Salty Paintings

A smidgen of salt plus paint equals magic! Magnify your preschooler’s small motor skills and visual acuity with this creative experiment.


This is messy fun, so prepare yourself, your child, and your work area accordingly. Check out our Materials page for preschool art prep tips.

MATERIALS - click to buy
  1. Paper, any kind or color you have on hand will do. We like to use heavier paper like recycled, brown paper bags or this construction paper found on Amazon. A stronger paper holds the paint and salt well.
  2. Liquid tempera paint, from a jar or a tube like this - Use as many colors as your child desires.
  3. Small bowls like these or recycled yogurt containers for paint
  4. Paintbrush for each color - See our Materials Page for the right size brush for young children.
  5. Iodized, fine, table salt like this example - you don’t need much, about 1 Tablespoon per painting will do. Note that non-iodized salt, like the sea salt found here will not work for this activity.
  6. Salt shaker like the one found here.
  1. If you already have a salt shaker filled with iodized salt, use that. If not, have your preschooler fill your salt shaker. They will love doing this and it’s good hand-eye and small motor exercise, too.
  2. Skilly-spark #1: Ask your child what he knows about salt. What it’s used for, how it tastes, maybe sampling a bit, too. Now, let’s try using salt in a different way with painting today and see what happens.
  3. Start by painting a picture or design with tempera paint. Ask your little one to lay that paint on thick so that the salty changes are easy to see.
  4. Let’s sprinkle salt onto the wet tempera paint. Think of it as different kind of glitter. Spread a thin layer across the entire painting.
  5. Stand back and watch. Look at all the interesting splotches and runny spots.  
  6. Skilly Spark #2: Talk about the effects the salt makes on their painting.  Encourage use of descriptive words like splotchy, spotty, blobs, puffy, streaky, runny ...
  7. Just keep on making saline and paint creations until your preschooler’s interest wanes. Let your Salty Paintings dry and see how they’ve changed again!


Keep the fun going
  • If you have shakers with larger holes like this pepper-flake shaker, fill it with salt and jiggle them around to create different effects. How does more or an even thicker layer of salt change your painting?
  • Experiment with contrasts: Use only one or two light colors of tempera paint, like yellow or white, and sprinkle salt on them. Observe what they look like. Then try only one or two dark paint colors, like blue or purple, and add salt to that painting. How are the reactions different?