Rainbow Paper

Rainbow Paper is so easy and cheap to make and you are blending a cool bit of science with art too! There are so many things you can make with your Rainbow Paper once it has dried, so this science activity nicely leads onto various craft activities.

To make Rainbow paper you will need:

A large bowl filled with water
Clear nail polish
Pieces of black card or strong black paper that can fit into the bowl of water
Paper or tea towels for drying


1.Work near an open window or some kind of ventilation, as the fumes can be a bit pongy.

2.Fill the large bowl with water.

3.Add one drop of nail polish into the bowl of water; you’ll see it spread out making a thin film across the surface of the water.



This is an opportunity to discuss that nail polish is hydrophobic (water-hating), and lighter than water (hence it sits on the surface). What other substances are hydrophobic, name ones which are hydrophilic.

4. Now dip a piece of black card or paper into the water towards the edge of the bowl and quickly lift the paper up and out of the water bringing nail polish with it. It takes a bit of practise to get a nice smooth layer of polish on your paper. Once you’ve mastered it, its easy-peasy. Watch a 7 year old make some rainbow paper!

Why does the polish readily stick to the paper though? What forces are at play here?

5. Let the paper dry, and you should find the patterns looking quite different. You can use this card to make all sorts of things – try just dunking a corner of the paper for a cool effect for a gift tag or dunk half of the paper as a starting point for a greeting card.  What will you make with yours?



Lab notes

The nail polish eventually dries on the water, making a non-sticky film so it’s best to do this activity quickly, I suggest dipping the paper into the water 10-15 seconds after the drop of nail polish goes in.

Try this other method: first place the paper under the water, then drop clear nail polish on top of the water. Once the nail polish spreads out, pull the paper out of the water, coating it with polish as it comes out.

More easy science?

So you liked this activity and want more ideas, right? Well head on over to our blog to find out other cool experiments such as Glowing Fluorescent Liquid or the Super Easy 6 – a free download with 6 super-easy experiments to try at home!

If you tackle this activity at home you do so at your own risk. If you have as much fun as we did, feel free to share your pictures with us on Facebook.

Bye for now


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