Messy Sensory Art with Homemade Gel Paint

With the help of good weather and a shower curtain, you’re all set for a an afternoon full of fun with this messy play homemade three-ingredient gel paint.messy play shower curtain painting

My kiddo has been a messy art enthusiast since the first moment her tiny fingers touched paint and, minus a short period when she couldn’t stand to have anything goopy on her hands for longer than three seconds, that love is still burning strong! No matter what I give her to create with, it ends up everywhere, nose to toes. Can you relate?

Goopy homemade three-ingredient gel paint and a shower curtain are all you need to have a whole afternoon full of fun with this messy play sensory rainbow dream.

process art shower curtain painting 1

If you can, this messy play dream of a project is definitely for you!

messy sensory art with homemade gel paint
Before you head to the great outdoors to get started, you’ll wanna whip up a giant batch of our favorite go-to fingerpaint. I’ve been making this gorgeous gloopy stuff since my days making art with little tiny humans in the infant room at a daycare many, many moons ago. It’s got a fabulously smooth velvety texture, it’s completely washable and totally taste-safe — perfect for even the littlest artists.

(To make enough paint for this giant shower curtain canvas, I had to octuple my recipe and upgrade from my usual standard pot to the big ginormous stock pot. That’s a lot of paint!)

gel paint process art recipe


  • 16 oz of cornstarch (2 2/3 cups)
  • 16 tbsp sugar
  • 16 cups of cold water
  • liquid watercolors or food coloring


  1. Put all your ingredients in a big pot and stir them all together over medium-high heat.
  2. Stir and stir and stir some more. It took about 10 minutes for this big batch to turn into paint so don’t give up! It will work!
  3. While it’s thickening, grab some containers to put your paint in. You’ll need one for each color you want to make.
  4. When your paint is getting close to translucent and it’s nice and gel-like, take it off the heat and scoop it into the containers you have set up.
  5. Squirt in your watercolors or food coloring and stir it up.

Once your paint is cooled off enough that it’s comfortable to touch, you are ready to go!

Let’s get this art sensory awesomeness set-up, shall we?


  1. clear shower curtain
  2. heavy duty cord or twine
  3. homemade gel fingerpaint
  4. optional: clothespins

messy sensory art with homemade gel paint

Step 1: Hang up your shower curtain.

We used some random cord I found on my husband’s workbench, but any heavy-duty string or twine will work. You just wanna make sure it can handle quite a bit of weight without snapping because once the shower curtain gets coated, it gets pretty heavy.

I chose to thread the string through the holes that you normally put the shower curtain rings through, but it might be quicker to use clothespins to clip it to the line and I think we might try that instead next time.

Step 2: Put your containers of paint close by.

We lined ours up on the bottom of the shower curtain to weigh it down a little and keep it from blowing around so much in the breeze.

You might wanna pull the hose over or have a bucket of water filled up for goopy hand rinsing, too.

gel paint on shower curtain

Step 3: Get in there and get messy!

Grab a handful of paint and start smushing! Try going at it from both sides or throwing the globs of paint at the curtain. There isn’t a wrong way to go about it, this art is all about the process and the big giant super messy smiles!

messy sensory art with homemade gel paint

Kinley and I had so much fun smearing the paint on the “canvas” together and squishing it between our fingers and toes that she requested “beautiful gloopy rainbow art” everyday for the rest of summer — it’s that good! It almost looks like stained glass when the sun shines through, doesn’t it? My kiddo ended up actually having the most fun scooping spoonfuls of paint in her messy little hands and mixing up new colors for me to smear on. Love that goop!

messy sensory art with homemade gel paint

messy sensory art with homemade gel paint
messy sensory art with homemade gel paint

Wouldn’t this be fun to try with a big art group? All the kids covered in vibrant paint and laughing together in the sunshine? I can totally picture it and it’s making me wanna break out the stock pot and shower curtain and call up some buddies STAT, how about you? 🙂

More messy fun outdoor art ideas:

Paint Slip ‘n Slide: Place your shower curtain on some gras and slide in the paint. Messy fun!

Frozen goop: Make opaque paint ice cubes to smoosh around on a hot day.

Paint ball smashing art: Toss this paint-filled boba-like balls onto a tarp with surprising effect and whoops of laughter.

Jackson Pollack-inspired art mural: Get the littlest ones involved in making a this free-form large scale painting that you’ll be proud enough to hang.

More homemade paint ideas:

Puffy Sparkle Salt and Flour Paint: So great for filling up old paint bottles and squeezing out to your heart’s desire.

Flour and Water Finger Paint: Good for little ones who eat paint!

Egg Tempera Paint: Paint like the old masters with this egg yolk-based paint. Dries shiny and smell-free 🙂

Sweetened Condensed Milk Paint: The most delicious paint around. Dries shiny.

Invisible Ink: Write secret messages with this citrus-based ink. Easy to make!

About Cara

messy sensory art with homemade gel paintCara Huff is a homeschooling stay-at-home momma of one with a passion for picture books, hands-on learning, & ALL things creative! If you like this project, you can find all of Cara’s other rainbow-colored ideas on Instagram, her blog RaisingKinley.com, and on Facebook.

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Messy Play Outdoor Art Project with Homemade Gel Paint - TinkerLab

Messy Play Outdoor Art Project with Homemade Gel Paint - TinkerLab


  1. Looks amazing!! And a ton of fun! I am just wondering, how do you get the paint all the way to the top of the shower curtain? It seems so high up!

    • You could lift your child or join in – they cover the bottom of the shower curtain and you cover the top.

  2. […] already have in your pantry. In case you missed it, this is the recipe we used in our popular messy play shower curtain process art project. This paint was my go-to back when I was a working gal running the infant room at a daycare. Part […]

  3. isn’t it hard to remove food coloring from hands and cloths? Mines are extremely stubborn. So I can’t imagine playing like this…

    • It shouldn’t be a problem on the hands since the food coloring is mixed with other ingredients, and I would recommend this with play clothes 🙂

  4. Love this idea! Planning on incorporating it in my daughters birthday party this month. Any issues with making the paint a few days in advance? Is the texture still the same if it sits for a while?

  5. using this paint at our end of summer vacation party. can hardly wait to watch the kids get gooey. Thanks for the great idea.

    • Awesome, Pat! I’m glad to help and wish you a fun party!

  6. […] Shower Curtain Painting with Homemade Baby-Safe Gel Paints, By Tinkerlab – Holy color explosion, Batman!  This would be such a fun activity for a small party or a lazy Saturday afternoon with the neighbours. If you’re not a fan of the shower curtain idea, other canvases can be used.  Nonetheless, check out the simple gel paint recipe.  It is squishy, edible and uses three household ingredients plus water.  […]

  7. […] Messy Sensory Art With Homemade Gel Paint. Goopy Homemade Threeingredient Gel Paint And A Shower Curtain Are All You Need For This Messy Play Sensory Rainbow Dream. tinkerlab.com […]

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