Salt paintings really pop on dark backgrounds. This multi-colored heart was painted on black construction paper.

Salt is a very familiar ingredient in the kitchen. There are hardly any recipes, savory or sweet, that are not made better by it. Salt is very useful in our Northeast Ohio Winters for keeping roads safe and clean. Salt is also a great art medium!

The History of Salt

Mark Kurlansky’s The Story of Salt (J 553.632 K96S 2006) explains salt’s fascinating history, “which has been the object of wars and revolutions and is vital for life.” While knowledge of salt’s history isn’t at all important to salt painting, it really is fascinating. Kurlansky’s fun style and S.D. Schindler’s comic illustrations make sure reader never take salt for granted again!

Salt Paintings

The best part about salt painting, besides, of course, the finished products, is that you don’t need any special materials or previous experience to do salt painting at home.


  • Watercolors or liquid food colors. The paintings pictured here were made with those inexpensive solid watercolor pans that are available at any discount store.
  • Dark paper. Any weight of paper will technically work, but a heavier paper like construction or card stock is best. Any color will work, but the darker colors, like black or navy make the colors pop.
  • White craft glue
  • A pencil, white crayon, or piece of chalk. You can “draw” your image with the craft glue, but if you prefer to use a drawing tool, use something that will show up on the dark paper.
  • Salt. Any kind will work for this project.
  • A paint brush, a thin one.


  1. Draw a picture on your paper. Remember that the more lines it has, the more glue you have to use!
  2. Trace the lines with a consistent thread of glue.
  3. Cover the entire image with salt. You can use any kind of salt.
  4. Shake off any excess salt. You can keep the excess salt for more paintings. You don’t want to use it for cooking.
  5. Now it is time to paint! If you are using dry watercolors in pans, you will want to get them super wet, much, much wetter than for a regular watercolor painting. You can use liquid watercolors or liquid food colors instead.
  6. Dip your paint brush into the paint and then gently touch to the salt-covered glue lines. Watch the paint magically travel in both directions! You don’t need to press hard. In fact, pressing hard will result in a gluey paint brush.
Tracing the image with glue
Covering the glue with salt
Gently allowing wet paint to travel on the salt

How Does It Work???

Have you ever tried to salt your food in the Summer and the salt is is one big clump? This happens because salt is a desiccant, a substance that absorbs water. Desiccants, like salt, are hygroscopic. These scientific terms mean that salt and other desiccants readily absorb water around them, even in the air. The Summer is usually humid, meaning the air has more water in it. Salt, being a hygroscopic desiccant, sucks it up. That’s why the salt shaker can get clumpy in the Summer! That’s also why the salt seems to suck up the paint! The salt actually pulls the water (and the paint along with it) through the salt!

You can read more about how the science of salt works for salt paintings and in your own body at the Discovery Place Science Museum website.

STEAM Week and Beyond!

STEAM Week here at Westlake Porter Public Library celebrates all things Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. Painting with salt is a scientific and artistic way to enjoy STEAM Week now and in the future! Happy STEAM Week!

Happy STEAM Week!!!

Natalie Bota

Miss Natalie is the Disability Resources Librarian at Westlake Porter Public Library. She enjoys working with patrons of all ages and can usually be found in the Youth Services Department or the Reading Garden. She enjoys reading picture books and poetry, baseball, writing, cooking, and travel. She loves spending time with her pets, family, and friends.