Vibrant Paper Towel Art for Toddlers Thru Tweens

Paper Towel Art – an easy art project and a lesson in water absorption!  

This is actually a great way to test your markers to find out which ones are good, and which ones have dried up. With the good markers, you can create a rockin’ piece of art like the ones we made today.  It’s one of my favourite, easy art techniques for kids.

For young children, this process is great for developing fine-motor skills, learning about water absorption and colour blending. Older kids will find the process rather mesmerizing, and they’ll think the results are pretty rad.

Note: Whatever you do, when you’re testing your markers, do NOT throw out the ones that have dried up!  They’re totally valuable!  You can turn them into homemade liquid watercolours for your kids to paint with, and use for other projects.

paper towel art - happy hooligans


Now, I’m not exactly sure what we’re going to make with these colourful paper towel creations that we made today, but I’m sure we’ll work them into a craft of some kind, and when we do, I’ll share it with you.

For now, here’s how your hooligans can make some some paper towel art of their own at home or in the classroom.

Supplies for making your one-of-a-kind paper towel art:


supplies for making marker and paper towel art

  • washable markers (not permanent markers – the ink needs to bleed when wet)
  • paper towel
  • paintbrushes (or a cup of water and a medicine dropper).
  • water

How to dye paper towels with markers and water:

colouring paper towels with markers

Have your child scribble all over a piece of paper towel, filling in as much white space as possible.

An older child can do this on his own, but a younger one may be overwhelmed at the prospect of covering the entire paper towel, so you may want to work together for this part.

paper towel covered in marker scribbles

Work on a hard surface…

Once you’ve finished filling in your paper towel, place it on a hard, non-absorbent surface.

You don’t want anything soft and absorbent under your paper towel because it will wick the colour out of your work. A plastic tray or a cookie sheet would work well.  We worked on the hard, veneer surface of our craft table.

Just add water…

Now, have your child wet the paper towel by either brushing water onto it with a paintbrush, or by dripping water all over it with an eye dropper.

brushing water on to a marker-covered paper towel

This part of the process is a great lesson in water absorption.  The hooligans watched the colours bleed and blend as the paper towel absorbed the water. Their art work was instantly transformed right before their eyes.

paper towel art

marker ink bleeds together on paper towel

Drying your art:

Dry your paper towel somewhere that the air can get under it and all around it.  I hung some of ours on the clothesline, but  I also put a couple on a cookie sheet so the would dry from underneath.  Just be sure to lay it on a surface that will A) not absorb the colour or B) not stain!

paper towel art drying on clothesline

Our colours faded a little as they dried, but our art was still very pretty.

To finish, just for fun, we tore our paper towels into long strips and small pieces.  More fine-motor development. :)

paper towel art torn into small pieces

Now I just have to figure out what we’re doing with it!  Got any suggestions?

For more easy and affordable art ideas for kids, check out our:

Homemade Water Colour Paints

Homemade Puffy Paint

Crayon Resist Painting

Art with Melted Crayons

Art with Glue, Salt and Water Colours

Smoosh Art Painting 

Tape Resist Painting


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  1. sharon says

    I love how colourful they are! I would modpodge them to a small canvas. You could leave them like that or write something on it like their name or a verse or poem.

  2. Shelli says

    The torn art reminds me of Christmas for some reason. What if they made gingerbread house or candy collages? Or even filled plastic Christmas ornaments with the scraps and some beads or sequins?

  3. says

    When we did this we did we first drew on a piece of copy paper then put paper towel on top scribbled and used the water …then we ended up with two unique pieces of artwork. As we’re doing a spring wall we turned the paper towel into peg butterflies (aus)

  4. Kathrin says

    Great idea eill try this this afternoon. Here is my suggestion for what to do now with it. sticky paper cut out leave shapes stick it sticky side or on the Window let the kids stock the shrets to the leaves cover with another layer of sticky paper makes nice suncatchers.
    Love from Austria

    • sue martin says

      I love lots of your ideas. Thanks. I’m just not sure that calling the children hooligans is respectful. ..I do appreciate is meant in fun. .. and probably not to their faces.

      • happyhooligans says

        Haha, the hooligans don’t even know that I refer to them as that, Sue. I never even use the term when talking about them other than on my blog. It was just a fun name to call my website, and a great substitute for having to use the words “kids” or “children” or their names, when writing about our activities. Thanks for your thoughts. :)

    • Barbara says

      Don’t throw away worn out markers–put them into a baby food jar with a little water and they make beautiful water colors before too long!

      • happyhooligans says

        Oh, don’t you worry, Barbara, we’ve done it! It’s fabulous, and I’ll be blogging about it soon!

  5. Cindy says

    I can picture them being Mod Podged over a bowl shape to make a bowl or over a jar for a flower vase as a gift…. Love the colors…..

  6. says

    what a simple and beautiful craft! In my Kindergarten class we made something similar with coffee filters and shaped into flowers with pipe cleaner stems for Mother’s Day. But your ripped pieces … hmmm … will take some creative thought – I bet your little hooligans would come up with a great idea!

  7. says

    Your paper towel art turned out so pretty!!! I will be sharing it with my readers over the weekend!

    Thanks for linking up to TGIF! Hope to see you linked up again later today,
    Beth =)

  8. says

    They look so great! We did an absorption activity with coloured water on paper towels once and the results were so pretty my daughter would have used a whole roll had I let her as she just wanted to keep making more and more! Thanks for sharing on Tuesday Tots. Just letting you know that I’m featuring it this week :)

  9. Natalie says

    Lovely idea! Has anyone suggested confetti? Unfortunately I would need to gatecrash a wedding to use it at the moment!!

  10. Shelly says

    First thing that came to mind…wrapping paper! How great to wrap presents for our friends and loved ones with our kids art!!!

  11. says

    We love this kind of art! Sometimes we use the results in our art journals, or I scan or photo them and use them to make blog buttons – like you I used one for my most recent post. (Kinda wishing I hadn’t thrown away a bunch of old washable markers yesterday in a decluttering session, now!)

    • happyhooligans says

      I never thought to photograph the paper and use it as a backdrop, Lula! That’s brilliant! (and I know what you mean about decluttering – I was doing the same here yesterday!)

  12. Linda says

    I would use it in a photo frame with a smaller photo on it so there is a colourful background. I am going to do this with my Dayhome. Thank you excellent craft for little ones :-)

  13. Leona says

    This is great. I’ve just done it with my 3 year old daughter and we’re going to use pipe cleaners to turn them into butterflies :)

  14. Lee Murray says

    Take an outline picture (like a coloring page) and then have them make a collage with it outline in marker…

  15. says

    I didn’t read every suggestion, so forgive me if I’m repeating something someone has already said, but, you could set them hard with pva glue, flat in a plastic tray. Then once set, cut them into shapes, love hearts or whatever and string them together. Hang them by a window and I’m sure they’d make lovely light catchers. :)

  16. Karen says

    i didn’t read previous posts, but I was thinking paper mach…but placing mix first and just laying these over top of it….you could make a beautiful piata!

  17. Tryhonesty74 says

    I used to work in a petstore years ago. When i got bored I would take the paper towels and wrap them up, much like you would a shirt your tyedyeing, and dip them in puddles of water with marker ink in them and tye dye them like this, then write notes to my coworkers on them when they dried.

  18. Tineta Ellis says

    Sorry for my ignorance, but what is Modge Podge? Sounds fascinating if it’s a way to transfer things onto canvas. Tineta

    • happyhooligans says

      It’s a clear sealer, Tineta that also acts like an adhesive. It’s similar to white glue thinned with a bit of water.

  19. Tineta Ellis says

    Many thanks. Does anyone know an easy way to transfer outlines directly onto a canvas other than using an overhead projector and tracing? I got some fabulous marbling results using paper towelling and fluoro acrylic paints diluted to run nicely , also food colouring.

  20. Cris says

    Use the untorn paper towels to make giant “kleenix carnations”. It’s an old craft we did with the colored kleenix available in the 1960’s for cheap decorations : fan-fold the paper towel. tighten a pipe cleaner around the middle of the folded paper towel. Tear a narrow strip off each outer end of the folded paper towel. That makes the edges of the “carnation petals”. Carefully fluff out the fan layers into a half-ball, lightly stroking upward from the pipe cleaner “stem” to get a realistic shape.

  21. Monique Adams says

    we do this activity with coffee filters…..scribble ( or “design”) all over the coffee filter. Place it in a salad spinner ( you know, the ones you wash and dry your lettuce in). Spray with water and SPIN the heck out of the thing!. The colors all blend together and kids LOVE to spin that salad spinner. We made butterflies out of ours: Use two DRIED coffee filters and pinch both in the center. Twist a pipecleaner around and form the ends into antenna. We have made hundreds of these :)

  22. Jess says

    Not sure if this has been said in the comments yet.

    We do crayons markers on coffee filters, spray water with a spray bottle and when they dry fold them up and cut. Make them into snowflakes. :)

  23. Erin says

    As far as what to do with them, those pretty strips would make lovely Easter basket filler, or wrapping material inside a gift bag!

  24. K Wendt says

    You could put the ton up pieces in a clear sandwich Baggie and make butterflies out of them by using pipe cleaners.

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