Introduction: Interactive Painting - Inspired by Bob Ross

About: Artist, Designer and Collaborator

Learn how to make an interactive painting using a Bare Conductive capacitive Touch Board!

Make yours inspired by Bob Ross or pair your own art with sounds and music using Bare Conductive Ink and or Paint.

Soldering not required, if you use the ink as a “cold solder,” or use alligator clips. However, you can make your project more durable by soldering the wires to the microcontroller and to the front of your painting.

Upgrade your art and add another dimension. Advanced users can add code to this board or use an Arduino and write your own code!


  • Wooden panel, preferably with an open back and a depth of at least 1.5 inches. This space behind the panel is where all your wires, your touch board, and your speaker will be hidden.
  • Gesso - White paint to prepare your panel and make your colors pop!
  • Acrylic Paint and brushes for the art part of your creation.
  • Speaker of your choice. The board will accept a 1/8" stereo plug and possibly other options. I used mini Jambox.
  • Wires (12 if you want to use all your available sounds) to connect your board to the copper tape spots on the front of your painting.
  • LiPo- Lithium Polymer Battery - 5 VOLT - Rechargeable.
  • Micro SD card - Included in the Bare Conductive Kit
  • Bare Conductive Touch Board - Mine came as part of a kit. You could also use an Arduino or other microcomputer/microcontroller, however, you will need to program it. The Bare Conductive Touch Board comes pre-programmed to measure the electrical capacitance of the paint or ink that works like a sensor.
  • Jar of Conductive Paint or Tube of Ink - I used the paint because it is a bit thinner than the ink, which is better for line work. Even the Paint is a little thick like tar, and the company recommends thinning it for your purposes. You can use other conductive paint if you do your research.
  • (Optional but Recommended) Spray varnish - to protect the painting from all the touches it will be getting!

Step 1: Plan Your Painting

Find a Bob Ross tutorial online and make your painting first.

Think about what kind of sounds you want when choosing your design.

For my painting, I wanted nature sounds and Bob Ross quotes.

I added animals (coyote and birds) so the sounds would be more varied. I also chose an image with trees, water and mountains, so I could have wind sounds, leaf sounds, water sounds etc.

I chose a design that had some black in it so that the conductive ink would look natural in the painting. I wanted the viewers to clearly be able to see which part should be touched to reveal the sounds.

However, according to the instructions, one can actually paint over the black conductive paint/ink with acrylic paint and hide the touch spot.

This is because it is a capacitive touch sensor that you are creating more of a sensor, rather than merely completing the circuit.

Step 2: Choose Your Sounds

You have 12 sounds available on the Bare Conductive Card.

They should be MP3 format.

Again, relabel your sounds to match the following names:













Step 3: Test the Touch Board Microcontroller

Load your sounds onto the removable mini SD card.

Label your tracks:

As many as you want until:

You can have 12 different tracks.
Upload them from your computer and reinsert them into the Touch board on the Micro SD card.

The touch board comes pre-loaded with instructional tracks to help you make your first project.

You will overwrite these when you load up yours sounds by clicking replace file when you get the notification that it already exists.

To test the tracks you can simply touch the large gold colored tabs on the board marked with the corresponding numbers.

REMEMBER: Every time you change what is connected to the Touch Electrodes you need to hit the "RESET" button located on the corner across from the power plug. This will re-calibrate the threshold of capacitance. It is a tiny gold and silver button.

Step 4: Now Test With Wires

You want to test with wires next because that is how you will spread out the different sounds on your painting. There are three ways to do this, each increasing in durability and reliability.

1) Clip an alligator clip to the large numbered tab on the board and then touch the opposite end of the clip to test. This is considered temporary as the clips can come uncoupled very easily. However good if you need to make adjustments and it doesn’t require any soldering. Great for young kids!

2) Solder on a row of headers to the board on the section of small numbers that mirror the large tabs. See photo. This is also adjustable because the header will also hold a wire with out solder. So you can try different wires if different lengths to make sure they reach the part of the painting where the sound will be.

It is relatively secure and also quite compact. This is the method I used ultimately.

3) The third option is to solder the wire directly onto the board without the header. This is the best option if you are planning to commit this microcontroller to this purpose. It is still removable, however that is not as easy as option 2.

REMEMBER: Every time you change what is connected to the Touch Electrodes you need to hit the "RESET" button located on the corner across from the power plug. It is gold and silver.

Step 5: Add Headers (as Preferred)

In this photo you can see that I added a row of headers to the secondary line of inputs printed on the card. This line corresponds with the large gold colored tabs and makes your whole set up a bit more compact and organized.

Look for the notations: E11, E10, E09 etc...

I recommend these headers (the black things sticking up out of the board) because while the wires you stick in them are adjustable, it is very reliable and they won't likely fall off or allow the bare part of the wire to touch and trigger more than one sound.

You can also see that I wrote what each sound would be on the back of the painting so that I didn't get confused about which wire goes where.

Step 6: Wire Through the Painting.

When your painting is finished and you have tested the Bare Conductive Touch Board on its own, either with alligator clips or wires, then it is time to wire up the painting.

I achieved this first by choosing a durable wooden panel to paint on. I made sure it was deep enough to fit my Mini Jambox speaker, the touch board and the LiPo Battery.

After I made my art, I drilled holes where I wanted the sounds to be. The holes only need to be a wide as the wire you will be using. You could also use nails and solder to the back of the nail.

Next, I took the 12 wires coming from the board and making sure that they were the correct length, I pushed them through the holes from behind so that they extended out the holes to the front.

On the front of the painting, I stuck a small 1 cm x .5 cm peice of copper tape to the surface of the painting next to each hole. These are there so that I could solder each wire to the tape and make sure there was a good connection to the board. The copper tape will end up not being visible because it will be coated over with the Bare Conductive Paint.

Step 7: Complete the Touch Sensors With Conductive Paint

After the sounds have been tested and the painting is wired you can put your conductive paint on the front.

REMEMBER: Every time you change what is connected to the Touch Electrodes you need to hit the "RESET" button located on the corner across from the power plug. This will re-calibrate the threshold of capacitance. It is a gold and silver button.

You will be painting over the little copper tape spots next to the holes you drilled, where the wire has been soldered to the front.

You could just paint a little bit of the special paint only over the spot if you want.

However, I chose to extend the range of where you could touch and still trigger the sound by painting a more distinct shape over and around each copper contact.

For example, you can touch anywhere on the coyote and you will hear the coyote sound, even though the wire is only on the belly. It is the same with the mountain, the black conductive ink is painted across the dark shadow part of the mountain.

My image uses a lot of black, so to make it more clear that there are separate sensors in various places, I plan to paint some more color over the plain black paint and leave only the conductive paint as black in color. That way I can tell my viewer to touch the black parts and they can more easily see which parts will be interactive.

However, one cool feature of this capacitive conductive ink sensor you are creating is that you don't need to actually make contact with the ink itself, you just need to get really close!

So, that being true, the company says that technically you could use colored acrylic paint and fully paint over each interactive spot and totally hide where your sensors are.

They also recommend giving your painting a final varnish with spray enamel or polyurethane to protect the painting since the oils on your hands could damage the painting surface and for sure, your painting will be touched by many!

Here are a few links to learn more about how capacitive touch works. FYI this is how your iPad and iPhone also work and yes, it does use the electricity in your skin! Very interesting.

Step 8:

Step 9: Play Your Painting

Imagine how you could use this as a sampler for a song!

Hide your sensors the way I did where the hide in the black paint, or paint specific buttons that are indicated by colors.

Bare conductive says that you can paint over their conductive ink and paint with acrylic paint and make it any color.

They also recommend varnishing with a spray enamel or other finish.

This still works because the board is measuring capacitance and may still be able to trigger the sounds much more like a sensor that a simple completion of a circuit.

Can't wait to see what people create with this tutorial!

Watch this video on Youtube to see my painting in action!