Homemade Liquid Watercolour Paint – how to make paint with dried out markers

We’ve recently discovered the joys of Liquid Watercolour Paint here in my daycare, and while I absolutely love ours for their vibrant colour and versatility, they can be expensive to buy.  

For years, I’ve heard that you can use dried out markers to make your own liquid watercolor paints. I’ve made my own solid watercolour paints for years, and we love those, so I figured it was time for us to make liquid watercolours too.

homemade liquid watercolor paint for kids - happy hooligans

These liquid watercolours turned out SO well! Can you believe these paints were made with a few old markers and some water?

Vibrant stripes painted with Homemade Liquid Watercolors

Want to know how we did it?

A little extra effort goes a long way…

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Being a little spoiled by the intensity of our  store-bought Liquid Watercolor Paint , I wanted our homemade watercolours to be really rich too, so I took things to the extreme.  You don’t have to put quite as much effort into making your paints, but I feel that it really paid off.  It’s the reason our paints are so vibrant.

painting with homemade liquid watercolours

In these pictures, the outlining was done in crayon.  All other colour is the liquid watercolors.

What you’ll need to make your liquid watercolours.

supplies for making liquid watercolors with old markers

  • dried out markers
  • water
  • glass jars with lids (large baby food jars or small mason jars are great)

and if you’re putting in the extra effort: 

  • small bowl
  • fork
  • scissors or pliers

How to turn your dried up markers into vibrant homemade Liquid Watercolour paint!

After testing our markers and setting the good ones aside, the hooligans sorted the dry markers into groups of similar colours.  We ended up with 6 piles:

  1. red/pink/burgundy
  2. orange/yellow/peach
  3. green/teal
  4. blue/turqoise
  5. purple/lavendar
  6. brown/black/grey

I set out six glass jars, and the four year old poured a bit of water into each jar.

Pouring water into our jars to make our homemade liquid watercolour paints.


Next, the hooligans dropped the markers in to the water.

markers and water turning into liquid watercolor paints

Immediately, colour started to leach out into the water.  We shook and stirred our jars a bit to observe the changes in the water, and then I set the jars on a window sill, and we left them for a full week.  

jars holding water and dried out markers

What if some of the water evaporates?

It’s gonna happen.  Don’t sweat it!  Some water will evaporate, but your pigment won’t.  Your colours will simply become more concentrated, and that’s a good thing.  Our water became so dark as the days passed.  Turns out there was quite a bit of ink left in those markers after all!

At this point, if you want, you can call it a day, and use your paint as is.  I wasn’t about to stop here though; I wanted to get every last bit of ink out of those markers!

To make our watercolors even more intense:

*This next bit can get a little messy, so place everything in the sink work in the sink or on top of an old towel.

With a pair of pliers, I pulled the ends off the markers and removed the coloured inserts.  Some of the inserts slipped out easily when I tipped the marker upside down, but others weren’t so co-operative, so I used the pliers to crack the plastic casing, and tug the insert out.

Then I snipped up the sponge inserts, and put them in a bowl with a bit of water.

Marker inserts chopped up in a bowl with a bit of water.

With my fork, I squished and squeezed those insert pieces until I felt I’d extracted all the colour I could, and I poured it into the matching jar.

And this was the result of my efforts:

Colours so intense, I have to hold some of them up to the light to tell them apart!

homemade liquid watercolor paints in baby food jars


How to use your liquid watercolor paints:

You can use your paints full strength, or you can pour a small amount into an ice cube tray, and add a few drops of water to dilute them.  That’s what I do for the hooligans.  The ones you see below have been diluted .

tray of homemade liquid watercolor paints

Preserving your leftover paint:

If, at the end of their painting session, you kids have paint left in the tray DON’T throw it out!  Leave the tray out in the open, and let the liquid evaporate.  The pigment will dry in the bottom of the tray. When you’re ready to paint again, simply add a few drops  of water, and stir to re-constitute your paint!

Store your paints in tightly sealed jars.

painting done with homemade liquid watercolor paints

Stay tuned in the days to come because I’ll be sharing the watercolour projects that kids make with their homemade  paints!

For more easy, homemade paint recipes, check out our:

Homemade Watercolour Paint Pucks

3-ingredient Puffy Paint

Homemade Sidewalk Chalk

Shaving Cream Paint


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