How to Paint With Tea and Coffee

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Coffee is a versatile pigment for painting.
Coffee is a versatile pigment for painting. (Image: cup of coffee in coffee beans image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com)

Tea and coffee are natural pigments that can be used to stain paper and some material to create different effects. Using watered-down tea and coffee to make a simple paint/stain can create paintings that play with light and dark shading. You can experiment with fruit teas, as well as the usual black tea, to obtain different colors. Red-colored fruit teas such as strawberry and raspberry make successful pigments.

Things You'll Need

  • Tea bag
  • Instant coffee granules
  • Hot water
  • 2 cups
  • Watercolor paint palette
  • 2 or more paint brushes, size 6 or above
  • Watercolor paper
  • Pencil

Put a tea bag in a cup and pour hot water over so that it just covers the tea bag. This releases the pigment into the water to make a darker paint. Squeeze the tea bag and pour a small amount of the tea water into a section of your palette. Add double the amount of water to the same cup, stir the tea bag then pour some of the mixture into another section of the palette. This will be a lighter shade. Repeat these steps a couple more times, increasing the water each time to weaken the pigment. This will give you a range of shades to paint with.

Fill a cup halfway with hot water. Stir in a small amount of coffee granules and pour a small amount into a section of the palette. Use instant coffee, as ground coffee will not properly disintegrate into the water. This will make a light coffee pigment to work with. Add a few more granules to the cup and pour more of the water into another section of the palette, making a darker pigment. Keep adding granules to the cup of water and pouring the results into the palette to get even darker pigments.

Go through each pigment in your palette and paint a sample line on a scrap piece of watercolor paper to show the depth of color for each.

Lightly sketch the scene you wish to paint on the watercolor paper using the pencil.

Begin painting the scene with the pigments in the same manner that you would a normal painting. Concentrate on the different shades to create contrasts in the painting. Use the sample lines as a reference guide for pigment strength. Use a different brush for the tea and the coffee to avoid mixing. Apply standard watercolor techniques like lifting, scrubbing, blotting and painting a controlled wash using the bead.

Tips & Warnings

  • Regularly wash the brushes in fresh water and dry them to maintain the pigments’ strengths.
  • You can use larger receptacles than a watercolor palette to store the paints in for pictures requiring a lot of tea/coffee paint.
  • Try adding flour to the water to create a thicker paste for painting.
  • While watercolor paper is preferable, other types of paper such as construction, inkjet or card stock can also be used.

References

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