Toddler-Friendly Salt Effect Watercolor Cards

Learn how to make these beautiful watercolor cards -- they're simple enough that a toddler can do them. I LOVE these! :)

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I LOVE these cards. Last year I discovered salt effect watercolor cards but for some reason I never got around to making a tutorial. Maybe I thought it was too easy? (Or most likely, I just forgot about it.) Whatever the reason, I thought it would be fun to share this project for the last week of our #30DayMailboxLove challenge. It’s simple enough to involve a small kiddo and it’s definitely a win if you try it out yourself. No painting or arteest skills required!

For the cards pictured, I used acrylic paints and watered them down. This made incredibly bright and vibrant colors. I love to water down acrylics (and other paints) to get a watercolor-like effect. If you’re just getting started with painting, make sure that you choose two colors that compliment each other. In other words, choose reds and purples OR blues and greens. Otherwise you’ll get a muddy painting. (Here’s a quick explanation of basic color theory, if you’d like to learn more.)

You can also use rice or other grains to create texture and pattern in the paint. I used Kosher salt but let your imagination run wild with this. It’s always a bit of surprise as to what you’ll get in the end, and that’s what makes this project so fail-proof.

How to Make Salt-Effect Watercolor Cards

You will need:

Acrylic paints in two colors (or watercolors)
Tray or cups to mix paint in
Music to paint to
Kosher salt (or rice and other grains)
Watercolor paper
Xacto knife or scissors
Glue or adhesive to affix design to card

We have a couple of white metal trays that we use for mixing paint. You can use what you have on hand. Mix your paint so it is very fluid. If you’re painting with a toddler, make sure they have a paint shirt on and that the area is conducive to them being able to paint. (In other words, have some wipes nearby, think through where you’ll place the paint and water so they don’t accidentally knock things down, etc.; I mention this but fully realize that if you’re a mom you already know this. ;))

Okay, now it’s time to play! Turn on the music.  Dip the paintbrush into the paint and paint the paper to the beat. Swish, splash, swish! Add lots of color and watch it pool and swirl and blend around the paper. Beautiful! Have fun with this—you CANNOT make a mistake.

When you feel you’ve added enough paint (or your toddler has just handed you their paintbrush to go jump on their bed), sprinkle the Kosher salt over the painting. You don’t have to cover the entire painting, just put some here and there. I’ve found that the salt works better if you allow the paint to start to dry (aka, no puddles) and then add the salt. Don’t wait until the paint is completely dry, though, because the salt will happily flow right off the paper and you’ll miss your chance.

Wait for the painting to dry, then brush the salt off into the trash. You’ll see a lot of interesting rivets and tiny impressions left over from the salt. Note too that you don’t have to cover the entire paper with paint; in our case, the white spaces were just as interesting as the painted pieces.

Learn how to make these beautiful watercolor cards -- they're simple enough that a toddler can do them. I LOVE these! :)

Depending on the size of the watercolor paper you used, you can simply fold the paper in half for your card or you can cut out squares like I did in the image above and affix them to a plain piece of watercolor paper.

By the way, these swatches of color make beautiful additions to art journals and scrapbooks too.

Have you ever used salt in your watercolor paintings?

4 thoughts on “Toddler-Friendly Salt Effect Watercolor Cards

  1. Yes! I have used salt! This is a technique that my art teacher taught me, and I don’t use it very often, but IS fun. I’ve never tried watering down acrylics, but I’d like to try now! (I know you’ve mentioned before that you do that, but for some reason, I want to try it just now!) This is such a fun tutorial, Jennie!

    1. You should try it! Acrylics obviously have slightly different properties (than watercolors) but I like how bold they are and well, it’s just plain fun to experiment with them. 🙂 Have a great day, Maggie!

      1. After reading this, and seeing the beautiful sky yesterday, I had this really cool idea for a card (or just a picture) involving acrylics and watercolors. I have yet to put it to action, but I’m excited about it!

        1. Ooooh, do it! And send me pictures! Well, you don’t HAVE to send me pictures, but I’m sure it will be gorgeous. 🙂

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