Tissue Paper Watercolour Rainbow – A Toddler Art Project

Tissue Paper Watercolour Rainbow – A Toddler Art Project

Here’s a fantastic project that you can do with your toddler or guide an older child to complete themselves that involves minimal cost and effort to prepare.

The idea for this project came about whilst we were making the Tissue Paper Sun-Catcher Butterfly, and the dye from the tissue paper ran onto our work surface when some of the areas of glue soaked the paper through. This project uses water rather than glue to help exploit that process to its greatest effect.


You will need:

  • Inexpensive stretched canvas, ready primed (25 x 25cm used)
  • Tissue paper in assorted colours
  • Water spray bottle or large paint brush

tissue paper, canvas and spray bottle

Notes on materials: Stretched canvases can be purchased cheaply from discount book and art stores (such as The Works in the UK), or homewares stores such as B&M, and Home Bargains. The 25cm square box canvas I used in this project cost 99p.

I was surprised to find when checking on a few materials details after we had made our canvas that there are tissue papers produced specifically for ‘bleeding’ art projects – who knew? I was actually checking to see if there were non-bleed or bleed-resistent tissues (there are) to make a note to avoid those for this project, when I uncovered ‘bleeding tissue’, which sounds like a medical disaster. Anyway, rest assured that the tissue we used was just cheap craft tissue paper and I bought a huge pack of about 40 sheets from the £1 shop, and that worked fine.


Protect any surfaces with a plastic sheet as things may get wet and the dye in the tissue may transfer. Fill a trigger spray bottle with water, and prepare yourselves to make rainbows.

toddler hands holding trigger spray bottle

Making Your Rainbow

Lay out your canvas on top of your table protection and help your toddler spray the entire canvas liberally with water until the entire surface and sides are fully wet.

Choose a colour and begin tearing strips of paper to lay on the canvas. Older children can tear the strips themselves but younger children may need a little assistance. You will find that tissue paper naturally tears into strips far easier in one direction than in the other, so if you are finding tearing strips difficult, rotate the sheet by 90°.

Lay the strips of paper on the canvas in your chosen pattern. When beginning a new colour, make sure that the edges of the strips of adjacent colours overlap a little, which will help to allow the colours to blend together.

If you wish to emulate the spectral colours of an actual rainbow, then place the strips in the following order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. We actually had no purple paper in our pack, so layered up strips of blue and pink to achieve a purple colour. Carry on layering strips until you have three or four layers, to help with colour saturation.

If the canvas starts to dry, spray with more water, and help smooth out any air pockets (lightly dragging an old bank card along the strips can help flatten them to the surface). Once all paper strips are in place give a final liberal spray with water, ensuring all paper layers are soaked through.

Leave to dry in a warm place, or in the sun on a warm day (after all, sun and water go together to make a rainbow). Once dry, let your toddler have fun peeling away the strips of paper to reveal their very own rainbow.

Other Ideas

Your rainbow is ready to hand and admire as soon as it is dry, but it can also be used for the basis of further art. You can use a fine permanent marker to add a favourite quote or family monogram to the canvas. We decided to turn ours into a portrait of Rainbow from Sarah & Duck, which is still one of my little boy’s favourite shows.

rainbow from Sarah and Duck craft art make

Once you have created a rainbow of colourful strips, how about trying other colour combinations, or other shapes, cutting triangles or circles from tissue paper before arranging them on the wet canvas.


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