One of the most popular posts here on Babble Dabble Do has been Milk Painting and I can see why, the process makes really wild and beautiful designs. When I originally brought milk painting to school as a science project my friend Theresa suggested dipping paper in the milk to see if we could transfer the design and preserve it. We tried with a few sheets of paper and it worked to some degree. Fast forward a year and I decided to finally figure out how to make Marbled Milk Paper; I think the results are stunning!
I experimented with a few techniques before deciding on the one that worked best for us and that I am sharing here. This technique is meant to compliment or be used as an add-on activity to Milk Painting. Read about the chemistry behind this experiment here on chemistry.com.
A word about using milk: A few folks have commented on their concern about using milk in what they deem a wasteful way. I look at this as an extension of the magic milk experiment and a way to get more out of the experiment than simply observing the chemical reaction and then throwing the milk out. I wouldn’t advocate this technique as a way to make a lot of marbled paper as it would be wasteful for that use alone. If you want to read about the debate of the use of food in children’s’ art and sensory play this is great article with points of view from both sides. If you would like to try this and don’t feel comfortable using food for experiments save this project for the next time you have milk that is past it’s expression date. Instead of tossing it, make art with it!
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Marbled Milk Paper
- Almond Milk preferred (Cow’s milk may be substituted)
- Watercolor Paper
- Dish soap
- Q-tips or toothpicks
- Food Coloring or Liquid Watercolors
- Eye Droppers (if using liquid watercolors)
- Tray/Shallow Dish
Please see the instructions for Milk Painting here. I recommend letting your kids try this experiment a number of times; they will love it, trust me.
When you are ready to make paper prints from your milk paintings alter the experiment as follows:
- Step One: Cut your watercolor paper to a size that easily fits within your tray. Place the stack of paper near your tray; once your start swirling the colors you will have to work quickly to get the best effects.
- Step Two: Pour roughly 3-4 tablespoons of almond milk into a tray; basically enough for a thin layer of milk that covers the bottom of your tray.
- Step Three: Add in drops of food coloring around the milk.
- Step Four: Add a couple dollops of dish soap around the tray. The soap and food coloring will now start interacting.
- Step Five: Using a q-tip or toothpick, begin swirling the colors.
- Step Six: Before the colors get too mixed together take one sheet of paper and lay it on top of the milk mixture. Press down. Gently lift it, set aside to dry, and continue with additional sheets.
- Step Seven: Let everything dry completely.
- We got the best results when we used almond milk as the base. We did also try cow’s milk and water, both work to some degree however the interaction of the fat in the milk and the soap/food coloring is what makes for the beautiful swirling effects; water tends to make the colors mix really quickly.
- Watercolor paper is preferred for this project because it absorbs the color well.
- If you don’t have watercolor paper on hand, card stock works. Standard printer paper doesn’t absorb the colors very well.
- You will probably only get 3-4 prints out of each swirled mix before it gets too muddy to use. No worries, just dump out the mixture and begin again!
- As a variation, don’t swirl the soap and food coloring but dip the paper in immediately after dropping in the soap. The process of dipping the paper will swirl the colors.
- As a variation, you place a drop of dish soap in each of the food coloring drops. The soap will soak into the paper and punch out the marbleizing effect.
- If your paper is warped after drying, you may place it between two sheets of paper and iron it to flatten it out again.
- Eye droppers are not necessary but when my kids see them they immediately grab one; it was a great way to entice them into “playing.”
- In case you are wondering, after drying for several days the paper doesn’t smell.
Just so you know the lengths I go to to make sure we have great projects here on Babble Dabble Do, here is a stack of the many experiments I did testing out this process and which method worked best!
I think the prints are lovely, don’t you? Once these are flattened out they would make great cards or even framed artwork! I love kids art projects that yield aesthetically pleasing results with minimal effort; they are great boons to young artist’s confidence!
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