Painting with Bubbles

Make colorful prints using bubbles!

We are often asked about coloring bubbles. No matter how you color bubbles, bubbles will always appear clear. If you mix a little bubble solution with paint or Atomic Glow, the bubbles will still appear clear, but the soap will carry some of the color or glow liquid with it. Transfer the bubbles to paper and make these beautiful prints. This is a perfect rainy day activity or summer afternoon project to do with little ones.

ACTIVITY TIME: Allow about 20-30 minutes for this activity. Although, the kids may want to keep blowing bubbles long after the paper dries.

Experiment Materials

  • Paper
  • Dawn Dish Soap (not antibacterial) or Extreme Bubble Solution
  • Atomic Glow (for glow in the dark bubbles)
  • Washable Child-Friendly Paint (Watercolors work the best)
  • Pipettes or straws
  • Cups or bowls
  • Water

Experiment

1

In a cup or bowl, add two tablespoons of one color of paint.

2

Add one tablespoon of water.

3

Add two tablespoons of dish soap.

4

Mix the solution.

5

Put the straw or Pipette (with the end cut off) into the mixture and blow bubbles until the cup overflows.

6

Carefully lay the paper on top of the bubbles to make the prints.

7

Repeat for different layers of color.

8

Let dry.

How Does It Work

Similar to the way we perceive the colors in a rainbow or an oil slick, we see the colors in a bubble through the reflection and the refraction of light waves off the inner and outer surfaces of the bubble wall. You can’t color a bubble since its wall is only a few millionths of an inch thick. A bubble reflects color from its surroundings.

It is the water in the bubble that holds the paint and transfers it to the paper. The bubbles remain clear.

Take It Further

Different variations of this activity can be so much fun that can last for hours. First, follow the step by step instructions and try to make a good imprint of a bubble stack. If it doesn’t show up on your paper, add more paint to the solution.

The best part of this experiment is the experimentation and learning through play as you test different ways to put the bubbles on the paper. Try dropping the pipette on the paper and let the bubbles fall off, or blow bubbles onto the paper and let them pop. The splatter marks make the art even better!

When you use Extreme Bubble Solution, you can make huge bubbles that sit on the paper for awhile before popping.

Special Thanks

Thanks to Exploratorium for providing this additional information and science behind the coloring of bubbles. Here’s the link to check out their site.