Colorful Coffee Filter Art


In this classic Habitot Art Studio activity, you and your child can create vibrant watercolor art and explore early STEM concepts such as absorption, diffusion, and color mixing.

What we’re learning and skills we’re building 

  • Absorption – the dry coffee filters take in the liquid watercolor paints because they’re made from a paper material that is able to soak up a lot of liquid without tearing
  • Diffusion – when squirted onto the coffee filters, the liquid watercolor paints spread quickly across the filters’ absorbent material
  • Fine motor skills – using the small muscles in the hands to squeeze pipettes, use a paintbrush, cut with scissors, and punch holes in paper 
  • Color mixing – creating a new color by mixing two (or more) colors together
  • Creative expression – making individual decisions about how to create colorful art


  • Basket coffee filters (size 8-12 or 1-4 cups)
  • Liquid watercolor paints or food coloring 
  • Cups or bowls 
  • Pipettes/medicine droppers or paintbrushes
  • Tray or plate (to work on) 

Optional Materials 

  • Child-safe scissors 
  • Hole punch
  • String or yarn
  • Clothespins

Creating Colorful Coffee Filters

  1. Fill cups or bowls with ¼ cup of liquid watercolors (dilute paint with a few tablespoons of water if you wish). Or, fill cups/bowls with ¼ cup of water and mix in 5-10 drops of food coloring. 
  2. Stack two filters together on a tray or a plate. (Two coffee filters, instead of one, will absorb more paint and help to keep the colors bright!)
  3. Use pipettes to suck up the paint, then squeeze it onto the coffee filters. Paintbrushes can be used to add paint, too. 
  4. As the coffee filters absorb the paint, watch as the colors quickly spread over the surface! 
  5. Place paint-saturated coffee filters on a flat surface to dry. Wet coffee filters will take about 15-20 minutes to dry if placed near an open window or door. Note: Food coloring can stain some surfaces, so don’t place paint-saturated coffee filters directly on top of a table or a counter.  
A rainbow of colorful coffee filters once the paint has dried

More Fun with Coffee Filters 

Here are extra activities you and your child can try either before you’ve painted the coffee filters or after the paint has dried on them: 

  • Snowflakes: Cut shapes into the coffee filters to create snowflakes. Fold a coffee filter in half twice, then use scissors to cut shapes into it at random. See what patterns emerge once the filter is unfolded! 
  • Flowers: Stack two dry coffee filters together. Then, fold them in half twice and twist the bottom together into a point. Splay out the top part of the filters to create a flower. Our Chromatography activity has instructions for another fun way to create colorful coffee filter flowers! 
  • Wall decorations: Punch holes in dried, painted coffee filters. Use string or yarn to create a decorative hanging, perfect for a wall or a window (see picture). 
  • Animals: Check out our Coffee Filter Bats and this Coffee Filter Butterflies activity for ideas on what can be created using painted coffee filters and clothespins.