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How to Make Pointillism Art with Q-tips and Watercolors

by Jean Van't Hul
April 1, 2021

Pointillism art with Q-tips is one of our standby, super-easy-yet-interesting activities that we turn to again and again. Watercolors work great for this!

Updated April 2021

Pointillism art with Q-tips sounds complicated but is actually super simple and kids LOVE it! I set it up for after school or after nap (back in the day when my kids took naps) or in other in-between times. It’s the perfect art activity for transition times.

We’ve done it with a variety of paints and papers (white on black was especially striking) but not watercolors, so this time around I decided to set up the pointillism activity with liquid watercolors and watercolor paper.

Pointillism Art for Kids with Q tips and Watercolors

I’m so glad I did!

I love how well it worked and how great the artworks look! Watercolors are perfect for this activity!

Here is a video showing Pointillism in action, plus some photos, notes, how-to information, and ideas for variations…

Pointillism Art with Q-tips and Watercolors

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*If you don’t have liquid watercolors, try making your own with watered down food coloring. Alternately, you could probably do this with watercolor cakes in tins if you added a little extra water to each cake. 

And obviously, you can do Q-tip pointillism with other paints, such as tempera, acrylic, Biocolors, etc…

pointillism with q tips and watercolors

Time needed: 1 hour.


  1. Set Up Your Materials

    Set up the activity on a tray or mat with a sheet of watercolor paper and your watercolor paints in individual dishes or cups with a Q-tip or cotton swab for each color.

    q tips in paint cups

    We like these paint cups in a base for liquid watercolor paints, but you can use individual cups, too.

    The paper can be used whole or you can cut it into smaller pieces if you like. We found that half and quarter sheets work well with Q-tip pointillism.

  2. Start Painting

    Dip a Q-tip in one of the liquid watercolors, then press the tip to the paper.

  3. Repeat!

    Keep going! You can get a number of dots out of one paint dip. When the color is starting to fade, dip the Q-tip in the paint again before pressing it to the paper.

    q tip pointillism

    Or use a new Q-tip and a different color of paint.

  4. Let Dry

    Allow your artwork to dry. You can hang them up, or use them as cards or gifts for someone special.


The Q-tips make great dots, of course, but they also work well as paint brushes for lines and such. It is so fun to see what kids will come up with. Some use the pointillism technique to paint something abstract, while others love seeing how their favorite animal looks like in dots!

More Pointillism Art Ideas to Try

Once you have the technique down, you can try these variations on it. The fun is endless!

Connect the dots with pointillism

1. Make dot-to-dot activity pages for each other. My girls love doing this for each other – one paints an image using pointillism and then the other has to connect the dots!

Pointillism Art - Color Mixing Illusion

2. Try the illusion of color mixing by placing dots of different colors next to each other. For example, place many dots of yellow and blue close to each other, then stand across the room to look at the artwork and see if it looks like green.

hearts made with pointillism

3. Add a second round of dot art on top of the first after it’s dried. Or switch papers and add a second round to each other’s paper.

connecting dots with a pen

4. Add pen embellishments to the dot art after it’s dried. Kids love tracing the lines and dots they’ve made and seeing how the picture changes.


5. Combine dots with painted lines and filled-in areas. The Q-tips can be used as paintbrushes (as younger children are likely to do anyway) to rub the watercolor against the paper.

6. Use a cotton ball (held with tweezers or a clothespin) for larger dots.

How about you? Have you tried Q-tip pointillism? What kind of paint did you use?

More Painting Ideas for Kids

Pin It for Later

pointillism pinterest

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