Plant Paint

Our Plant Paint workshop was a hit at Family Art, as it’s an engaging way for kids to be creative and learn about plants and chemistry - have a go at home! 

For this activity we will concoct homemade paint from vegetables, fruit, spices or garden plants and use them to paint a picture of one of your dreams. 

You will need:

Colourful foods or plants, some good ideas are beetroot, kale, citrus skins, tea / coffee,   turmeric / paprika

Baking soda + vinegar

Vegetable grater or electric blender

Mortar + pestle

Stirring sticks & teaspoons


Watercolour paper

Glue to thicken - Optional

For this activity we were inspired by two recent exhibiting artists, Candice Lin (Pigs and Poison, 2020) and Salome Tanuvasa (Stars start falling, 2021)

Artist Candice Lin is interested in the history of people and plants. Especially plants such as indigo, sugarcane and tobacco which have a history of trade and slavery. She experiments with these plants in her art, using them as medicines as well as paint.
An example of her work using these techniques is pictured (left).
Caption: Candice Lin, Papaver somniferum (Death Centaur), 2020, courtesy the artist. Image: Sam Hartnett.

Artist Salome Tanuvasa's work crosses a variety of mediums but for Stars start falling she explored large scale gestural painting. Her work is about her immediate surroundings and often reflects the environments she is in at that time.
An example of her work using these techniques is pictured (right).
Caption: Stars start falling, installation view, 2021, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. Image: Sam Hartnett

Step 1

Please be careful when using the vegetable grater, perhaps get an adult to do that part for you.

Also, lets use the scrap parts of the food for this activity and keep eat the best parts for lunch!

Kale: (the darkest green in my garden) ­you could also use spinach, dandelion or herb leaves.
Rip into small pieces then grind in a mortar and pestle, electric blender or spice grinder.

Grapefruit: Finely grate citrus skins add drops of water then squish, use a pinch of turmeric for bright yellow or paprika for orange.

Step 2

Beetroot: Finely grate and mix with a teaspoon of water, divide the beetroot into 3 portions then change the colour of the paint using kitchen chemistry.

Keep one measure of beetroot mixture plain

Add a teaspoon white vinegar (an acid) into one (makes a brighter red )

Add half a teaspoon of baking soda (a base) into another (makes blue, purple or grey hues)

Step 3

Add in small amounts of kid friendly glue to thicken the paint if desired.

Step 4

Test little patches of each paint on heavy paper or card, label each patch.

Step 5

Get painting!

Need an idea about what to paint?

Do you remember your dreams?

Use your homemade colours to paint a picture of what happened in your dream.

What else could we try?

Find out about native plants that can be used as medicines? Try making some kawakawa tea.

Try other types of paint such as watercolour, oil paints or tempera or try painting with mud or runny clay.

Research how are other paints or dyes traditionally made?  

Research colour, what else can colour in paint be made from? 

All Done!

How did your artwork turn out? We would love to see your creation!

Share it with us, take a photo and share it on Instagram with the hashtag #GBCreate or email it to us: and we can share it for you.⁠⠀⁠⠀