How to Paint With Matches and Toothpicks


You can paint pictures with just about anything. The tools you use to apply paint will affect the thickness and texture of your strokes. Many artists are becoming interested in painting miniature pictures, and matchsticks and toothpicks are two of the most popular painting implements for painting in that scale. These implements can be used to produce tiny, highly textured paint strokes. They are also easy to use, once you learn how.

Things You'll Need

  • Oil or watercolor paints
  • Box of loose matches
  • Box of toothpicks
  • Thick art stock paper
  • Plastic wrap or an easel
  • Cup of water
  • Paper plate
  • Cotton balls
  • Paper towels
  • Set all of your art supplies out on a table.

  • If you are painting on a flat surface, lay a layer of plastic wrap on the surface and place the art stock paper on top of it; the plastic will keep the paint from bleeding through to the surface of the table. You can use any kind of plastic for this. If you're using an easel, place the art stock directly on the easel.

  • If you're using watercolors, dip a toothpick into the cup of water and then rub it into the watercolor you want to use on the painting. The tip of the toothpick should be saturated with color. Carefully draw the outline of your painting with the toothpick. If you're using oil paints, squeeze blobs of the paints out onto the paper plate, dip the toothpick into the color of your choice, and draw the outline of your painting on the paper with the tip of the toothpick.

  • Use the toothpick to draw in details and outlines of all parts of your painting that need thin, fine lines. Use a different toothpick each time you change colors.

  • Dip the tips of matchsticks into your paints and use them to fill in color where it is needed on your painting. Use a different match each time you change colors.

  • Allow your painting to dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't try to paint a large painting with matches and toothpicks. You won't be able to get enough paint on the paper with these instruments. Instead, focus on miniature paintings.
  • Older children, such as kindergarten age and above, can paint with toothpicks and matches under close supervision.
  • Keep paints, matches and toothpicks away from small children and animals. They can hurt themselves with toothpicks, and oil paint can be toxic if they ingest it or get it in their eyes.
  • Throw matches and toothpicks away as soon as you're done painting. Also, throw away the paper plate you put the paints on, and clean the cup you used for water colors. Keep this trash out of the reach of children and animals until you bag it up and put it out.

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  • Photo Credit matchsticks image by Christopher Hall from
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