Eat (And Paint With) Your Veggies - Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center

Eat (And Paint With) Your Veggies

Vegetables aren’t just good for our bodies, they’re also good for art projects. This activity shows how simple grocery items (and science) can be used to make a painting.  All ages can have fun with this project, but leave the shopping, cutting, and boiling for the adults. 

Flat protected surface to work on, watercolor paper (any size), paper towels, paintbrushes, 6 cups, heat-safe bowl or measuring pitcher, spatula, strainer, chefs knife, cutting board, 1/4-1/2 head red cabbage, 1 large beet, 3-5 large turmeric cloves or carrot sticks, baking soda, white vinegar, and access to water and heat-source (stove or microwave). You may want to wear gloves, and a smock or apron, or clothes you don’t mind getting stained.


Using the knife and cutting board, chop your veggies (the smaller the pieces the better). You can also use a food processor.  Keep veggies separate from each other.  This is best done by combining Steps 1-3 for each (one veggie at a time).


Boil  chopped veggies by placing them in a large heat-safe bowl or measuring pitcher. You can pour boiling water over top or use a microwave after adding water first.

Add water to cover chopped veggies by about an inch above them in the container.  Microwave mixture on high for 3-4 minutes, making sure it doesn’t boil over.  Let cool at room temperature until it is not hot to the touch.


Stir and press veggie mixture with spatula, then pour the liquid through strainer into a cup. Once you have done this with all three vegetables you will have three different cups of colors to paint with.


With remaining 3 cups, fill one with water, one with vinegar, and one with 1 Tbsp. baking soda.

So you don’t confuse the water and vinegar, dip a brush into one of the colors and wash it off in the cup of water first so it isn’t completely clear.


Start painting, using one color at a time in any order you wish. You can also drip and splatter the colors, along with brushing.

It is fine if pieces of vegetable end up on the paper.  Brush them off or leave them if you wish.  There is no right or wrong way to paint.  The design and subject is your choice, but you may want to start by simply experimenting with the materials.  Remember to rinse your brush out in water each time you switch colors.  Leave colors separate on some parts of page, while mixing them in other areas.


As you are painting with the red cabbage color, while it is still wet, sprinkle some baking soda across it.  You may have noticed that the original color is not red but more purple, and that the soda turns it blue-green.

Once you finish painting and mixing colors, let the paper dry completely.


Red cabbage has a juice pigment which changes colors depending on whether a substance is alkaline or acidic (two opposites).  In this case, the alkaline is baking soda (which changes the color to blue-green) and the acid is vinegar (changing the color redish).  Once you are finished adding the vinegar, you can brush more color layers or leave to dry.  

Final Note: There are many other acids and alkalines you can try with this project, such as lime juice and liquid soap.  You can create as many paintings as you have time for.  Keep your veggie colors for several days by storing in the fridge or freezer. There are many great online resources to learn more about the unusual qualities of red cabbage juice. Here is one to check out for kids: