Cupcake Painting With Puffy Paint Recipe: Inspired by Wayne Thiebaud

Today’s art project is a little play on words, I’m going to teach you how to paint food with food! This project includes science, art history, math, and painting all in one. I experimented with several mixtures for a homemade puffy paint recipe and settled on creating my own that I felt worked best.  This recipe is easy to make, cleans up nicely, puffs while you paint, and stays puffy when you cook it!
Cupcake Painting With Puffy Paint Recipe: Inspired by Wayne Thiebaud
The inspiration for today’s art project is American painter and printmaker, Wayne Thiebaud.  Thiebaud was born in Mesa, Arizona in 1920 and grew up in Long Beach, California.  In high school, he worked as a summer apprentice for Walt Disney Studios and after graduating had a career as a sign painter, cartoonist, and illustrator.  Later in his career, Thiebaud became an art teacher and influenced many art students teaching art for over 30 years.

You can see a studio visit with Wayne Thiebaud here.

Wayne Thiebaud is most known for his paintings of common everyday objects, such as pastries, ice cream cones, cupcakes, paint cans, hot dogs, etc.  He is often associated with the Pop Art Movement because of his choices in subject matter, but he does not count himself as a pop artist. His paintings often reflect more classical experimentation of brushwork, color, light, and shadow.

Examples of Wayne Thiebaud’s art. Left to right, Three Donuts (courtesy of sothebys.com), Jolly Cones (courtesy of lagunaartmusuem.org), and Pie Slice (courtesy of christies.com).

In 1994 Thiebaud was presented with the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton.  Wayne Thiebaud will celebrate his 100th birthday this year.

The painting inspiration for this art project is Untitled (Cupcake) (courtesy of christies.com).

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Supplies needed for this art project:

  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Baking Powder
  • Water
  • Food Coloring
  • Paper Plate (the back will serve as the “canvas” for the painting)
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Small Containers (for mixing colors)
  • Wire Wisk
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Paint Brushes (various sizes)
  • Microwave (not pictured)

The Puffy Paint Recipe

After many experiments, this is what I consider the BEST homemade puffy paint recipe:

  • 1 tbs flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Simply use this ratio and make as much or as little paint as needed for your project.  We used about 3 tablespoons of flour as the base for this art project and added corresponding amounts of salt and baking powder.  Math skills at work!

Making Puffy Paint!

Puffy Paint Recipe

Mix the dry ingredients together in the bowl with the whisk.  Slowly add water one tablespoon at a time until you reach a consistency that you like.

The paint will start to bubble when you add the water due to the reaction with the baking powder – simply stir and the bubbles will pop.  This is a good STEAM example of science at work.

When you add water to baking powder, the dry acid and base go into solution and start reacting.  This creates bubbles of carbon dioxide! Most baking powders we buy are labeled double-acting, meaning they make bubbles when you add water and when you add heat!  You will see more bubbles form when we cook the painting later!

Once the paint is ready, divide the white paint into smaller containers to make the various colors.  Make sure to keep some of the white paint as well.

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Using a large paintbrush, on the back of the paper plate, create the frosting and cupcake shapes with white and blue.

Next, add the plate and background with other colors.  Feel free to use the colors inspired by Wayne Thiebaud’s painting or mix your own.

Time for Details

Next, add some pure food color to the margins of your mixing area or another small bowl.  Using a smaller paintbrush, add pure food color to your painting and mix it into the paint to create the magical details.

Once you’re finished painting, microwave the painting for about 30 seconds or until all the paint has “cooked”.  The paint will continue to bubble and puff while you cook it!

Here’s what our cupcake looked like before and after cooking.

Allow your cupcake to cool and then decorate the plate around it to frame your painting.

The finished cupcake!

Cupcake Painting Inspired by Wayne Thiebaud

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About the author

Crystal Foth has worked in the arts and taught drawing and painting for over 25 years in Los Angeles. She spends her free time creating art, planning fun art projects and enjoying creative adventures with her family.

View all articles by Crystal Foth

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