Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Watercolor Print Valentine's Cards: Floating-sinking Valentine's Experiment

With Valentine's Day just around the corner we are preparing to make cards for the ones we love.  It is always fun when you get to put a bit of science into your cards as well making this Valentine's oil and water experiment a great STEAM activity.

Making the marble paper (that we cut into hearts and stuck on the front of cards) was great fun for kids of all ages: from my two year old to my thirty-something husband.   My only warning is that the kids produce these marbled papers very quickly so be sure you have a large surface ready and lined with paper towels to put the paper down to dry as they pull them out.

To get setup we put out a squeeze bottle with vegetable oil, a cake pan with a thin layer of water, some droppers, a couple of paper cups, paper towels for spills, wooden craft sticks, and water color paints in Valentine's colors.

Each of the girls (2 and 4) took turns squeezing some oil into a paper cup and then squeezing some of the water color paint into the oil.  We noticed that the oil and paint did not mix and the paint looked like globs in the oil.   So we used our craft sticks to mix it up until it looked pretty uniform.

We then dropped some of our colored oil into the water in the cake pan and watched the oil float on top of the water.

Now the fun began!   The girls took sheets of white paper (printer paper that had been cut in half) and pressed them down onto the surface of the water.  As soon as the paper touched the water you could begin to see the marble effect from the oil.

Then it became hectic for mommy to get the dripping oil prints onto the paper towels at a rate that kept up with the kids producing prints.  This kept us going to a while - stopping now and then to add more drops of colored oil.   We loved seeing all the different types of prints that occurred.  It was also a great visualization of the oil is hydrophobic and formed blobs on top of the water.

The next day the paper had dried stiff and we could use it to make all sorts of designs.  Look at how fun all of our prints look and imagine all the fun ways you can use the marbled paper to make Valentine's for the ones you love.

Thank you Tinkerlab for the inspiration for these fun cards.


  • watercolor paints
  • vegetable oil (in a squeeze bottle)
  • paper cups
  • craft sticks
  • white paper
  • water
  • cake pan
  • droppers
  • LOTS of paper towels


  1. Pour/squeeze a little bit of oil into a paper cup.
  2. Add some water color paint and mix well with a craft stick.
  3. Add a little water to the bottom of a cake pan (about 1/4 inch).
  4. Using a dropper add colored oil to the water.  Discuss what you observe the oil doing.
  5. Place a piece of paper on the surface of the oil and water.  Lift after a few seconds and place on paper towels to dry.
  6. Repeat with additional paper to make prints.
  7. Leave the marble paper overnight to dry.  Use the next day to make Valentines cards.


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