Paper Towel Art with Markers and Water (and a lesson in water absorption)

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

Originally, I’d planned to do this process with coffee filters and markers.  Then I remembered the  paper towel butterflies that we made using watercolour paint and paper towels, and I decided to save the coffee filters for another project.  I’m happy to say that for this project, paper towels were the perfect choice!  The results were just gorgeous.

paper towel art - happy hooligans


I’m not exactly sure what we’re going to use our colourful creations for, 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 create some paper towel art of their own.

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:

This is actually a great way to test your markers and find out which ones are good, and which ones have dried up.

Whatever you do, do NOT throw out your dried up markers!  Have a look at how we turn our old markers into the most vibrant homemade liquid watercolour paint you’ve ever seen!

colouring paper towels with markers

Simply scribble all over your paper towel, filling it up as much 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

Once you’ve finished filling in your paper towel, lay it out on a hard surface.  Don’t put anything absorbent, such as a towel or even paper underneath, as it will pull some of the colour from the paper towel.  A plastic tray or a cookie sheet would work well.  We worked on the plastic-y/veneer surface of our second hand coffee-table/craft table.

Now, have your child wet the paper towel by either brushing water onto it with a paintbrush, or by dropping 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 art did fade a little as it dried, but it was still very pretty.

To finish, we tore our paper towels into long strips and smaller pieces.

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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Yours in play, Jackie from Happy Hooligans

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