Thursday, July 2, 2009

DIY: Non Toxic Litmus (Magic Ink) Painting

Here is where science meets art meets non toxic - three things that don't always go in unison these days. Because I have serious chemical sensitivities I am always looking for new ways to paint & dye without using a single toxic thing, in fact the more edible the better! 7 years of art training in college never once taught me how to make my own supplies, paints and materials and I think it's a tragedy of our modern school system to be taught only to rely solely on consumerism for expression & education. OK, so before I go into an Alice Cooper style "school's out forever" bit... here is a fun experiment with making litmus paper from a purple cabbage and then painting on it with acids and alkalines!!!
STEP ONE: Chop up a purple cabbage into small pieces and place into a pot for boiling.
STEP TWO: Boil the cabbage in about 2 cups of water or less.
* Note: I boiled mine in too much water because I was experimenting with how much liquid my paper was going to absorb later. In the case of making paintings, the more cabbage and the less water , the more concentrated the solution will be and the more opaque colors you'll be able to create.

STEP THREE: Strain the cabbage, letting the liquid go into a container where you'll be dipping your paper. Save the cabbage for your stir fry later, cause you can eat that stuff ;)
STEP FOUR: Stick your chlorine free paper into the cabbage liquid. We used whatever paper we had around and so each kind took on a different color depending on the chems that may have been applied in the original paper making process - some turned green, some blue, some purple. They all still reacted to the acids and alkalines however - like magic ink! I would recommend using an absorbent chlorine free water color paper for the best results and for longer soaking time. I found that they don't need to be soak for more then 5-10 minutes to really make any difference. Possibly they only need be dipped 30 seconds with a good paper.This is my friend Nikki experimenting with the lemon juice on her painting (her paper was green and the lemon juice turned bright pink!). We made our own paint brushes by using horse hair, a rubber band, and a stick. We also did alot of test sheets and here's what we learned...
TIP #1 : Let the paper dry before you paint. We were so excited we kept painting on wet paper just to watch it change colors. If you wait for it to dry then your painting won't become a blob by morning.

TIP#2 : Don' let it get wet after. The morning dew distorted some of the lines drawn in - just like a regular watercolor painting, water will reactivate the colors and move them around, usually destroying the image you painted.
These are some test pieces below to show how it changes colors! Pretty freaking rad! These examples are with all the mistakes made (too much water in the cabbage, painting wet on wet, leaving in the dew, etc...) and still colors were achieved by simply taking a brush and dipping it in different liquids like lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar, & baking soda. The acids created more pink/red colors, while the alkaline creates more yellow/green/blue shades. (As I said above, if the cabbage is boiled in less water creating a stronger liquid, the paint colors will be brighter and more opaque then these examples).

PS- Thanks to reader Liberty for her tip on making litmus paper from cabbages!XOXooooo

1 comment:

Agy said...

Hihi! I just bought a set of so-called non-toxic paints for my toddler and I saw your blog this evening. Think this is a great project for kids :-)
Blogged about it on my blog. Thanks!