How to Make a Spice Painting

Turn old spices and seasoning into a fun, low-cost DIY project.

Close up image of spices and seasonings against blue background

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Spice painting is a creative and zero-waste way to use expired spices and seasoning as a crafting project for the whole family. This low-cost DIY craft requires few materials and is a great option for sensory play. In a matter of minutes, past due spices can be transformed into an artist's palette, full of scents, textures, and colors that stimulate all the senses.

Children will especially love this creative way of learning the names of edible herbs, flowers, and plants and their uses in cooking and baking. When possible, choose eco-friendly crafting supplies that are chemical-free and compostable.

How to Paint With Spices and Seasoning

Spice painting doesn't require many supplies, which makes it an ideal project to do with children or beginner crafters. You'll need:

  • Spices and seasonings
  • A binding agent
  • Basic art supplies: containers for mixing, paint brushes, paper

Step One: Choose Your Spices and Seasonings

Use whatever you have available that might otherwise be destined for the trash can. Every kind of spice brings its own unique color, texture, and scent to the craft. The following list can give you an idea of the colors you can accomplish using different spices and seasonings.

Spice Paint Colors

  • Red: sumac, cayenne pepper, chili powder, paprika
  • Yellow: curry creates a vibrant yellow
  • Light yellow: ginger
  • Orange: turmeric
  • Light brown: cinnamon, ground allspice, nutmeg
  • White: onion powder, garlic powder
  • Dark brown: cocoa, vanilla paste
  • Purple: beet powder
  • Green: parsley, cilantro, rosemary
  • Black: black pepper, black cumin

Step Two: Choose a Binder

The spices will need a binder, or base, in order to make them suitable for painting. Different materials will provide a different thickness and intensity of color. Poster paint, nontoxic glue, and water can all be used.

Step Three: Mix the Paint

In separate containers, add a tablespoon or two of your binder and one spice or seasoning, a little at a time. The amount of spice will depend on the intensity of the color you want to achieve. Stir the mixture until it's completely blended, but keep in mind that some herbs and ground spices will look speckled or won't get completely smooth. Let the mixture sit for a bit; the longer you let it rest, the deeper the final color and the thicker the paint will be.

Step Four: Gather Your Art Supplies and Paint

You’ll need paintbrushes and something to paint on. Whether you choose a fancy sketchbook or single sheets of construction paper, have fun and experiment. Anything that can be recycled or tossed in the compost bin later is an added bonus. You can also try painting on unique pieces of wood or canvas.

Paintbrushes in different sizes and shapes will allow for more creative options. Other household items like sponges or cotton balls can be used for stamping, dabbing, and smearing techniques. Or skip the tools altogether and get messy with a little finger paint!

Tips and Safety

Spices used for cooking and baking are all edible and nontoxic, but they could make you sick if ingested in large quantities, so be especially careful when painting with children. It's also possible that some people may be allergic to certain seasonings when used in this way. Oregano, thyme, coriander, caraway seed, cumin, and cayenne pepper are the spices most often linked to allergic reactions, according to the American Academy of Asthma and Immunology.

Most of the paints will wash out easily with soap and water, but some spices, like turmeric, can stain fingers and clothing. Be prepared with a table covering, apron, or gloves if handling those spices in particular.

Try your paint on various fabrics and materials or toss in dried flowers, small sticks, or pebbles for a 3-D design. Mix up your media and layer the spice paints with colored pencils, crayons, acrylic paint, or markers. Get creative with collages, cutouts, or stencils.

The beauty of using spices in an art project is that you can be as creative as you wish. In fact, you don't have to stop at painting. Enhance your masterpieces by mixing the paints into homemade play dough or experimenting with other natural pigments made from organic matter. Once you're through, cleanup is fast and simple, and your nontoxic, biodegradable materials can be composted.