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Materials for Painting with Coffee  & Helpful Techniques 

What you need to get started painting with coffee. It looks like watercolor but there is something uniquely different. Refer to the tutorial included on this website to start painting with coffee right away.  Coffee Painting Tutorial.  Or, even better, I encourage people to sign up for a Coffee Painting Workshop.

Basic Materials needed for painting with coffee

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Watercolor paper
Brushes
Pencil ✏️ 
Espresso Coffee
Clean Water
Paper towels

 

 

Helpful Techniques for painting with coffee

A wide range of values is available when painting with coffee. The addition of pencil lead extends the color range.

Good practices to keep in mind for success

 • Move coffee around to create sharp edges and lighten areas to show depth
 • Clean water at all times
 •  Keep Paper Towels near by
• Let each layer dry completely
 • Keep pencil outlines light so they can be erased after the base shape has been painted.

 

Artists have been painting with coffee for many years. This is only a short list of coffee painter's websites.

Detailed information for Materials needed to paint with coffee.

MATERIALS and Helpful Techniques 

Black Coffee 

House-coffee works fine but Espresso is better because it’s more concentrated. Coffee Painting Tutorials often suggest using Instant coffee in various strengths. Instant coffee is a time-saver and works fine but for me it’s a last resort. 

I paint with Espresso and enjoy the ritual of painting with straight shots from my favorite Cafe. My current favorite espresso is Equator

There are two versions of coffee to paint with.

Straight Shots in a small cup for washes

Sun-dried coffee that has hardened or dried on a small white saucer for darkest possible stroke.

Aging The longer the coffee sits in it's container the thicker and darker it will become - especially when kept at room temperature.  When coffee is left sitting for longer than a few days a thick layer will begin to form at the bottom of the container. This creates a darker color to paint with.

Storage  Store leftover coffee in an airtight containers. I store all coffee in the refrigerator until I’m ready to paint again. Beware of mold if not used over long periods of time.

How to make Sun-Dried Coffee

Put a teaspoon of espresso in a white saucer and let it completely dry. When put in direct sunlight it usually takes about 2 hours to completely dry. When it has  hardened you have a medium that is used in the same as pan-style watercolor paint. Just keep adding water to your brush to reactivate it. Once the background of a light was has dried most on the rest of the painting will be done with applications of dark sun-dried coffee

Paper  Coffee can be painted on any paper surface.  

Watercolor paper has the advantage of allowing more saturation which creates depth and richness. The more layers the darker and deeper the images become. The two basic weights of watercolor are #140 and #300. Cold Press is rough and Hot press is smooth.

  Drawing paper offers a smoother surface but has a tendency to buckle when it dries when it has been too saturated with coffee. Quick dry washes are best for drawing paper and can be layered with patience. Poster board is another option.

Watercolor Paint Brushes

The two basic shapes are square and round. The quality of the brush is worth the extra expense. Take care of your brushes and they will last forever. The size and shape depends on what you are painting.  Both shapes come in a variety of sizes.

Sketching Pencils

Drawing can be kept at a minimum and may be just for outlining or to sketch the initial image in the beginning. Start with a soft  pencil because it is easier to erase. The pencil outline helps hold the image in place until the bottom layer of coffee has been painted. This first step is similar to painting inside the lines in a coloring book. Keep pencil marks as light as possible because once you have painted over the pencil lines they can no longer be erased. The coffee seals the pencil line into the paper. This can add an extra texture or color but it’s better if you allow it to be your choice.

Erasers 

Kneaded Erasers are sometimes called putty-rubber. They have more options than traditional erasers and are recommended. They can be molded to clean specific areas and never leave eraser-dust in their path. When not available use a white eraser (Not a pink one unless you want pink streaks on your painting.)

Paper towels

Paper towels are used as blotters and as erasers.  Coffee is unexpectedly "forgiving" and can be immediately lifted (blotted out) if you've made a mistake. Also when the coffee has dried you can re-wet an area with clean water and blot out or erase the unwanted coffee. Paper towels are the un-sung hero in painting with coffee. Cut them up in small squares and always keep them handy. Brush Rolling is used to check the intensity of the coffee and to remove excess water. To do this roll the brush sideways on a paper towel.

 Clean Water

Water Containers

Glass of water for clearing coffee out of brush to keep it clean. Change this water often to keep it clean. 

Glass of clean water to be used in the painting (You will be painting with water)

Keep very clean water available at all times.  It's important to use a clean brush each time you move to a different area of your work - especially when moving to a lighter area.  This  keeps the dark and the light separated needed to get stronger tones and contrast.  Keeping your brush clean is a big deal. Even the slight amount of coffee left in your brush will affect your next color choice - especially if you are going lighter.

Drying -Time

I consider Fresh Air an essential material. Without allowing for a pause of drying time your painting will be one big Blur!  You must wait until the previous layer is completely dry before adding the next. If you don’t wait until it’s dry your coffee will blend into the previous, still wet, layer. It will not make it darker. Under layers of details you liked and wanted to keep can also be washed away. Coffee slightly lightens when it dries, so no matter how dark your thickest mixture is, you will probably want it to appear even darker on the paper. You will need to add more layers until you reach the look you want.

Hair dryer or direct sunlight

A hair dryer will speed the drying process. This will not affect the quality of your work of art. You can keep your creative flow moving when impatience is in your way.


FAQ

When I exhibit my coffee paintings in a show I enjoy taking a SUBTLE  place on the sidelines where I can watch people look at coffee paintings for the first time. It continues to surprise me when I see how often people are shocked when they realize I use coffee and not paint. It's an AHA moment and then the curiosity and the questions start.

  • Did you invent painting with coffee?
    No, it is not my original idea. People have been painting with coffee for many years. (see the list below)

  • How did I get started?
    I was the barista in a coffee house many years ago and wanted to paint with my espresso.

  • How is coffee different from watercolor?
    Coffee has a certain organic texture not found in watercolor paints. Blending pencil lead with coffee produces an unexpected metallic look.

  • How to save unused coffee?
    For best results both dried and liquid coffee should be stored in the refrigerator. It will keep indefinitely when refrigerated.

  • Will coffee paintings fade in time?
    Not much, if at all. I have some coffee paintings that are 25 years old and have not faded. I do recommend keeping your art out of direct sunlight.

  • Is there a special coffee? What about Instant coffee?
    I use single shots of espresso. Liquid form for washes and dried for darkening. House coffee will work but it requires more layers because it is not concentrated. Instant coffee is good for a back up but I prefer espresso.

  • What else besides coffee?

  • I also paint with wine and turmeric. There are similarities but coffee offers a lot more possibilities.