September 27, 2022

How to Paint with Tea


by Tyler Elks

So you may know that here at Ignite we have a watercolor kit, but what you may not know, is that you may have some household items that you can use for a fun watercolor challenge at home including tea leaves! Follow these instructions to learn how to paint with tea using watercolor techniques.

I was a barista for 5 years before I came to Ignite, so I would like to think that I know my way around tea. However, I had never used it like this before! You might have done something similar to this in school when you wanted your paper to have an antique look. But this technique as even more unique applications.

How to Paint with Tea

First, you’ll need to select the tea. You can use one type or multiple. Here is a quick guide to the different effects achieved with different teas:

  • Black tea – gives gorgeous brown hues
  • White tea – will be light brown to tan
  • Green tea – results in green colors
  • Herbal teas – offer a wide  variety of colors to work. (Experiment with different types for different results.

I suggest trying the tea as paint on a scratch piece of paper to see how you like to color, as it will look slightly different on paper than it is in the container.

Since this is a water-based paint you’ll want to use watercolor paper.

Next, make your tea! You can use loose leaf or tea bags. Boil the water as if you were going to make the tea typically. Add more water for a lighter color, and pour less if you’d like a darker color. The amount of time you allow the tea to steep will also affect the color.

Pro-tip: For thicker paint you can add a bit of flour to the tea!

Finally, it’s time to paint! Once you’ve gathered and prepared the tea you can remove the teabags or tea infuser and get to painting! This will likely be easier for you if you already know how to paint with watercolor. If you’d like to learn, check out our watercolor kit in our Kit Library at Ignite! There are also plenty of helpful tutorials online and books that you can search for in our catalog at Hamilton East Public Library.

Pro Tip: Your best friend throughout this painting will be layering!

As an avid tea drinker, I had quite the variety of teas to choose from. Here are the colors after the tea was brewed, along with their steep time and a swatch of each:

Five by four column of swatches showing different layers of painted tea.

From right to left: black tea, green ginseng tea, another black tea, elderberry & blackberry tea, and hibiscus tea. The top row is the first layer, the second row is with a second layer, the third has a third layer, and the last layer has four layers of tea.

Now it’s just a matter of putting your ideas on paper! Here’s what I ended up painting:

A pale brown flower painted with tea.

A purple silhouette of a cat with a small purple heart a the tip of its tailpainted with tea.

And here’s an example of a patron’s painting who saw me using tea and asked if they could try:

An eye painted with tea.

BONUS: How to Paint with Coffee

Coffee drinkers, I hear you. You prefer a good ol’ cup of joe. There’s nothing wrong with that, you can just as easily use coffee to paint!

Similar to the tea method, you can use coffee by brewing it at different strengths, using different combinations, such as the amount of water and the amount of coffee grounds. You can also play around with different roasts (blonde, medium, and dark roasts) to see what you can make. If you have a single-cup coffee machine, you can brew it normally and then add more hot water to dilute the color. You’ll only get brown hues from coffee but you can still get very creative with it!

If you try this out please share it with us on our facebook page! We’d love to see what you’ve made.