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Emily's Blog: Coffee Painting

By Gillian 11 Mar 2021

This coffee painting tutorial was inspired by my partner. When we first met, he worked as a barista and I always loved coffee. I decided to make him a gift and when I was trying to think of creative ideas, I realised that I can paint something with coffee. Coincidentally, his eyes are brown so I ended up painting one of his eyes in coffee. In this post I will be recreating that piece to share my coffee painting technique. This is perfect for someone who wants to paint but does not have any paint or doesn’t want to spend money on paint. Of course, you can paint whatever you want, it doesn’t have to be an eye.

Equipment:

  • Instant coffee
  • Water
  • Some cups
  • Card (watercolour card is the best, but I will be using a scrap piece of coloured card so it doesn’t go to waste)
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Paint brushes (preferably a flat and a thin one)
painting equipment

Preparation:

Put a teaspoon of instant coffee into a small cup (or any container of your preference) and add a little bit of water. Make it watery, but not too water so it’s easier to work with.This will be used for blending and lighter shades of the painting.

a hand holding a cup of coffee
a cup of coffee

Now, using another cup, create a similar solution but this time pour a lot less water, maybe just a few drops, so that the coffee turns into more of a thick paste. This is very useful for outlines and small details, as it does not dry fast and does not leak on the paper, causing the lines to lose their shape.

a close up of a coffee in a cup

Always keep some clean water and tissues nearby (for blending and cleaning your paintbrush).

a close up of a bowl of water on a table

Let’s paint!

Sketch an outline of the eye/object you’re painting.

sketch of eye

Using the thick mix of coffee, go over the outline. With paint, I would create a first layer before working on the outline, but due to the consistency of coffee, I will start off by outlining the sketch and the darker details. Additionally, it’s helpful to focus on separate parts of the sketch instead of outlining it all. That way it’s easier to fix mistakes and keep track of the process.

a close up of a drawing of an eye

Next, using the more watery coffee mix, layer the lighter shades. Be careful with this as it’s very easy to put too much coffee onto the card.

a close up of a painting of an eye

Then, go in with the thicker coffee and go over the outline and darker details.

a painting of an eye

Next, we will be moving on to another part of the eye - the iris and pupil. Once again, go over the outline in dark coffee. Make sure to place a lot on the pupil.

painting of an eye

With a thin paintbrush, brush out the coffee in the pupil (as it will not be dry yet) outwards to create the pattern of an iris. Make sure the brush strokes are thin, straight and do not cover the entire iris. Make similar brush strokes going from the outline of the iris, but inwards, as seen in the image.

a painting of an eye

Continue by going back in with the darker coffee mix to go over the outline and add details.

painting of an eye

Next, it’s time for extra details. With the thinner coffee mix, go over the outline of reflection in the eye and create the shape of the eyelashes. Unfortunately, my paintbrush was not very thin, so if you have a thinner one, this will work best. If not, it will still look good as long as you are careful.

painting of an eye

Finally, go over the eyelashes in the darker shade of coffee.

painting of an eye

You are now done! Alternatively, you can also cut around the shape of the eye and use it for other art or just keep it like that, if you prefer it. I was working on a scrap piece of paper that was uneven around the sides, so I cut the eye out to place in an art journal or use as decoration.

painting of an eye and a notebook

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