to salt granule. Observe how colors mix at the boundaries between one color and the next.
We also attempted some paintings where we simply squeezed the glue from the bottle onto the paper instead of using a brush to “paint” our designs. This resulted in tighter lines and more vibrant colors in the final product.
However, we the colors did not run or flow across the salt and glue “river” nearly as much with this technique as with the painted on glue technique., and this reduced some of the fun of the project. Plus, our hands got quite tired from squeezing the glue bottle.
But you can try different ways to see what works for you!
The science behind the activity
Salt is hygroscopic, which means it readily absorbs moisture. This is due to the fact that it is an ionic compound that strongly attracts water molecules. As such, when watercolor paint is applied to the salt, it attracts the liquid and soaks it up. This is what causes the paint to look like a flowing river when applied.
More arts and crafts resources
Popular arts and crafts activities from Gift of Curiosity:
- Watercolor on paper towels
- Blow art monsters
- Painting with strings
- Leaf collages
- Tape resist watercolor painting
- Crystallized snowflakes
- Seed medallions
- Trace the shapes art project