Can You Use Bubbles To Create Art?

Science Recipes: Soap Bubble Art

Can you use bubble membranes to create a work of art? This activity will show you how to create colorful artwork using the physical properties of bubbles.

Age: 5-11 years
Time: 20-30 minutes
Topics: Bubbles, Crafts, Art, Colors

What You Need:

  • Tempera or washable craft paint (3-5 colors)
  • Bubble solution, or liquid dish soap and water
  • Cups (8-12 oz.), one for each paint color
  • Straws -Sturdy white paper, such as construction paper or watercolor paper
  • Trays or table coverings to contain the mess
  • Safety Note: Be careful not to inhale the bubble mixture through the straw! It is not harmful in small amounts, but young scientists may need to practice their straw-blowing technique with water first.

What To Do:

1. Protect your painting area by putting down a tray or table covering.

2. In each cup, mix about two tablespoons of one paint color with three tablespoons of bubble solution, or with three tablespoons of water and a drop or two of liquid dish soap.

3. Put a piece of paper in your area and choose a cup to start with. Place the cup on top of your paper.

4. Put the straw into the cup and blow into the liquid to make colored bubbles. Keep blowing until the bubbles spill over the top of the cup and land on the paper.

Adaptation for diverse learners:  After Step 4, cover your hands in soapy water and try moving some of the paint bubbles around the paper with your hands. If your hands are really soapy, you can even blow bubbles from the thin soap membrane between your fingers!

5. Talk about what you observe, using questions like this:

  • What do you notice about the bubbles?
  • What happens when the bubbles pop?
  • What shapes do they leave behind?
  • What could you do to change where the bubbles land?

6. Explore different ways to add to your artwork. Some ideas to try:

  • Place the cup in a different area on the paper
  • Use a different color, but in the same area of the paper
  • Blow harder or softer to create the bubbles
  • Use the straw to place or blow bubbles directly onto the paper

7. Notice how the different things you try change the look of your painting. What happens when bubbles pile up or overlap? Can you control how big or small the bubbles are?

8. Think about other ways you could change the bubble art. What would happen if you used more or less paint in the bubble mixture? Does the type or color of the paper make a difference? Try it and find out!

9. When you are happy with how your painting looks, let it dry, and admire your work of bubble art! 

What's Happening:

Bubbles are pockets of air surrounded by a "skin," or membrane. The membrane is made of a very thin layer of liquid sandwiched between two layers of soap. The amount of soap and liquid determines the size of the bubble. Multiple bubbles clustering together share membranes and create different shapes of bubbles. When a bubble pops, the liquid is left behind, creating an outline of the bubble’s membrane.