Make Watercolor Tie-Dye Activity

3.8 based on 5 ratings
Updated on Oct 11, 2013

Tie-dye is a summer camp staple that we all know and love, but it's a long and messy process that can leave some very difficult stains on your clothes or furniture. This paper alternative is faster, easier, and (slightly) less messy, only requiring paper, white crayons, and a little imagination.

What You Need:

  • Liquid watercolor
  • Travel-sized spray bottles
  • White construction paper or oversized coffee filters
  • White crayon
  • Smock/newspaper/protective clothing, and coverings for furniture and household items
  • Paper towels

What You Do:

  1. Prepare your work surface! Put down several layers of newspaper on a flat surface, and have your child wear a smock, apron or old T-shirt if you wish.
  2. Have your child draw a design, picture or “secret message” on the paper in white crayon. Make sure he draws thick, bold lines.
  3. Time to add the paint! If you're reusing empty spray bottles, fill them with warm or hot water and spray into the sink before you fill them with the paint. This will help break up any excess hairspray from the nozzle.
  4. Load up the spray bottles with paint in your choice of color. It's a good idea to 'prime the pump' with a few test sprays on the newspaper first -- the first sprays can sometimes be drippy or heavy.
  5. Have your child stand back (there's a risk of splatter). Help him spray the paint over his picture, using different colors to give it a tie-dyed look.
  6. When he's finished spraying, wad up a few paper towels and blot the excess watercolor. As the paper towels absorb the excess, his picture will magically appear!

This activity also looks good on thin, gauzy paper, like coffee filters, with or without the 'hidden message'. The thin paper absorbs the color better and makes it more intense. Oversized coffee filters area good fit for this, and available through restaurant supply retailers and at some warehouse stores

Jody Amable is an Assistant Editor at She has previously worked as a camp counselor, and spent her college years hosting birthday parties for kids at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. She has a degree in Journalism from San Francisco State University and writes for local blogs, magazines and weeklies in her spare time.

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