Explorations – Bubble painting

I’ve had several requests for this one, so here it is finally, the first in what I hope is a series of explorations that I’ve tried and can now share with you so you can try.

-o-o-o-Bubble header

I was giving my eldest daughter a bath one night, swirling bubblebath around in the tub, when the bubbles suddenly grabbed my attention. They had a beautiful texture. I wondered if they could carry paint and leave a print on paper. Of course, I had to explore the idea.

Bubble paintingWhat you might need

  • Acrylic paints
  • Clear bubblebath solution
  • Water
  • Small tubs to mix in (I used strawberry punnets)
  • Plastic straws
  • Cheap cartridge or drawing paper
  • Thick white card or board
  • Small jars to store unused mixed paints
  • Lots of newspaper to protect your work area and old clothes to protect you – this is a very messy activity.-o-o-o-

What you might do

Mix some paint, water and a small amount of bubblebath in one of the tubs. The paint will have to be quite concentrated, so add water sparingly. You will have to play with the amount of water vs. paint vs. bubblebath until you attain the right consistency to do the following.

Put one end of a straw into the solution until the end is completely submerged and blow gently through from the other end to generate bubbles .

Keep blowing until you have a large mound of bubbles over and above the sides of the tub. This is important in order for you to get the bubbles onto the paper.How to bubble paint

Once you have enough bubbles (at least 5 – 10 centimetres above the rim of the tub), take your paper (for practice use, otherwise if you know what you are doing, go straight for the card or board), art side up, and taking one edge, scoop the bubbles up onto the paper by cutting them off just above the rim of the tub.

Let the bubbles roll onto the paper haphazardly. They should stay bubbles for at least a moment or two. Set the paper down and let the bubbles pop by themselves. The longer the rims of the bubbles are stationary and in contact with the paper, the more of a defined print you will get.

Once all the bubbles have popped, repeat the procedure on another part of the paper. Continue repeating until you have a result that sparks an idea for a piece of art. You may want to stop at some point and let a layer of printing dry on the paper. The acrylic will seal the paper and allow the prints made over the top sharper.


Nutty’s Notes

Although I recommend using cheap materials when experimenting, always go with the best cheap materials you can find, particularly with those with the lovely words ‘acid free’ on them. The reason being that you may only be exploring, but you never know what you might find along the way that could be the makings of a masterpiece…and you don’t want that masterpiece to be made of shoddy materials.

Bubble effect on primed illustration board
The bubble print is sharper on a primed surface.

You may want to prepare any paper you use to stop buckling. The illustration board I used bent quite strongly due to the very wet solution. You could also use primed board, thought I haven’t tried that myself. You would need to prime both sides of the board as the underside of the artwork gets wet also.

Primed paper/card/board produces a different type of print due to the absorbency of the material. You might like to experiment on different grounds.

You might want to experiment with different ways to get the bubbles from the tub onto the paper/card. This method was the easiest one I found, though it lacks control and the bubble prints are mostly random. If you find a better way, let me know.

When layering prints onto the card experiment with using different colours. I’d advise sticking with colours that mix well together, to prevent the creation of mud colours, but, hey, this is exploration, so go with what you would like to explore.

Once you have mixed the solutions, you can keep them in small sealed jars for playing with next time.



First bubble painting
My first bubble painting which became the header for this website and the painting ‘Dream’.

It was created using various prints of yellow, blue and green acrylic bubbles. I found that while I couldn’t see the yellow very well when printed over the top of the other colours, it added depth. I’ve also found it important to leave areas of lighter colour as well as create blocks of heavier colour in order to have shapes to work with within the bubbles. It should also be noted that scanning this into the computer gave it considerably more depth than the original. The penetrating light of the scanner gives it more depth than just plain daylight. I’m hoping to use prints of this kind of painting to create different pieces of work. I find the colour dispersion very inspiring.


Balloons painting backgroundMy second effort which became ‘Dreams of Balloons’

Reds, yellows and purples. I was merrily bubbling away when the final painting jumped up and hit me between the eyes. The result from this one, I think is one of my best. There is much less paint used in this than in the previous effort and I was surprised to find inspiration so quickly.


Background of Caught bubble paintingThis became ‘Caught’.

Blue, red and yellow. I’m surprised I didn’t create mud. The inspiration for the fish took some staring to realise, but I was happy with the result.


Cosmos background bubble paintingThe painting that eventually became ‘Cosmos’.

I did something different with this one. I stopped halfway through building the bubble texture and scanned it into the computer. I had fully intended on layering more and more bubbles onto the piece, but I had run out of time. So I put it aside and worked on what I had digitally. I darkened it and it became a star field which I added stars to with my graphics program. I consider what I ended up with to be mixed results, but I still have the original painting and can take it further at some point if I like.


Bubble pop effect

Here is a close up detail of a popped bubble effect. This is what built ‘Dreams of Balloons’. It can be quite effective. Also quite random. More paint in the mixture makes this easier to achieve, but you have to balance it out with bubblebath otherwise the bubbles won’t be strong enough to last long enough to print effectively.

And here is another…

Bubble pop effect

I particularly like the swirls in the mixture at the centre of this detail. I think it is these fine details that make this bubble painting technique so effective.


Swirly bubble texture

And this, would you believe, is actually scanned off the back of one of my experiment pages. A snapshot of swirling paint as the paper was dragged across the bubble surface. I think there is so much more to explore in this technique. It’s inspiring and exciting.

I hope to do some more of these paintings. I think I’ve only scratched the surface of the possibilities for texture and technique. When combined with the capabilities of the computer, I find that my playpen has been expanded exponentially.

I hope you’ve found this as interesting as I have found it fun to explore. If you discover more about this technique, I’d love to hear about it.



19 responses to “Explorations – Bubble painting”

  1. Lahondaknitter Avatar

    This is very cool. I’m thinking maybe it could even be translated onto fabric.

  2. Hi there! Thanks for sharing your technique! Sounds like a lot of fun! 🙂

  3. I am so glad you posted this how to! It looks like good fun to try and I really admire the results! I will be sure to let you know when I give it a go!

  4. Cool effects. Another texture may be achieved by blowing the bubbles onto the page. They will have more “explosion” patterns than when you carefully transport them. And blowing paint around will create little “rivers”.

  5. Thanks Gumnut!!

    I have wondered how you did these gorgeous images!! Messy, eh? I may have to wait until summer than and try it outside.

    Yours worked so beautifully!

  6. Great tutorial, Nutty! I especially love the popped bubble effect.

    So cool that inspiration came while doing something in the “non-artist” side of your life. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. very very cool – this is an awesome post

  8. Love your tutorial and all these gorgeous pieces! what great effects the bubbles actually make!
    Thanks for sharing!

  9. That is sooooo cool! I am a texture kind of gal and your bubble paintings are right up my alley! I am going to have to share this post. Thanks for the inspiration

  10. I really love this idea, and will definitely give it a go. I think it would be a fun thing to do with my granddaughter too. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Just wondering, tried this tonight (maybe I never got the right mixture?) but I couldn’t figure out how to “Scoop” the bubbles out of the container…. what did you use to do this? Also, does it work on Canvas?

    1. It is messy. Basically you cut into the side of the bubble mass with the edge of the board, painting side up. And do it fast. Almost like a scooping action with the painting as the scoop. You do get some mess on the bottom of the board, but I couldn’t really find any other way to do it.

      I haven’t tried it on canvas. You could hold a shallow dish over the canvas and literally blow enough bubbles for the bubbles to overflow onto the canvas. I haven’t tried it. I do know that a sealed surface makes for sharper bubbles (I primed some illustration board to experiment). If you try it, let me know how you go.

      Best wishes,

  12. […] תוכלו ללמוד בפוסט המקסים של Gumnut: […]

  13. […] and I had several expressions of interest in a tutorial, so I wrote up my first fully documented Exploration. Since then I have received a request to do a video of the technique. It has taken me a while to […]

  14. these are gorgeous and fun too!

  15. We had a book of paint projects for kids when I was younger that had a similar project – I think they suggested you just lower the paper onto the tower of bubbles, resulting in a sort of rose image. I haven’t tried it, though, but I think I will soon 🙂

  16. You are really creative! Some good ideas here. I’m looking for ideas for projects in our church arts and crafts group which starts back next week or first week in October. Last year we made mosaic bird houses – so I was thinking maybe we could use your paper mosaic idea for making something. For the last three years we have also made gifts for the residents in living assisted facilities – ceramic tree ornaments, little xmas boxes made out of greeting cards with some little trinkets inside etc. You have been the most productive with different ideas using fairly inexpensive materials. Thank you for all your great ideas!

  17. Liz this is such a fascinating process! Came back to you to look for something like this; the Woven Tale Press has a new site and now we have features. I have two features up but will be rotating and would like permission to use this.

    see new site at: http://thewoventalepress.net

    and my email is now editor@thewoventalepress.net so reference that Url as a feature when you email me.

  18. Laura Semeniuk Avatar
    Laura Semeniuk

    I couldn’t make this work. My bubbles didn’t really come up over the edge of the container. Not sure why. I tried different amounts of everything, but couldn’t find the right mix 🙁