If you also bought a pack of "Texas Snowflakes" coffee filters and are wondering what to do with them, I have news for you. I am in the same boat. Luckily for the both of us, this coffee filter watercolor art project is an easy and colorful way to encourage kids to explore the artistic process and science concepts for STEAM education!
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How to Make Watercolor Art with Giant Coffee Filters
This project is so easy and a fun way to spend an afternoon when you need a screen-free activity idea.
Coffee filters. We used giant coffee filters, also known as "Texas Snowflakes." When something is giant, kids always think it's cool.
Liquid watercolors. We used Colorations brand liquid watercolors.
Small containers. These will hold the watercolors. Baby food jars are a good size, or use small cups or yogurt containers.
Pipettes. You can supply your child with a bunch of pipettes for each color. Or, if you have an old, clean, eye dropper from medicine bottle, that will also work.
Paint brushes. We like having a variety of cheap paint brushes like these on hand during art sessions. They don't have to be particularly good quality for this particular art project. Learn about our favorite art supplies.
Waterproof mat. This is to project your work surface. We have a cheap shower curtain that we cut up into smaller pieces and attach to the table with extra large binder clips.
Optional: sponge tip paint dabbers. We filled these with the watercolors for a different painting experience.
Optional: Other crafting supplies like glitter, stickers, markers, etc. We also added rock salt for an interesting effect.
Fortunately, the instructions are very simple and since this is a process art project it requires very little supervision, except to ensure your child does fling liquid watercolors all over the wall. Although, if you take it outside, that's not even an issue!
First, cover your work surface and decant a small amount liquid watercolors into separate cups.
Provide your young artists with several large coffee filters, pipettes and brushes. You may need to demonstrate how to use the pipette.
Next, allow your child to explore what happens when they add the liquid watercolors to the coffee filters.
Optional: kids can decorate their Texas Snowflake designs with other craft materials, if desired. Because my child enjoyed the watercolor and salt art project so much, I brought out some of the rock salt we used so he could add it to his designs.
Finally, allow the art to dry completely.
Science and Art (STEAM)
You may not realize it at first, but this watercolor and coffee filter art project is also a way to observe the intersection between science and art and design, one of the key components of a STEAM-based education.
First they are learning about absorption! The dry coffee filters absorb the wet paint.
Second, after dropping the watercolors onto the filter, young artists are observing the rapid diffusion of the paint as the filter absorbs it. If you also use salt, it adds another type of absorption effect to observe.
Third, they are exploring the science of color mixing! As the coffee filters absorb and diffuse different colors into its weave, colors mix to form new colors.
Fancy that: all three scientific concepts interact!
Just as it did in this painting with magnets art project, we love when science and art come together. You and your kids can find more creative and unique STEAM projects in our STEAM Kids activity book, like color changing play Dough, candy mazes, and circuit cards.
Idea originally published 2009, updated 2023