Easy and Affordable DIY Liquid Watercolor

This is a game changer if you love liquid watercolor! Make your own easy and affordable DIY liquid watercolor. I love this recipe for process art activities or if I need watercolor right away! DIY Liquid Watercolor by Preschool Inspirations

I will be the first to admit that I LOVE liquid watercolors! I’m pretty sure that if I was told that I had to teach preschool on a deserted island, and I could only choose three teaching items, liquid watercolor would be at the top of the list. Yup, we would be using it inside coconuts, to make messages in the sand, and to decorate palm trees.

If you haven’t caught onto the liquid watercolor craze yet, then why not!?!? They are so incredibly awesome, and they have the effect of food coloring without the five day hand staining (or permanent staining on clothes). I use them for art, the sensory table, science activities, discovery bottles, and as a substitute for dyes. It is child and preschool friendly, and your options with it are limitless. Here are some of my absolute favorite liquid watercolor activities.

Liquid watercolor is a precious commodity in my house though, and we were almost out, gasp! I decided that if I could figure out how to make my own liquid watercolor recipe, that would be as amazing as finding it! Well, I am so excited to share that I have found a method to make a homemade liquid watercolor recipe, and the best part is that it is super duper easy. You definitely already have half of the ingredients, if not all of them.

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Here’s how gorgeous they turned out!!!

DIY Liquid Watercolor by Preschool Inspirations

Sugar and Spice absolutely approves of them. In the snow, they are super vibrant and beautiful.

DIY Liquid Watercolor by Preschool Inspirations

All day long she just wanted to make more and more snow pictures.

DIY Liquid Watercolor by Preschool Inspirations-11

On these paper towels, they ended up being a nice pastel color.

DIY Liquid Watercolor by Preschool Inspirations-8


Now here’s the best part, this is the EASIEST recipe to make. I am the queen of all things simple, and I couldn’t even believe what a breeze this was.

There are just two ingredients:

Crayola Washable Watercolors

DIY Liquid Watercolor by Preschool Inspirations-7

and hot water

DIY Liquid Watercolor by Preschool Inspirations

It starts out like this…

DIY Liquid Watercolor by Preschool Inspirations-2

…and becomes this.

DIY Liquid Watercolor by Preschool Inspirations

Let the watercolor set in the hot water for several minutes, or feel free to speed it up by whisking it. I used 4 oz of hot water from our hot water tap, so the temperature was slightly below the boiling point. Some colors I used with 8 oz of water, which worked great in snow.

However, if you are wanting to use it for things such as paper, coffee filters, or other absorbent items, I would recommend making it more concentrated.  You could even do it with 2 oz of water. Or add multiple Crayola Washable Watercolor ovals to the water. The colors will initially look “cloudy” in their container, but after a couple of days, they will get that gorgeous translucent “glow.” Of course it will not affect your projects either way, but I just want to reassure you that the cloudiness is part of the process.

For storage, I just found some old paint containers and other empty household items to put them in. The honey bear was a perfect one for the orange!

DIY Liquid Watercolor by Preschool Inspirations-4

We are on a liquid watercolor frenzy now! I used to only have red, blue, and yellow around in an effort to remain frugal as I can mix most colors with those three. However, I splurged since these are so affordable. I bought a pack of 24 Crayola watercolors on sale for $4.  It cost me under 17 cents for each color!

UPDATE: I have tried this methods with other brands, and I would have to say that it really works best with Crayola Washable Watercolors.

So now you know how super easy it is, and here is my pinterest board with all of my favorite liquid watercolor activities. I hope you enjoy becoming a frugal liquid watercolor fanatic too!

DIY Liquid Watercolors by Preschool Inspirations



  1. Terri_mycreativepath says

    This is fantastic!! My girls don’t like the cake watercolors all that much but love liquid watercolors. I think I’ll be transforming some of the watercolor trays we have!

  2. Jackie Currie says

    Ohhhh my! I looove love loooove (I am literally SINGING those words in my head) this post!!!! I saw another recipe recently that called for food colouring and vinegar, but this looks so totally simple! I’m so trying this!

  3. Spramani Elaun says

    You can do this with almost any paint. I do this in my art classes with my own paints.
    Just don’t save to long. Most paints that are watered down also water down the self life. Be sure to make fresh batches each time do this for your kids.

    • says

      It’s great to have you visit, Spramani! I can definitely see how an artist like yourself would need to remake high quality paints every time. Our preschool class reuses it (after a good shaking), and they still look great every time!

  4. Kim says

    Dollar tree carries the water color pallets. Discount School Supply has refill kits 6 for $3.99 so less than $1 a set and you won’t have all the extra boxes to deal with.

  5. mkmcpn says

    I love this idea, especially because it sounds easy and frugal. How is the washability of these watercolors? I was tempted to buy them from the dollar store, but wondered if Crayola’s washable watercolors might be a better idea in terms of stains…

    • says

      Thanks for visiting, mkmcpn! I find both Crayola and Colorations to be the most washable brands. The risk of staining with liquid watercolor is less just because it’s watered down. When I’m feeling a little risky, I’ll put the kids in my old maternity shirts that I don’t care about so that it covers them from head to knees. I definitely don’t trust tempera paints that aren’t name brand, especially colors like red, blue, and purple. I hope his helps!

  6. Deanna Russell says

    Hi Katie! This is an awesome website! All my kids are older but it is still so much fun to see all your ideas. Some of them are still usable even with the older kids! Thanks for sharing your website last week at BS. See you next week. 🙂 Deanna

    • says

      Hi Deanna! It’s wonderful to have you drop by :). You are definitely right — lots of ideas here can be used for older kiddos too. Thanks for the sweet note, and I look forward to seeing you soon!

  7. Mary Catherine says

    Just stopping by to tell you how much I LOVE THIS! Thanks so much for sharing the tutorial with us. Cannot wait to try it out at home and school soon!! 🙂

    • says

      Thank you so much, Mary Catherine!! And I thought I was a liquid watercolor fanatic before…I just ordered 18 packages of watercolor this week :). I hope you all love it as much as we do!!

  8. says

    You may just be my kiddos’ new favorite person. We found a craft that involves using a squirt gun to squirt liquid water colors onto the paper/canvas to make an art picture that they are asking daily to try. However, I haven’t been able to justify the extra expense amidst already having to buy school supplies. This definitely makes it much more affordable to do now rather than continuing to make them wait. Thank you so much!

    • Katie says

      That activity sounds incredibly fun, Tiffany!! I am so glad you all can enjoy some more squirt gun fun. Affordable is the way to go :). I so appreciate your comment!

  9. Veronica says

    Love this idea! I made the liquid watercolors today and used them to color rice and pasta for sensory play. It seems as though it leaves a powdery texture on the rice and pasta…is that normal? Also, I have noticed some settling in the bottles…there is a white substance at the bottom. Did you experience any of that?

    • Katie says

      I’m so glad to hear you have already made awesome use of this, Veronica! There’s definitely some white settling in my containers too! As for the powder on the dyed rice and pasta, I’ve not run into that. We only dyed rice with it, and that was quite awhile ago. It’s possible I had some and just don’t remember though. I mostly use this for painting though.

    • Katie says

      That’s so exciting to hear, Kat!! I bet your students will be thrilled for the wonderful activities you have planned with them :).


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