Rainbow scratch painting

Do you remember having invisible pens? I was completely obsessed with them as a child. The markers that changed color when the “magic” marker drew over them were just that in my mind: magic! My parents would splurge on the books that came with a magic pen to discover secret answers and hidden messages when we went on an airplane — it was definitely the highlight of any trip. There’s still something so special about discovering more than meets the eye — a little secret just for you (scratch tickets hold the same irresistible appeal, I’m afraid!).

When Nathan was out of town this weekend, the rest of us took license to make a mess. This easy DIY scratch art can be done in stages or all at once and the results are magical. All of the kids loved it, and it was totally worth the clean up.


-Oil pastels
-Thick painting paper
-Black tempera paint (you could use acrylic, but seeing as it’s a messy project, I’d suggest paint that will wash out!)
-Paint brush
-Things to scratch with — toothpicks, cotton swabs, forks, spoons

1.  Cover your paper with oil pastels. It’s important to cover the whole sheet. I gave the older kids full sized sheets and cut them into quarters for the smaller ones. The best results came from the sheets that had lots of different colors!

If you don’t already have them, oil pastels are worth investing in. They aren’t too expensive, they’re easier than crayons for kids to use, and the colors are so intense!

2. Mix a few drops of dish soap into a pot of black paint. The soap makes it go on more evenly. I made a tape loop and attached the colored paper to metal pans. This actually kept the mess contained and gave each of the kids their own work space. You could also use cardboard or plastic place mats.

3. Cover the colored paper with black paint. The kids loved doing this — almost as much as they did scratching it off. The idea of covering up what they’d just worked to create with BLACK paint was completely irreverent and exciting.

4. When the whole page is covered, while the paint is still wet, start scratching it off! I put out toothpicks and cotton swabs to start. After ten minutes Ike ran over and got a spoon. We used the back to make a nice thick line. It was fun to think about the different tools we could use!

If you’re not happy with your art, just paint back over it with black and start over. It’s instant gratification, and the contrast of color behind the black is gorgeous!

When you’re coloring the papers, be sure to do enough! We spent almost an hour scratching, and finally had to wrap it up when we ran out of things to paint 🙂

Thanks to the pans, the clean up actually wasn’t too bad. Of course this little monkey had her own ideas about which tools to use and went straight into the bath after we were done 🙂

The kids couldn’t wait for them to dry so they could hang them in their room and send them to pen pals. Secret rainbows are definitely worth sharing with our best friends!

Maureen xoxo