Introduction: Making a Gradient (using Salt Dough)

About: I make things in my free time!

Gradients, sometimes referred to as 'ombré' from the french word 'to shade', look super cool and super sleek! While they seem difficult to create outside of the painting and hair dye realm, they are actually rather easy to create when dealing with malleable materials such as fondant, salt dough, playdoh, polymer clay, and other materials!

In this instructable, we will be using salt dough to learn how to create this cool color effect!

Step 1: What You'll Need

For this project, you will need:

  • Salt dough
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1/2 cup salt
    • 1/2 cup warm water
    • To make the salt dough, simply mix these ingredients together. There's a great instructable that focuses on the process here.
  • A rolling pin
  • Food coloring
  • Cookie cutters / butter knife / cup / anything you want to use to cut shapes
  • Parchment paper

Optional Items:

  • Latex gloves
  • Oven

Step 2: Adding Color

Divide the dough into two balls of equal size.

Add the desired color to each ball. If you would like, you can also color just one of them to make a gradient from color to white.

You might get food coloring on your hands when mixing. This won't stain, but if you'd like you can wear gloves when mixing.

Step 3: Starting the Gradient

To start the gradient, take one of the salt dough balls and pinch off a smaller portion. This will be the beginning of the gradient. In this case, we are taking off a small part of the blue dough.

Next, pinch off a small part of the other dough (in this case yellow) and add it to the big ball of the initial dough (in this case blue).

So in this case we are taking a small part of the yellow dough and adding it to the large ball of the blue dough.

Once fully mixed, pinch off a bit of the mixed dough as you did with the initial dough-- this will be the next color of the gradient.

Step 4: Repeat!

Repeat the process with the yellow dough and the mixed dough. Essentially what's going on is you keep adding yellow to the blue, taking out a pinch of dough at each step of the color transition.

It helps to keep the balls you pinch off in order so you don't mix up any of the layers-- you will be able to see the transition between all of the dough, but it can be hard to distinguish between two individual portions of dough!

When you get to the last of the yellow, you should have a lovely array of salt dough balls that gradually transition in color!

Step 5: Stack 'em

It's now time to make the gradient!

Taking the dough ball from one end of the gradient, roll it between your hands until it becomes a rod-like shape.

Using the rolling pin, roll the dough into a thin, oblong slab, about 2-3 mm thick. Set the dough aside.

Repeat the process with the next level of the gradient, this time stacking it on top of the first. Keep going with the rest of the dough balls.

Accuracy isn't very important here, but try to make the oblong slabs about the same size.

Step 6: Time to Roll

Turn the dough on its side, so that you can see the gradient from an aerial view.

Roll out the stack to 1/4 to 1/2 cm thick.

You now have a lovely gradient!

Step 7: Fun Time!

You can do whatever you would like with the salt dough slab. I like to cut mine into tags for gifts and decoration.

Use a cookie cutter to cut out the shapes you like, and use a straw to cut holes for the tag. You may need to dust the top of the dough with flour if it gets a little sticky from the heat of handling.

You could also use a cup's rim to cut tags, or cut custom shapes with a butter knife.

Step 8: One's Trash Is Another's Treasure

Once I finish cutting my tags from the gradient, I group the dough and roll it out again! I really love this pattern as well.

(if you use the same yellow-blue color combo like I did or white-blue color combinations the dough gives off a very earth-esque pattern-- a great idea for a space or earth day themed event)

Step 9: Allow to Dry

In order to preserve the salt dough, transfer the tags to wax or parchment paper and allow them to dry for a few days. I like to turn them every day to expose all sides and dry the tags a bit faster.

If you would like, you can also dry the tags in the oven. To do so, place the tags on parchment paper and bake them at 200 degrees F for 2-3 hours.

Step 10: Make Lots!!

There are tons of ideas that you can do with these salt dough gradients! Besides the gradient itself, you can also stamp the tags (I would only recommend using ink with the stamp if you are air drying). Sharpies will write and draw easily on the tags as well.

If you are baking the tags, you can use water colors to color them. I found that stamping letters into the tags and then brushing them with water color will create a nice contrast between the original colored dough where stamped and the water color.

Step 11: Some More Ideas...

  • As stated before, you can make earth themed tags using the scraps of the gradient dough.
    • You can do the same with other colors to make other planets, and make a mobile!
  • Rainbow tags!! Are a cute edition to any gift!!
  • You could try to take multiple slabs of gradient dough and make a gradient box! I have not done this and am not sure how hardy it would be but I'm sure would look amazing!

The technique used to make the gradient is not limited just to salt dough-- you could also use this instructable to make gradients for your fondant, sculpey, or other colored and malleable materials!

Step 12: Thanks for Reading!

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable and make some salt dough gradient projects of your own! If you enjoyed this Instructable, consider voting for it in the Colors of the Rainbow Challenge!

Thanks again for reading!

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