Painting with coffee

There are surprising things that happen only when you are painting with coffee.


I have been drawing and painting for many years but experimenting with coffee painting has opened new possibilities. In the process I have also discovered a range of unique characteristics coffee offers when mixed with traditional painting mediums. Watercolor, colored pencil and graphite take new directions when blended and layered with black coffee. Black coffee adds an organic  look creating unexpected textures and colors.

Coffee has an unexpected ability to breakthrough creative blocks and is an ideal introduction to painting for beginners. In the classes it is easy to get started and you will quickly be on your way to develop your painting skills and individual style. If you are already an experienced painter you will be inspired by the “beyond paint” possibilities coffee offers.

Painting with coffee will awaken and stimulate sleeping artist in your life.

Following this tutorial can awaken creative possibility and self expression into your life. Why?  Because curiosity and creative expression exercise your imagination and add inspiration to your life beyond the ordinary day-to-day experiences.    Wouldn't you like to express more? 


Let's get started

Basic set up to paint leaves with coffee.

The basics you need are coffee, a paintbrush and pencil, watercolor paper, clean water and paper towels. 
Complete Materials List

Step #1
Paint a simple shape with coffee

Paint the first layer I suggest painting a single leaf but any simple shape will work if you don't have a leaf.  It can be a circle or triangle - anything to just get started! 
Begin by lightly drawing around the edges of the leaf with a pencil. This will establish the edges of where you paint the first layer. Think of it as a page in a coloring book and you will be more at ease about where you will paint. Once the first layer is painted and has dried you can erase the pencil. It is important to let the paper completely dry before you go forward.


Things to pay attention to:

• The first layer must be completely dry before adding more paint. I recommend having a hairdryer handy because this will speed up the whole process and keep you focused on your progress. If the layer you have just been working on is not completely dry and any new paint added will will just blend into the damp paper. Your new strokes will not be sharp because they will be soaked up by the still wet under layer. This is a Big Deal to remember.

The Left Image shows the first layer painted inside the pencil outline. The Right Image shows how the leaf will develop as more layers and details are painted. Layer by layer the leaf takes form.

• There may be some remaining pencil lines that could not be erased. This occurs when coffee has been painted over the pencil lines and they become sealed in. Try to keep your initial outlining as light as possible. Remember it is just a guide and not meant to be seen in your final painting.

• Keep in mind that It is OK if some pencil still shows because it can add character to the edges.  Any remaining pencil lines may also be intentionally covered with darker coffee.

For extra credit


Start by painting a solid background with a thin layer of coffee covering the entire page. When this layer is completely dry return to the instructions in Step #1 for continuing to draw your basic leaf shape. This will give your leaf background more texture right away. When the leaf is finished there will be a soft background around it created by this first background layer.

The secret of Erasing with paper towels

Areas of dry paint can be "erased" with a clean paper towel. Paint over the areas you want to erase with clean water and then blot and lift the wet coffee area with a dry paper towel. Repeat this process until you have removed (erased) the original coffee. It may require several steps and each time the area to be erased should be dry to be most effective. 

The two images above show how this makes it possible to return to a dry area (Left image) and make changes or corrections. The Right Image now has a vine crawling up the wall. This technique is also beneficial for "cutting-out" veins in leaves.


Free PDF Tutorial - for print


Step #2
Painting veins and stems

Developing the leaf image  Once your first layer is dry and you will start painting various areas of your first leaf. This will add texture and detail. Keep paper towels nearby because they make it easy to blot out excessive coffee. You will be adding more leaves around and under this first leaf.

Things to pay attention to:
•  Adding veins makes your leaf come alive. Often the veins are white or lighter than the rest of the leaf.  It can be tempting to paint veins dark right away. Try to resist this urge.  Remember you can always make them darker by adding a shadow along one side of the vein. Darker hairpin veins can also be added.
•  Add the stem. Keep in mind that most stems are not a straight line but have a natural curve. (See image below) If you wait to add the stem after your basic leaf has started to take form it is easier to see the natural curve of the leaf. That way the stem can be painted in the correct proportion and flow in the right direction.
• Define the leaf edges. The leaf edges hold the character of the leaf and should not be painted with thick stokes around the edge. Natural light and shadows cause the edges to reflect different values and weight. 

Look closely at the images below.


Step #3
Composition add more leaves 

  • Add more leaves to your painting to develop composition

  • Start working each leaf separately

  • Outline in pencil first making sure the original leaf is always in the foreground

  • Leaves can overlap or be scattered and don’t have to touch the original leaf.

  • Maintain a balance as you move between each leaf making sure one leaf doesn't get more attention than the others.

Planning your painting
Left Image Arrangement of actual leaves Right Image Finished painting with coffee.

Arranging and layering the leaves

Develop composition by moving between each leaf adding more detail until the final result is achieved.

Develop composition by moving between each leaf adding more detail until the final result is achieved.