Painting with pH



Adult supervision: (choking hazards, liquids not for drinking, powders not for consumption)

Not for children under 3 years. Adult supervision required. Follow approved procedures.

Please read the procedure before beginning! After reading, please watch the video. Some activities require more time and cleanup than others. You also have the choice of performing these activities in a way that suits your needs.


  • Tray
  • Universal Indicator
  • Pipette
  • 3 Measuring Cups
  • Borax Detergent Powder
  • Citric Acid
  • 2 Sheets of Cardstock
  • 3 Paint Brushes
  • 2 Tongue Depressors
  • Warm Water (not included)



  1. First, prepare the acidic solution. Add 2oz of warm water to one of the measuring cups, add the citric acid, and stir using the tongue depressor until it is dissolved.
  2. Now, prepare the basic solution. Add 2oz of warm water to another one of the measuring cups, add the borax, and stir using the tongue depressor until it is dissolved.
  3. Finally, prepare the universal indicator solution. Add 1oz of water to the final measuring cup, and use the pipette to add the vial of pH indicator.
  4. Now, place one of the sheets of cardstock on the tray. Use one of the paint brushes to paint the whole paper with universal indicator solution. What do you observe?
  5. Use another one of the brushes to use the acidic solution to paint on the paper that is covered in universal indicator. What do you observe now?
  6. Use the final brush to paint on the same paper with the basic solution. Now what do you observe?
  7. Use the other piece of paper to create a work of art using the pH indicator solution, the acidic solution, and the basic solution. Always start by covering the paper in pH indicator and only leaving it off of the parts of the paper that will not be colored.

Science Behind it!

     The term pH stands for the potential of hydrogen. Hydrogen is an element on the periodic table of elements. It is in water, your breath, and the air just to name a few. The pH is a measure of the amount of hydrogen ions in a liquid.

     It is organized by a color-changing and numeric scale that can range from acidic to basic. The pH scale ranges from 0-14, with 0 being extremely acidic and 14 being extremely basic. The color that is indicated on the paper reflects the pH chart below. More red is acidic while more purple is basic.

     In chemistry, a liquid is either basic, acidic, or neutral. If it acidic, like lemon juice, there are more hydrogen ions in it. If it is basic, like laundry detergent, hydrogen ions are being lost. An ion is an atom that is positively or negatively charged. Distilled water is an example of a neutral liquid. Experiment with the different colors that the various solutions make to create a work of art!