Art Materials,  Materials & Techniques,  Nature

Watercolour Spray Inks

Ever since I first heard about watercolour sprays, I’ve been wanting to try them out. The ones you can buy ready-made are I discovered quite expensive, so I decided to create my own using the new powdered water-colour inks I’ve recently treated myself to. That way I can control the dilution I want, mix the colours, and be much more extravagant with them as they are so economical to use. So, I mixed up my inks, and bought some travel sized spray bottles to put them in. There are quite a lot of  posts around the internet at the moment for using spray paints with kids, more particularly using trigger sprays outdoors. This looks like great fun, but with the small sprays we were using you can use them with kids quite safely indoors, as long as you take reasonable precautions!


This activity was quite a hit with my boys – they couldn’t wait to get stuck in, and even now, every time my 4 year old sees me using them, he wants to join in too. He sometimes struggled with the sprays since they’re not the trigger kind, but he managed most of the time, and I was able to give him help when needed. Again, we used heavy watercolour paper for this, which absorbs the ink so much better, and had lots of paper towels and newspaper to hand, because we were often swimming with pools of ink. As the pools developed, we tipped the paper so that the colour ran, creating new effects. We also used a spray of plain water, just to encourage the ink to run or bleed into the next colour, or even just to make a lovely speckled pattern (wait for the paper to dry a little so that it is no longer shiny, but still damp if you want to retain this ‘rainfall’ effect).

If you have the patience for it, you can get beautiful subtle layered effects by letting one colour of spray dry before adding the next. A more mottled  effect is created if you continue spraying so that some of the tiny droplets merge to create bigger droplets.  We also experimented with masks, stencils and resists to create patterns. Drawing  with a wax candle (or wax crayon if you want colour) was effective, as was spraying through paper doilies and lace. We also went outside to fetch leaves from the garden to mask the paper. The ghostly effect achieved is rather like that you find with sunprints, only you don’t have to wait for the sun (which has been in rather short supply here this summer). Alternatively you can create your own stencils and masks from household objects, or paper cut outs.


By the time we’d finished we had a whole stack of beautifully decorated fragments of paper. So, what to do with it all?

I discovered that by tearing the thick paper, you could get a lovely decorative white edge (remember you have to tear the strip you are removing towards you, if you want to retain a white edge). Punching a hole at one end, and threading a ribbon through it, created beautiful gift tags with a real luxury feel. You could also use strips to create book marks in the same way, mount them onto plain card to create a greetings card, or even as use  fragments as a background for beautiful unique, one-of-a-kind business cards. The surface is ideal for writing on, and if I was able to do calligraphy or had beautiful handwriting I would personally like to use them that way. But I don’t, so maybe I’ll experiment with stamping them instead! Whatever you use them for, the results are much too beautiful to throw away!