The Basics of Coffee Painting

Coffee painting is an extremely easy and absolutely enjoyable experience. You can find the materials for painting in your kitchen, or buy them for a very cheap cost at your local grocery. To get started you only need these simple materials:

(Content originally published in my Scribd Powerpoint Presentation which you can download here)

Coffee Painting Materials

1. Coffee

Choose the pure black or 100% pure coffee kind. Don’t use the 3-in-1 variety since it has sugar content (that may attract ants to your painting). I usually use Nescafe pure black coffee powder because it’s cheap, easy to use, and works well for me. You can easily adjust the shades of coffee using various amounts of coffee powder and…

2. Water

Some coffee artists treat coffee painting like acrylic or oil painting. I find it easier and more suitable to use coffee like a water-based medium. I had some experience in watercolor painting, so I usually apply watercolor techniques in coffee painting. You’ll find more watercolor-cum-coffee painting techniques in tutorials here in the future.

One tip to keep in mind is that if you are starting out on a small project, don’t use too much water as you mix it with coffee. Try sprinkling some coffee on a container and adding a few drops of water on it. Mix the coffee and water with a paint brush and check if you can easily apply it on paper. You can adjust the shade of coffee to your liking by adding more water. More water means that the shade of the coffee will be lighter. Less water means that the shade will be darker.

3. Containers

I usually work with three small containers with water in them - one for washing my paintbrushes, one for mixing a light shade of coffee, and the last one for mixing a dark shade of coffee. I estimate the amount of coffee that I am going to use for a project. If I mix a particular shade of coffee in a container, I usually check the consistency and shade of the mixture by dabbing a paint brush in it and brushing it over a piece of scratch paper. If it creates the right shade that I want, then I start painting with it.

4. Paper

When I do coffee painting workshops, I usually just require the students to bring oslo or sketch pad paper with them. It is enough to start with the basics. However, for more of a serious kind of coffee painting, I use watercolor paper. Watercolor paper stays firm even if you paint with so much water on it. 

5. Pencils, Black pens or markers

Use a pencil when sketching your subject for painting. Black pens or markers are optional if you want to do a “coffee and ink on paper” artwork. I usually use black pens or markers if I want to add details or variety to the painting. It’s actually fun to make a coffee and ink on paper painting, just like the one below.

Bahandi (Treasure). Coffee and Ink on Paper. 2011

6. Paint brushes


There are generally two types of paint brushes that you can find in school supplies stores: the flat tip brush and pointed tip brush. Flat tip brushes are used in creating graded washes or painting over large areas of an artwork. Pointed tip brushes are mainly used for detailing, highlighting, or emphasizing features of a painting. As you buy a set of paint brushes, choose the ones which you find will best suit your painting endeavors. Are you going to paint smaller paintings or larger ones? If you are going to practice by painting smaller artworks first, buy small or medium-sized paint brushes. If you are going to work on larger paintings, buy various sizes of paint brushes (small, medium and large ones).

Coffee Painting Steps

1. Prepare your coffee painting solutions

For the basics, you have to mix two types of coffee solutions: one for the lighter shade and another for the darker shade. Estimate the amount of water and coffee that you will need for any size of painting that you want to create. 

To create a lighter shade of coffee, mix a few teaspoons of coffee with a few millimeters of water. Check the consistency of the coffee mixture by dabbing a paint brush in it and brushing it over a piece of paper. If it’s not too runny or watery and it creates the right shade that you want, then you can use the mixture for painting. If it is still too light, add more coffee in it.

For the darker shade of coffee, just add a few drops of water on the coffee powder. Check the shade if it is dark enough to your liking. The dark coffee mixture must easily glide on the paper so that you can easily paint with it. 

2. Start sketching

Use a pencil to draw your favorite subject for painting. You can erase unnecessary lines as you finalize your sketch. You can also layer the pencil drawing with a black pen or marker to create a coffee and ink on paper artwork. You may use the black pen or marker before or after painting with coffee.

3. Start with a lighter shade of coffee

Visualize which parts of your painting should have a lighter shade. Start painting the parts of your artwork with the lighter shade of coffee. When you’re done, give it some time to dry (several minutes to an hour) before painting with a darker shade of coffee.

One tip to keep in mind is that when you are right handed, start painting on the top left side of the paper and continue downward, then move on to the right side of the paper. If you are left handed, start painting on the top right side of the paper and continue downward, then move on to the left side of the paper. This is to make sure that you don’t smudge the coffee paint with your hand or arm. 

4. Then paint with a darker shade of coffee

I usually use the darker shade of coffee to emphasize the features of the subject or for detailing. You can change the gradient from dark to light as your paint brush runs out of coffee on its tip.

5. Let the painting dry

Give your painting a few hours to dry before framing. With large size paintings, it would sometimes take 12 - 24 hours of drying.


Basically coffee painting produces a monochromatic (one color) kind of artwork. It’s all in the varying shades of coffee that you paint. Smell the aroma of coffee on your painting as well. The coffee aroma can give you a high during or after painting. 

To preserve the painting and protect it from the elements, frame it with glass. You can also add matting on the sides, which would actually make the painting look nicer (in my opinion).

I hope I was able to help you/enlighten you with this tutorial. For any coffee painting questions, simply email me at

Write a comment

Comments: 5
  • #1

    Sandhya (Monday, 09 January 2017 22:32)

    Can you tell me how to preserve coffee art, like waterproof? Even if you drop your artwork in water, it doesn't get spoilt. Is there any possibility?

  • #2

    Abigail D. Albino (Sunday, 15 January 2017 13:16)

    Hello Sandhya! I would like to share with you what we discussed in our Coffee Painting group on FB (you can search it under "coffee painting"). Some coffee painters preserve their painting by spraying it with clear acrylic or hairspray. As with hairspray, you have to use it with caution because the painting might yellow over time. I preserve my paintings by framing them and then making sure that the back portion is taped on all its sides.

    As for the coffee painting getting wet, I'm still not quite sure about it though. Spraying with clear acrylic might help, but there is still possibility of it getting destroyed. So I would suggest taking care of the painting as much as possible. :)

  • #3 (Friday, 13 April 2018 00:06)

    I, in short, experimented with organic pigments in my paintings, even though now not espresso and tea. I used pokeberries, a brilliant fuschia (and also toxic) berry that grows wild in which I stay. It did continue to be chemically reactive and diminished so I deserted the use of it and different organics. but, with the case of coffee, in particular, if it's miles very finely floor, it includes satisfactory particles and now not just juice, so I consider it will likely be much more fade resistant.

  • #4

    Mohit Singh (Saturday, 15 September 2018 23:09)

    Can i use this coffee color as first coat of oil painting

  • #5

    Benny (Monday, 18 February 2019 08:06)

    Any some paintings for the clear understanding and for practice