Ways to Color Cotton Balls for Crafts

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Cotton balls are among the least expensive and safest craft materials you can find, but plain white fluff balls may be a little boring. Colored cotton balls aren’t easy to find, but there are several ways you can color these medicine cabinet staples and transform them into art.

Related: Kids Activities Blog: 13 Crazy Cotton Ball Crafts and Activities for Kids

Markers and Highlighters

Things You'll Need

  • Cotton balls
  • Clothespin
  • Markers
  • Paper towels

The quickest way to color cotton balls is to draw on them with non-washable markers, covering the surface with color or leaving white streaks between coloring lines. Washable markers or highlighters also work, but the ink may run when you apply glue to the cotton. To help hands stay cleaner, clamp the edge of the ball in a clothespin and let your little artist hold on to that convenient handle. Place the colored balls on paper towels to dry.

Related: At Home With Gina C: Cotton Ball Chicks

Food Dye and Your Dryer

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Vinegar
  • Paper towels
  • Clothes dryer

For best results, make sure your cotton balls are really made of cotton, as the synthetic type may not absorb the coloring as well. Mix water, food coloring and a little vinegar together, just as if you were preparing to dye Easter eggs. Dip the cotton balls in the colored water and then lay them out on paper towels for a few minutes. Finally, pop them into your clothes dryer, set the heat to low or medium. If needed, pull the dried cotton balls slightly to “refluff” them. To make it easier to get them out of the dryer, tie a single layer of cotton balls in the leg of an old pair of panty hose. Rubbing alcohol in place of vinegar also sets the color, but don't put cotton dyed with rubbing alcohol in your dryer.

Related: Seven Sisters: Mama and Baby Chick Craft and How to Dye a Cotton Ball

Acrylics or Temperas

Things You'll Need

  • Acrylic or tempera paint
  • Paint brush
  • Acrylic spray sealer

You also can construct your project, and then just paint over the cotton balls. This works especially well if you are only adding colored highlights to the project rather than painting the whole piece, but you can paint as much as you like. Water-based paints, like acrylics or temperas, work best for this method, and a quick spritz of acrylic craft sealer helps the cotton balls maintain their vivid look.

Related: The Pleasantest Thing: Paper Plate Bunny Craft

Paint Powders: A Dry Approach

Things You'll Need

  • Dry tempera paint
  • Resealable plastic bag

If you don’t mind a little dust, you can also use powdered tempera paints without mixing them first. Pour a small amount of paint powder into a zippered plastic bag, drop in a few cotton balls and seal the bag. Let your budding artist shake the bag until the cotton is evenly colored. Shake the balls slightly as you remove them from the bag, or use a small sieve to sift them to remove excess paint.

Related: Abilene Pulbic Library: Eggs

Bake Cotton Balls to Fool the Eye

Things You'll Need

  • Flour
  • Water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Baking sheet
  • Acrylic or spray paint (optional)

Add “rocks” to dioramas or other craft projects with cotton balls coated with a flour-water mixture and bake. You can add food coloring to the mixture, or you can paint the cotton balls after baking. Along with their crafting possibilities, these make an unusual addition to a sensory play station, as children explore the textures, feel the unexpected lightness of the balls or break them open for the crunch sound and the softness inside.

Related: Play Create Explore: Baked Cotton Balls

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not put cotton balls in your clothes dryer if you've used rubbing alcohol as a fixative, as the fumes can ignite.

References

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