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How to Paint Watercolor Planets with Rubbing Alcohol

by Andrea Martelle
April 10, 2024
watercolor planets

Learn how to use paints and rubbing alcohol to make beautiful watercolor planets. Create your own mini universe with this fun art activity!

My family has been on a big space kick, ever since we visited the Kennedy Space Center this winter. My kids already loved stargazing, but our visit took things to the next level. Now we are deep into an outer space exploration.

Naturally, we’ve done lots of art exploration to go along with this newfound interest and painting these planets was easily one of our favorite space art projects.

If you’ve never added rubbing alcohol to a watercolor picture, you’ve got to try it! The alcohol resists the water, creating dots and swirls. It makes for a perfect planet-painting technique.

watercolor planets pin
Photo by Andrea Martelle

How to Paint Watercolor Planets with Rubbing Alcohol



  1. Prepare your materials

    We recommend covering your workspace with an old tablecloth or paper, as well as working on trays or art mats. Kids tend to drop the rubbing alcohol quite liberally and you’ll want to protect the table underneath.

    Cut your watercolor paper into circles or prepare your circular paper by slicing a few pages free from the pack. Pro tip: To open the circular watercolor paper, look for the gap in the glue around the edges. Slide a thin sharp knife or letter opener across the pad to release a piece of paper.

    If you have multiple kids, loosen a few pieces in advance.

  2. Wet your paper

    We start by doing a wet wash on your paper, either with a spray bottle or a paintbrush. It’s important to err on the side of very wet for this activity in order for the alcohol to mix and create a swirl effect.

    painting on circle paper

  3. Add paint

    Once your paper is wet all over, add lots of watercolor paint. If you are painting the planets in our Solar System, you might want to look at pictures of them first, so you know what colors to use.

    paint on circle paper

  4. Drop the rubbing alcohol onto the paint

    Once the paper is nicely saturated with paint, use a dropper to transfer rubbing alcohol to the painting. Squeeze and squirt all over the paper and watch the colors mix. This part of the process never gets old, even for the grownups!

    using dropper with watercolors

Once you’ve added as many drops of rubbing alcohol to your planet as you like, set it aside to dry and make another!

watercolor planet
Photo by Andrea Martelle

We made planets of all sizes and colors until we ran out of round paper. This is one of our favorite watercolor techniques and certainly our favorite way to paint planets!

watercolor planets

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