Spring Break DIY: Milk Art



Science & Art swirled up into one! This is my favorite project yet, and the last in the series! A huge thank you to Shannon (A Mom’s Year) for suggesting this art project. I was eager to try it, and I’m excited to share it with you!

All you need for this project is the following:

1. A plate  2. Milk (2% or higher)  3. Food Coloring  4. Dish Soap (That’s it!!)

1. Fill the plate with a thin layer of milk. Next, put in drops of food coloring.

2. Then, add a few drops of dish soap into the center of the food coloring, sit back, and watch! (I should mention that I tried this first with eco-friendly dish soap and it didn’t really work, so stick to the hard stuff for this!)

KA-POW! The milk fat instantly reacts to the soap, creating art!

Wow, right?! It will spin for quite a while, and if you add more drops of dish soap into the dark areas of food coloring you can keep the action going for quite a while.

If you want to see milk art in action, you can check out this video that I found:

Looking for more DIY’s to do with kids? Here are some more good ones:

Banana Tattoos / Eyebombing / Make a Volcano / Wire Sculpting

Photo Credits: Rosa Pearson (FlutterFlutter), Video Credit: Evie S


  • Colleen

    oh wow what a great idea…I guess you will have to take pics & frame them now!
    …awesome activity…love your boys intensity in action!

  • Lindsey

    Um, I don’t have kids but I TOTALLY want to try this! What a cool idea, and so pretty!

  • barbara@hodge:podge

    What a fun idea! Had no idea the milk fat would react with paint to create such beautiful swirls!

  • Anne

    That is so beautiful! TFS!!

    Happy St Pats!

  • Tracey

    So fitting for today. St Patrick’s Day ……. rainbows, ya know, just sayin.

    • Rosa

      Haha, yes, of course Tracey. I planned that. Really. 😉
      But Tracey, you missed something… notice what is pouring the dish soap?! Yup! I bought them!!!! 🙂

  • heather

    That is amazing!! love it – can’t wait to try it with the kids on Tues – enjoy your weekend!

  • meesh@idreamofchairs

    That is SO COOL! I wonder if you could lay paper overtop and transfer some of the colour somehow?

    • Rosa

      Meesh, That’s what I was wondering too!

    • Marie Weaver

      I was wondering the same thing. I’d like to try dipping a small stretched canvas frame into it. I’ve seen something similar using water and nail polish, but no reaction happens, you just swirl it until you get a look you like and dip the watercolor paper or canvas into it and flip it over and let it dry over night. If you use light colored nail polish it makes a pretty background too.

  • Shelley@2jacs

    Wow! Instant art-take a photo and frame it…no two will be exactly alike! My daughter will LOVE this! Great post!!

  • Tracey

    Oh aren’t you a smarty pants!!!! Aren’t they the prettiest things ever?

  • Sara K {SaigeWisdom}

    so cool! thanks for all the great ideas Rosa!!!

  • Lily from Birch + Bird

    Fun! Will definitely be trying this out with the kiddos next week! Thanks 🙂

  • Teresa O

    Did anyone try it on paper or canvas? Did it work?

    • chris

      Yes, it works on paper; we used blank newsprint because that is what we had on hand, but plan to use Arches textured watercolor paper next. It wont wont on canvas since it has similar properties as watercolor which wont take to canvas.My oldest son is a Fine Art Major at MICA and he had fun doing this with his little brother.

  • Jo H

    This looks great! Does ‘dish soap’ mean washing up liquid in UK terms?

  • Ana

    i adore this diy! so creative.

  • homestilo

    I’m with Shelley. And I love how “deep in thought” the little one looks in that image. You can see he totally got into it.

  • Sheila @ SZInteriors

    You are such a great Mom!!! This project looks like a lot of fun, and how awesome that you captured it in a photo 🙂

  • janis - pinecone camp

    That looks amazing! What a craft filled spring break you guys are having. I bet you’re the most fun house on the block! 😉

  • jodi

    amazing!! that is so cool!

  • Th Simply Inspired Home

    I love this Rosa!!!! IT is sooooo cool.

    Thanks for this wondercfully creative post!


  • Shannon { A Mom's Year}

    I’m so glad you tried it! It’s hard to describe how beautiful the colors look as they swirl around, but your photos really capture the magic.

  • Janet @ House Four

    How pretty! I loved watching the colours merge in the video but think stills of the various patterns would make beautiful wall art. Will definitely try this!

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  • Pete

    Thanks so much for putting this up. We tried it on the weekend and the boys absolutely loved it. We went on to make prints on kitchen paper towel from the colour patterns. Super easy and great fun. Thanks

    • Rosa

      Pete, thanks for your feedback! I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed it!! I loved doing it with my boys too! 🙂

  • Andy

    There is a more famous example of this phenomenon called “the Tia Maria Instability” (named for the liquor) that you can do by taking a plate covered in a thin layer of Tia Maria or other dark colored liquor (Kahlua works) and adding small amounts of cream on top. THAT version is for the adults!

    This is a physical reaction, not a chemical one, driven by differences in surface tension in the two liquids. Surface tension is what makes watery liquids try to “climb” the sides of the container. It causes the liquid surface to be like a trampoline. (If you have seen “A Bug’s Life” you know what I mean.) For a liquid at rest, the surface tension is the same everywhere. But if the liquid is mixing with a different liquid, the tension will vary from place to place because the proportion of one liquid to the other is not the same. That tension will pull them to intertwine with each other until both liquids are thoroughly mixed and the surface tension is the same everywhere.

    There is a paper on the subject (with pictures of the Tia Maria Instability) here. It is a PDF file:

  • Kenna

    Every once in a while I pull out a fun “craft” for my boys (ages 5 & 8)
    This one will be next on the list… they will LOVE this!

  • Susan Hansen

    This works perfect and when u finish the art, you can put a piece of paper on it and leave it to dry—nice paper to write on.

    Susan Hansen

  • shannon

    Do you know if you can bake the plate to permanently seal the color on it after?

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  • Naomi

    Fabulous, fascinating. nature in art.

  • Leo

    Was wondering how you can transfer this to paper and what kind of paper, so that it can be framed. What a great thing for anyone to say they made a beautiful piece of art!

    • Rosa

      I haven’t tried to transfer this onto paper myself, so I’m not sure. Would love to hear if you find a way! 🙂

      • kiki

        wonder what would happen if you painted dish soap on a canvas and then dripped color on it from there?

        • Rosa

          I think the milk plays a big part in the whole reaction, so I don’t think it would react. But I’d love to know if I’m wrong! Let me know if you try it! 🙂

  • Giselle

    I used to do this all the time when I was at school. It was one of my favourite crafts because you always got a fantastic result. We would drop a sheet of blotting paper over the top and the image would transfer beautifully, although it came out as a pastel version. The problem with trying to keep this type of art is that it starts to smell pretty bad after a couple of days.

  • Deb

    TFS Is thanks for sharing. This really s great. I nanny fir a couple families and I am always looking fir unique projects for the kids. So TFS :-))

  • Lisa

    So, this can dry and be hung or something? I saw Susan Hansen’s comment.

    • Rosa

      Lisa, I think the best option if you want to preserve this as art is to take a picture of it and have it blown up. From the comments it sounds like smell would be an issue otherwise. I like the fleeting nature of it myself, and so I haven’t tried any other options.

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  • Paige

    You could put card stock over the design. It should pick it up. Let dry, frame it!

    • Rosa

      Good idea Paige! Even watercolour paper might work well. Thanks for the idea!

      • Lyndi

        I want to try this with a twist. I keep seeing “colored
        smoke” pillows and such. I will try to transfer the “milk
        art” onto fabric, maybe white pillow cases. Then try to set it with various techniques. Then hopefully it will become
        washable, thereby overcoming the “spoiled milk” issue.

        • Cari

          Please share if this (& what techniques) works. I was thinking it would be beautiful on a white silk to make a skirt or dress. Obviously after washing the milk out.

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  • Marla Rubin

    I like the idea taking pictures and framing the! I wonder if there is a way to keep the design on the dish and preserve it? I saw someone posted that you could writ on plates with a perm marker and bake it. It would stay on! Kind of the same idea. Let me know if any of you know if it is even possible,


    • Rosa

      Hi Marla! I can’t imagine that baking the milk and colour onto a plate would work!? I agree that taking a picture is probably the best way to preserve all the colours as they are. When I try some of the options people have mentioned I’ll be sure to blog about it!

  • Jeanette

    Any idea if you can lay white/art paper on top of this and will the colors stick to the paper? this would make really beautiful art work or stationary paper/cards…would love to know if you know this or not! Thanks you in advance!

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  • Morgan

    Could you preserve it if you bake the plates? I’d love to make a set of them with my daughter and be able to use them 🙂

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  • Karen

    Thank you so much; it’s beautiful! K.

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  • Jessica


    But, how to fix it? I would know the way to dry the picture and then use the plate as usually.



  • nancy

    It looks like fun, just for the art! We used to use the same idea in a scienc lesson about spreading pollution iand other things in the air. We drew the earth on a paper plate, covered it with wax paper, added the milk, then each of the food colors represented things in the air, smoke, pollution, ash from volcano, etc. then, we added the dish detergent! The kids loved it, and it got the point across!

  • Ashley

    I’ve seen those ones on pinterest where you can bake the plate and it will be permanate….. What would happen If you baked it when this was on there?

  • Terri

    i am having a problem finding food coloring that is NOT gel. All they are selling now are gels and powder. Thoughts?

    • Rosa

      I’ve had that same food coloring for 15 years, until I used it all up for this project. (You can tell I don’t do a lot of cake decorating! Ha!) I haven’t gone out to replace it yet, so I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as gel coloring! Hmm, weird. I’ll let you know if I find a source. 🙂

    • Kendra

      I know this response is VERY late, but I just went to Walmart to look for liquid food coloring. I started in the baking section…no luck. I was a bit perplexed because I wasn’t seeing what I had seen on their website as a “store only” item. I walked further down by the spices and, low and behold, they had the liquids up on the top shelf right by the spices!

  • Arwen

    Hi, what a fun post this is! I am wondering if one could use water for this project. Because even though it says to use milk with 2% fat or more, in the explanation by “Andy June 6, 2012 3:16AM” it says it has to do with surface tension of the liquids, in which case it should be doable with water as well, and then it at least wouldn’t begin to smell after a few days. The milk will inevitably get sour if just left to dry and will turn brown when baked. this is because THe heat will caramelise the milk sugars, turning them brown, And then you will also lose those lovely colours.

    I’m curious to fnd out if anyone has tried it with water? I live in such a back water, that it will be hard to come by food colouring full stop…

  • dilamar

    é interessante tirar fotos a medida que vai mudando…assim da para fazer quadros com as fotos,isso é arte.

  • aSHLEY P


    • Rosa

      Great idea Ashley! Please do let me know how it goes! 🙂
      Sorry about the weird formatting on in the comments section, it’s not just you, it’s happening to everyone!

  • aSHLEY P

    sorry about the caps lol, i had no idea…

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  • Helen orcutt

    As a Photographer, I want to do this and photograph it!

  • Paige


    • Rosa

      The only things that I have heard other people say is that some of the new food colorings are made with gels and apparently don’t work the same. Also, if you use higher fat milk it will work better. And you need to make sure that the liquid soap isn’t eco-friendly, just a cheap, regular dish soap. Hope that helps!

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  • Debra

    i’m wondering if you could “lift” this to watercolor paper?

  • Ariadne - Positive Parenting Connection

    Wow what a fun project!!! Must try this soon, i have been doing a lot of kitchen based art experiments lately and this one fits right in! thank you!!

  • sELENA


  • Gwyn

    We tried this – I had some 1/2 & 1/2 and some skim milk so I mixed the two & used that. We found that once it stopped moving a lot, we could gently blow on the soap dots or the dark spots & it made beautiful patterns too.

  • Rickie

    do you have to throw out after? being that milk is being used?


    I am doing this and photographing it to frame for my cubscouts mothers day gifts!! Its is easy to do and the kids LOVE it!!

  • Mamazing

    Why not try it with a clear fat liquid -like coconut oil, so it doesn’t smell bad when it dries… And then…. instead of food colouring- use permanent pen inks so that you can do the ‘Bake the Plate’ trick. Don’t know how the dish soap will turn out though?? Even if it burns/flakes away, the rest could still look fab!! I haven’t tried this but I couldn’t help but think of something for all you doers: )

  • Teresa

    What would you do with this after it is done?

  • charity

    Will it dry like this how can keep it forever

    • Rosa

      I wish it would dry like this Charity! Unfortunately I think the best you can do to capture the exact look is to take a picture. But, if you find some other way I’d love to hear it! 🙂

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    Thank you so much for this idea, I can’t wait to make some art with my kids 🙂 I’ve included this in my weekly roundup of useful sites at http://www.doomestic.com Thanks again!!

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  • Chris

    I use food coloring in milk (sans soap) at Halloween time to make “Monster Toast” with the kids. For each color paint that you want, you mix a little food coloring with a little milk and then paint it onto white bread. I use one brush for each color. Toast the bread and the colors get very vibrant. You can still put butter on it also. The kids love this and it is their own creation that they are eating.

  • Kim

    when you do it, does it stain the plate with the colors and design that it makes once its done???

  • Donna

    I am a Sunday School Teacher. We are studying friendship this week and how each of your friends have different skills, abilities, opinions, etc. that they bring to the table. I am going to use this with the different colors being different friends and “when you mix all of the characteristics to each friend together, what a beautiful thing you get.” Thanks for sharing this activity…always looking for something that I can link to a lesson.

  • Brenda

    Did this with my three year old granddaughter she loved it

  • Deana

    This is awesome! I have used clear glass Pyrex pans, I have a double glass shelf coffee table. For young babies and toddlers that may put it in their mouth. My 2 year old grandson loves to lay underneath the glass table. We roll balls, light up fake candles, his cars, magnets are very interesting too.

  • Jamie

    My kids paint BREAD with food color and milk!!! I toast it for edible art!!! It has become a Saturday Morning favorite!!! Or fun colored sandwiches! ( you need to toast it, so it’s not soggy)

  • Brandi Norris

    I didn’t read all of the comments, so this may already be suggested. I wonder if you could use rit dye instead of food color and transfer it to cloth. It could then be washed after sitting for a couple of hours, so the milk doesn’t sour. I will try and let y’all know!

    • Gilda Diaz

      Great idea. Do let us know . M y grandbaby kaylee and iI are going to have a blast today, I can’t wait. I will let you know if we try any new ideas with this.. lol , have a Blessed day every one. .

  • Julie

    Tried this didn’t work so well. Of course i had 2% reduced fat milk. I might have to get the good stuff this. I did use Dawn dish soap. Which is pretty good liquid soap. Any suggestions on the soap?

  • Steve

    Was anyone successful in transfering the art to water color paper and have it not smell afterwards?

    • Rosa

      Smell wasn’t the issue for me Steve, I just couldn’t get it to transfer well onto paper. Maybe someone else has had some success and can chime in. 🙂

  • Megan

    This is amazing. Now will the swirls of color stain the plate?! Because I would love to keep such a work of art!

  • Joe

    What if you record the reaction with your iphone or whatever then trx the video to your digital picture frame…?? You could have an art show. Hmmmm

  • Theresa

    Has anyone tried doing this on a paper plate…might work?? Haven’t tried it but seems logical to me.

  • Trish

    Can you set this up for display afterwards?

    Won’t the milk spoil or get moldy?

    • Dominique

      And if we tried the experiment with water and a few drops of vegetable oil instead of milk to avoid subsequent odors.

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  • chris

    Wow thats a long string of comments … great idea isn’t it.
    Too many questions on the paper transfer… Use a water colour paper, 180gsm and when it dries iron slightly with a greese proof paper on top just to get the paper straight.. then sprey with acrylic sealer, gloss preferably and mount

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  • NatalieR

    For those of you looking for a way to preserve the art on the plate, try this similar project. Buy a plain white tile from Lowe’s or Home Depot( .25 a piece), a three pack of alcohol ink (Michael’s),cotton balls, and rubbing alcohol. Wipe the rubbing alcohol all over the tile with a cotton ball, and leave the tile slightly wet. Drop a few drops in various places over the top of the tile and watch the colors swirl. Once the ink has dried, spray a clear protectant spray over the tile. You can add felt pads to the bottom of the tiles and make beautiful coasters.
    I will use this milk project with my TK class. Thanks for the great idea; my class will love this.:)

  • Doreen

    How about getting cotton material and laying right on the paint ,it should obsorb let dry an frame ,sounds good to me. Let me know

  • Nestor (From Chile)

    Wonderful effect. Congratulations for the idea.

  • Beth

    This makes me think of my father. He used to do a trick similar to this . He would put a tablespoon or two of water in a saucer and grind some black pepper over it. Then he would touch his finger to the surface and all the little pepper bits would spread out. He used to say that he was magic and the pepper was afraid of him. When I got older and started babysitting he taught me the secret, Dawn dish soap on his fingertip. The soap changes the surface tension and the pepper is carried away. The best part is now he does this trick for my kids and they are just as amazed at Grandpa’s powers as I was.

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  • Jeanifer

    It’s really cool using different types of milk (whole, 2%,fat free, half and half). The different amount of fat in each causes a different reaction. The soap (which is also a fat/lipid) dissolves the fat in each type of milk.

  • Dana

    Doing this tomorrow! Great idea…thanks for sharing!

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  • Dominique

    And if we tried the experiment with water and a few drops of vegetable oil instead of milk to avoid subsequent odors.

  • Charity Wilson

    Since this art need the fat in the milk to move the colors around but can’t be saved because of milk spoilege… wonder if you could use canola oil instead of milk (or canola oil & water)? This might not result in the “stinky-milk” thing.

  • Ashley

    So after you get the “desired” look…then what!?!?! Just taking pics?

    • Rosa

      Hi Ashley, thanks for stopping by! For me, it isn’t about the “desired look”, as much as it is about watching the mixing and seeing what happens. When it’s over, I just rinse it off and the kids do it all over again. 🙂

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  • Shelley Johnston

    HI I am a teacher and enjoyed squirting a layer of mens shaving cream in a tray..spreading it some then the kids drops different colors of food color on top then they used a fork or a toothpick could be used making cool designs…they then placed a sheet of white paper on top pressed gently for 30 seconds into the cream .the paper was removed the picture was wiped off with papertowel ..we then pinned the pretty designs on the wall!!!

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  • Roxanne

    I am wondering if non-dairy milk will produce the same results?
    Maybe it’s the enzymes in dairy that makes the swirling occur?
    Will try it someday!

  • Nelly

    I will like to know if the painting is permanent after you finish the project? I loved and will like to keeped for decoration.

  • Althea

    Try ink paint also there was a technique used years ago that consisted of water , Paint and borax soap detergent which create the marvelled effect. It came in a kit from ceramic shows. You could do the technique on ANY item items. I did paper bags, ceramic etc. Gave the same apperance.
    I did paper and ceramic

  • SB

    You can use a mixture of cornstarch & water in a baking sheet, OR a glass container for baking, add acrylic paint and pretty much do this, same as picture, then dip canvas in it. Won’t mold like milk mixture.

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