How to Color Sand

Colored sand can be used in a variety of sand art projects. While you can buy colored sand at craft stores, it’s very easy to make your own. In some cases, it is even cheaper to make your own. Best of all, you can create colors that you would not find in a store!


[Edit]Using Liquid Food Coloring

  1. Get some light-colored sand. You can buy sand in hardware stores, art stores, and in aquarium-supply stores. If you already have access to sand, you can use that instead, as long as it is light enough. Try to get the lightest color of sand you can find; white would be the best because it will allow the colors to show up better.
    Color Sand Step 1 Version 4.jpg
    • You can use this method to tint sand at the beach and make brightly colored sandcastles with it.
  2. Divide the sand into plastic zippered bags. You will need one bag for each color of sand that you will be making. Leave enough room in each bag so that you can shake the sand. How much sand you put into each bag is up to you. Anywhere between ¼ and 1 cup (95 and 379 grams) will be plenty.[1]
    • Consider dampening the sand with water. This will make it easier to mix the food coloring into it.
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring into each bag. Plan on using 3 to 4 drops of food coloring for every ¼ cup (95 grams) of sand. If you used 1 cup (379 grams) of sand, 12 to 16 drops of food coloring will be plenty.[2]
    • You can also use liquid watercolor, but you may need to add more than just a few drops. Liquid watercolor comes in small bottles and is already diluted with water.[3]
    • Do not use liquid watercolor if you are doing this at the beach. Food coloring is safe for the animals, but liquid watercolor is not.
  4. Close the bags tightly, then shake and squeeze them to mix the sand. Zip the bags shut tightly first. Next, shake the bags to help distribute the food coloring. You can also gently squeeze and massage the sand through the bags. Keep doing this until the color is even.
    • Add more food coloring if the color is too light for you. Keep in mind that the sand will dry lighter.
  5. Transfer the sand to baking sheets. Make sure that you use a clean baking sheet for each color of sand. Spread the sand across each baking sheet as thinly as you can. If you don’t have enough baking sheets, you can use trays and shallow dishes.
  6. Allow the sand to dry overnight. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can dry the sand in a preheated oven at for 5 to 10 minutes. When the sand is almost dry, take it out of the oven and let it finish air-drying for a few hours.
    Color Sand Step 6 Version 4.jpg
    • Don’t let the sand dry completely in the oven. If you do, the color may fade.
    • Do not bake sand that’s been colored with liquid watercolor.
  7. Use your sand. Fill vases with it to create beautiful, layered designs. Draw a picture on a sheet of paper with glue, then sprinkle the sand over it. Avoid getting the sand wet, however. Even though the food coloring will have stained it, there is a slight chance that it may come off on your hands if the sand gets wet.
    Color Sand Step 7 Version 4.jpg
    • Do not put the sand in water or aquariums. It will bleed into the water.

[Edit]Using Paint Powder or Colored Chalk

  1. Purchase a bag of light-colored sand. White sand would be even better because the colors will show up brighter. You can find bags of sand in craft stores, hardware stores, and even in aquarium-supply stores.
    Color Sand Step 8 Version 4.jpg
    • This method is not safe to use at the beach. Paint and chalk contain ingredients that could be harmful to aquatic life.
  2. Place 5 tablespoons (118 grams) of sand into a zippered bag. This will be enough for one color. If you want to make more colors, you will need to fill more bags with more sand. You can also put the sand into a cup or bowl instead.[4]
  3. Mist the sand with water, if desired. You don’t have to do this, but many people find that it helps the paint powder stick to the sand better. The easiest way to do this would be with a spray bottle, but you can also stir a small spoonful of water into the sand instead.[5]
    Color Sand Step 10 Version 5.jpg
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of tempera paint powder into the sand. You can add more paint powder later on, if you want to, but start with this amount first. You can find paint powder in arts and crafts stores. It is simply dried, powdered tempera paint.[6]
    • You can also use sidewalk chalk or a chalk pastel (not oil). Grind it up first using a craft blade, food grater, or sandpaper.[7]
  5. Zip the bags shut and shake them to distribute the powder evenly. If you need to, gently squeeze and massage the bags to help work the paint powder into the sand. If you are mixing the sand in a bowl, simply stir it with a fork or spoon.[8]
  6. Spread the colored sand out on a baking sheet to dry. Open the bag up, and spread the sand on a baking sheet or tray. Leave the sand out for a few hours so that it can dry. If you play with the wet sand too soon, the paint powder my come off on your hands.[9]
    Color Sand Step 13 Version 5.jpg
    • If you made multiple colors of sand, use a different tray or baking sheet for each one.
    • If you did not dampen the sand, you do not have to dry it. It is ready to play with!
  7. Play with the sand. Use the sand to make beautiful sand art. Fill vases with it, or sprinkle it over drawings made from glue.
    Color Sand Step 14 Version 5.jpg
    • Don’t let the sand get wet, otherwise, the color may come off on your hands.

[Edit]Making Fake Colored Sand

  1. Purchase a bag of Epsom salt. You can find this salt in pharmacies. It is often added to bathes to soothe aching muscles. Although it contains the word “salt,” this product is not edible. Thanks to its pure-white color, however, the food coloring will show up much better compared to real sand.[10]
    Color Sand Step 15 Version 5.jpg
    • Regular table salt will also work for this method.
    • If you want to make edible colored sand, use white, granulated sugar instead.
  2. Divide the salt into several zippered bags. How many bags you use depends on how many colors you want to make. You will need one bag for each color. Don’t fill the bags more than half-way, however; you will need that extra room to shake the salt.[11]
    Color Sand Step 16 Version 5.jpg
  3. Add 5 to 10 drops of liquid food coloring into each bag. Smaller amounts of sugar will need just 5 drops, while larger amounts will need up to 10. Don’t worry if this doesn’t look like it will be enough; you can always add more drops later!
  4. Zip the bags closed, then shake them. Make sure that the bags are tightly closed first. Next, shake the bags in order to mix the food coloring into the salt. You can even squish the bags to help distribute the food coloring further.[12]
  5. Add more food coloring, if desired. If the salt did not turn out bright enough for you, open the bags up and add in a couple more drops of food coloring. Zip the bags shut and shake them again. Keep doing this until you get the color you want.
    Color Sand Step 19 Version 5.jpg
  6. Open the bags and let the salt dry. How long this takes depends on how dry or humid it is in your home. For most people, this will take overnight. You can speed up the drying process by spreading the salt out on a baking sheet or tray. Make sure that you use a separate sheet/tray for each color, however.[13]
    Color Sand Step 20 Version 5.jpg
  7. Play with the sand, but don’t let it get wet. If it gets wet, it will melt! You can use this sand to fill vases in colorful layers. You can also use it to make sand art. For example, you can draw a picture on paper with school glue, then sprinkle the salt over it to create a sand painting.
    Color Sand Step 21 Version 5.jpg
    • You can use edible sugar sand to decorate cakes, cupcakes, or even a tropical-themed gingerbread house!

[Edit]Injecting Some Color

  1. Collect sand. Either purchase sand at your local craft or hardware store, or gather some from a nearby beach.
    Color Sand Step 22.jpg
    • If collecting sand from a beach, be wary of hazardous materials and waste. Though you will later sift the sand, try to pick out noticeable things like paper or large pebbles.
    • Be very careful when collecting sand from a beach. Use rubber gloves as there may be broken glass or other hazardous materials.
    • Store gathered sand in tightly sealed plastic bags. Hold the bags upside down and see if any sand leaks out. This will help you reduce unwanted sand in your car and house.
  2. Sift the sand. Store-bought sand will be smooth and even, but beach sand often has rocks that need to be separated from the sand grains.
    Color Sand Step 23.jpg
    • Place a bucket on the ground and put a sifter over top. This sifter could be an old sifter from the kitchen or fine netting, like a window screen, that is secured over the bucket using duct tape. If you are using a metal sifter from the kitchen, do not use it again for food-related preparation.
    • Pour the collected sand onto the mesh of the sifter or screen. Shake the screen lightly so the sand will filter through into the bucket. You may need to occasionally clear the mesh of any stones, shells, or other debris. Continue this process until all the sand has been sifted.
  3. Divide the sand into separate containers. You can use plastic containers with lids or plastic storage bags.
    Color Sand Step 24.jpg
    • Storage bags are best because they will require less cleanup and will reduce any additional mess caused during the stirring process.
    • Baking dishes and bowls are also acceptable containers. Be sure to thoroughly scrub any kitchenware afterward, especially if dying gathered sand. You want to avoid leaving behind any sand or potentially hazardous materials in the sand.
  4. Add water to the sand. This will help evenly distribute the dye when you apply it later.
    • Aim for a damp consistency and avoid soaking or submerging the sand completely. Don’t worry if you add too much water; this will simply making the drying process longer.
  5. Pour dye onto the sand. Any kind of dye will work for this project, but fabric dye seems to produce the most vibrant dyed sand.
    Color Sand Step 26.jpg
    • Food coloring is also acceptable for dying sand.
    • You may need to add dye several times until it gets to the desired shade you like. The sand will dry lighter so do not worry if the dye is very dark.
    • Dry tempera paint powder is a nice additive that helps create bright colors. Tempera powder can be purchased in most arts and crafts stores.
    • Be cautious while handling dye as it can stain skin, clothing, and furniture.
  6. Mix the dye and sand together thoroughly. This process will vary depending on what container you have used to separate sand.
    Color Sand Step 27.jpg
    • If you are using a container with a lid, you will need a plastic spoon that you can throw away after you finish the project. Scrape the sides of the container to make sure you color everything. Seal the container and set the wet sand to the side to soak up the dye for at least an hour.
    • For a storage bag, simply seal the bag tightly and massage the sand until the color is consistent throughout. Set the bag aside for at least an hour so the sand can soak up the dye.
  7. Allow your sand to dry. Pour out any excess water first, then spread your damp sand on a plate or flat surface.
    • Leave the sand to dry, preferably in a sunny place, for a few hours. You may wish to put paper towels over the plate before putting the sand down to help soak up any excess dye.
    • You can also bake the sand to help speed up the drying process and further infuse the colors. Simply place the sand in a baking pan and bake on for 15 minutes. Make sure you pull the sand out of the oven while it is still damp and let it dry naturally overnight; sand that has been baked completely dry can have faded and less vibrant colors.
  8. Package the dry sand. Once your dyed sand has completely dried, store it in dry plastic containers with easily sealed lids.
    Color Sand Step 29.jpg
    • For safety purposes, store sealed sand outside of the kitchen. You don’t want to accidentally mistake it for a spice or cooking powder.
    • Make sure you reseal the lids tightly after each sand art project. This will keep unwanted materials from ruining the color as well as prevent accidental spills inside the house.

[Edit]Using Sand in Art Projects

  1. Make a sand drawing. Use the colored sand you have just made to add some glitter and pizzazz to hand-drawn pictures.
    • Simply use a pencil to draw a design on plain white paper (a flower, for example). Once finished, place the paper on a try to contain the sand you will pour on later. Use a cotton swab to apply Elmer’s glue to the areas you will be coloring in with sand. Carefully pour the different colors of sand onto the glued areas. Let the sand settle, then hold it over a plate to collect loose sand.[14]
    • For the greatest effect, draw something with many colors and with contrasting colors (for example, a rainbow). This will allow you to utilize a lot of your sand colors and will produce a vibrant, lively picture.
  2. Craft a colored sand vase. Either decorate the outside of a flower vase with colored sand or showcase the sand itself in its own vase.
    • To spice up a flower vase, imitate the way you created a sand drawing. Set the vase on some newspaper. Pour 1/4 cup of tacky glue into a plastic cup and dilute it with a teaspoon of water. Use a paintbrush to apply the glue to the outside of the vase. Sprinkle spoonfuls of colored sand over the glued surface, rotating the vase to spread the sand evenly. Let the vase dry for a few hours, then place flowers inside.
    • Layering sand in its own vase is also a nice house decoration. This is very easy: just pour one color of sand into a vase or clear jar and form a layer. Don’t worry about whether this layer is even or straight; making it wavy and uneven adds personality to the vase and gives it a more natural look.[15] Pour a different color of sand and form another layer. For the best contrast, avoid layering colors that look similar to each other, like purple and red. Continue this process until you reach the top of the vase. To give your vase a beach-like vibe, add some rocks and shells to the layers of sand.
  3. Create a sand candle. This is a nice twist on the layered sand vase and is great for adding uniqueness to plain white candles.
    • Layer the colored sand one layer and color at a time, similar to how you would create a layered vase. Instead of filling the vase to the top with sand, stop a little past half-way. Place a candle into the middle of the jar and burrow it into the sand slightly so that it is nicely supported. Now when you light the candle, its light will reflect off the sand and create a warm, inviting glow.[16]


  • Colored sand made with paint powder or chalk will stay bright for a long time. Sand-colored with food coloring may fade or discolor over time.
  • You can mix food coloring (or paint powder/ground chalk) to make new colors.
  • Add some extra-fine glitter to the sand for extra sparkle!
  • Start with a smaller amount of coloring than you think you need. It’s always easier to add more to reach a darker color.
  • If you used liquid food coloring, be aware that your sand (including salt or sugar) my dry lighter.
  • You can use real sand from the beach, but be sure to sift it first to get rid of any large shells, pebbles, or sticks.
  • Store your sand in jars or plastic, zippered bags when you are not using it so that it does not spill.
  • If the colored sand dries and it is still not the shade you like, add more water and dye and repeat the drying process.
  • To mold the dyed sand into shapes, use the sand while it is still damp so that it will dry into the desired shape.
  • Collecting your own sand will save you money from having to buy it from the store but it will be more time consuming since it will need to be sifted.
  • To dry the sand faster, make sure to put it in the sun and spread it out on a plate/tray.
  • You don’t have to sift the sand if you don’t want to, but know that it might have small rocks and minerals.


  • Do not use colored sand in water or aquariums. The color is not bound into the sand, so it will bleed and stain the water.

[Edit]Things You’ll Need

[Edit]Using Liquid Food Coloring

  • White or light-colored sand
  • Plastic zippered bags
  • Liquid food coloring
  • Baking sheets or trays

[Edit]Using Paint Powder or Colored Chalk

  • White or light-colored sand
  • Plastic zippered bags
  • Tempera paint powder, sidewalk chalk, or chalk pastels
  • Craft blade, food grater, or sandpaper (if using chalk)
  • Baking sheets or trays

[Edit]Making Fake Colored Sand

  • Epsom salt, table salt, or white, granulated sugar
  • Plastic zippered bags
  • Liquid food coloring
  • Baking sheets or trays

[Edit]Injecting Some Color

  • 2 Buckets
  • Sand
  • Sifter
  • Window screen
  • Duct tape
  • Water
  • Assorted dyes
  • Containers with lids
  • Storage bags
  • Spoons
  • Paper plates
  • Paper towel

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[Edit]Quick Summary

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