Tea in Art

CreativiTEA: Tea Paintings for You and Your Family

Tea and Brushes
Tea and Brushes

There are quite a few ways you can make art with tea. Most of the time, drinking the tea is the best thing you can do. However, there are a few reasons you may reserve some tea for art. Some examples of this are having an excess, over-steeped tea, tea stored beyond its expiration date, or simply having a blend that isn’t as cherished the rest of ones collection. If any of these things happen, you can start an art project with tea for all levels of artistic ability and ages. For more advanced artists, or those who can’t imagine not drinking their tea, using old tea bags as a canvas is an option.

As a general rule, to create a tea paint, use twice the amount of tea than you would for a normal cup (or more), reduce the amount of water used to steep the tea, and let the tea steep for at least twice or three times the suggested time of the brew. In order to achieve a more pigmented paint, put just enough water in the tea to keep the leaves covered. You can even let the paint steep overnight. The tea should be room temperature when you are ready to use it so it will not damage any of your paint applicators.

The best paper to use for painting with tea, are watercolor, cardstock, or any other other durable material. It is also a good idea to tape the paper to a solid surface to avoid the edges puckering from the water.

Because tea, even as paint, is non-toxic and edible, feel free to use whatever containers and painting materials you’d like. You can even apply the tea bags to your paper. However, be gentle with them as they can tear. If the tea bag does open, the mess could add some character or fun to a painting too. Working with this medium as is (without adding thickeners) will be closer to a light watercolor. It will not be very pigmented overall.

Powdered teas/adding powdered pigments to tea paints:

Powdered teas and added pigments will thicken your paint, making the consistency closer to an acrylic than a watercolor. Overall this paint will be less opaque. Beet powder, turmeric, and matcha tea are good examples of powders that will make for a thicker more vibrant paint.

Test, test, test

Before you create a masterpiece, start making color swatches with your chosen teas. Sometimes the teas appear a certain color in the cup, but dry much lighter or even dry an opposing color (such as raspberry teas can appear red in the cup, but dries blue or purple).

It is essential to be patient. Since tea makes a great water-based paint, it can take time and adaptability to achieve the effects you envision. The paint needs to dry before you can darken or alter your brush strokes. Once the paint is dry you can layer on color. Blow driers are also great tool to shorten wait time between paint applications.

You can also consider using a deep well pallet with your base paint color, and created more diluted versions of that color by adding a more water to the container your brewed your paint in. Make sure to keep a container of clean water to wash your brush, and some paper towels to blot any excess water from paint applicators or paper.

You can also achieve different effects by adding lemon, milk, sugar, or salt to the tea or to your masterpiece.

Tea Art for Young Ones (of all ages):

Explore how to apply the tea-paint and what to apply it on. Q-tips, sponges, spoons, brushes, paper towels, rags, and the tea bag itself are all great tools to paint with as well as different tactile materials to experience. Try attaching the tea bags directly on paper, and spraying them with water guns to steep the tea. Watch as the page turns colors.

Tea Art for the Experienced Artist:

Try using your tea bags as a canvas. Tea bags sometimes are a bit stained depending on the tea that once occupied them, and these stains can add character to a new work of art. Creating mini-paintings from your self-filled or pre-filled teabags can be an adventure in mixed media. First and foremost let your teabag dry. After it is dry, carefully, make a small incision with a pair of scissors and drain the tea from the teabag. After the tea is drained, flatten the tea bags with an iron or hair straightener. The tea bag canvas is particular welcoming to stamps, inks, and felt tip pens. Aside from being a work of art, this project can be practical too. Turn our tea bag art into a gift tag by stitching in embroidery thread to attached to a gift bag.

Finding different colors: Sometimes artists will tell you that you can tell a great artist by what they can create with only a few colors. Try your hand at making a variety of colors and shades with only a few tea paints. Below are suggestions of types of tea that might help in achieving certain colors:

Red: A rooibos tea

Orange: Go for a smoky black tea, it will achieve a brownish orange color.

Yellow: An oolong or Chamomile will achieve a yellow hue.

Green: Try a vibrant green tea or matcha.

Blue: Aim for a berry tea.

Purple: Fruit teas are your best bet for a purple hue.

Once your masterpiece is done, you will need to think about protecting your tea painting from the effects of exposure to oxygen and sunlight. Adding a UV stabilizer and a polyacrylic to keep the pigment from fading, along with keeping it protected in a frame to preserve your art. Of course, if this is just a fun experiment for yourself, or the young ones in your life, feel free to skip this step.

Happy Creating!