Toothbrush Painting




The first ever art project that I can remember was spatter painting leaves on the sidewalk. I was probably about four or five. A very nice handyman, who I must have been harassing mercilessly, set me up with a piece of screen, a toothbrush, and some paint- he showed me how to make leaf pictures. It made a big impression on me, as the paintings actually looked exactly like the leaves- not my usual semi-abstract dogs and horses- I was delighted.

This is a simple instructable- but you could make it any size/color/colors you like.

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Step 1: Materials

This is what I used:

1 frame (this one cost $1.00 at a thrift shop)
some screen (this cost $0.89 at hardware store- 2'x1')
any fairly flexable wire- i used 'craft wire'- a staple gun would work great
utility scissors
gouache (opaque water color) Acrylic paint (thinned out with water) didn't work at all for me- clogged up the holes.  Probably colored inks would do well.
a toothbrush
something to paint
something to paint on (i used card stock)
some pins if you want/need to hold things down

Step 2: Step 1

The frame I bought had some staples and wires to get rid of before starting.  Set the frame over the screen- leave enough screen around the frame to pull it over the back (this screen is about 1 1/2"bigger around).  Cut out the corners of the screen.

Step 3: Step 2

Now wrap the wire onto the frame.  Using several shorter pieces instead of trying to use one long piece is much quicker and easier.  After you have one side secured, take a small scrap of wire, pull the screen tight, and in the center of the opposite side, secure it to the middle of the frame to keep the screen from sliding around.  One of the pictures shows how to join two pieces of wire.

Step 4: Step3

Time to paint!  Arrange whatever you've chosen on your paper or whatever you're using.  If you think it's necessary, pin down unruly leaves or other things.  Get your paint ready- my mix has LOTS of water and a little squeeze of gouache.  In case you missed it- acrylic paint didn't work at all for me- plugs up the holes (this was also watered way down like the watercolor).  Dip the toothbrush into the paint and brush it back and forth on the screen which you hold over your picture.  My example has about 4 or 5 brushloads of paint- you can go as light or dark as you like.  When the paint drys, pull up your leaf or whatever, and there's your picture!

Step 5: Step 4

Because I wanted my picture to look pretty for this instructable, I framed it in the same frame used for the screen.  After removing all the wire and the screen, I used the glass as a guide to cut out the painting.  The old picture and backing in back of the frame with a couple pieces of duck tape to hold it all in.

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    20 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    An embroidery hoop is a great idea- I think you're on to something here!


    4 years ago

    I was thinking that an embroidery hoop might be a quick way to secure your screen. You can get them cheap at thrift stores and they come in a variety of sizes. great technique. Thanks for the instructable.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is Grrrreat! Could be done with any stencil. I'd love to make a portrait using this technique. Lovely. :)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Really great idea for re-using your toothbrush. I remember we did this when we were kids.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This works even without the screened frame. I have tried this technique before. Wearing a pair of gloves or with just your bare hands, gently run your fingers over the bristles. Doing this produces the same effect without having to do the extra work of making the screen. :) thanks for posting this technique! it's really great!


    8 years ago on Step 5

    I really like this! I am re-doing a bathroom and this would be a great thing to do for some random tiles before I mount them to the wall!! course, Id have to tweak a few things, but thank you for the idea!!!

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Brings back good memories of doing this as a child.
    Its very adaptable and you can expand and expand, with different colors, overlays and patterns.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    cool ... there are a lot of splatter techniques and tools but this seems to give a better control. I'm going to try this with the grandkids


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is great! I have to come up with some crafts for kids and I just might use this! Keep up the great work!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    That looks really good, I'll definitely have to try it out.

    Sue C.

    8 years ago on Step 5

    Awesome idea! Would love to get the expertise level where I could make a huge wall size piece (my apartment needs it). Super-cool that you can use the frame from art-making as the frame for art-displaying. Thanks :)