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Finger Painting

Updated on January 11, 2010
Photo by Flavio Takemoto
Photo by Flavio Takemoto

Finger painting is a form of art in which colored pigments are applied to paper with the fingers, hands, and arms. The patterns that are formed include large swirls, broad flat designs, and fine delicate outlines. Pictures may be of plants, animals, persons, places, or abstract designs. Finger painting is one of the simplest of the art forms. No training is necessary, and there is little possibility of technical failure. Although finger painting is especially popular with children, it is also the hobby of numerous adults. Papers decorated by finger painting may be used to wrap gifts, to cover boxes, and in bookbinding.

The paints used in finger painting generally have a jelly-like consistency. Although most people buy com-.mercially produced finger paints, such paints can easily be prepared at home. In making finger paints, a little cold water is first stirred into one-half cup of laundry starch. A quart of boiling water is then added, and the mixture is boiled and stirred until it has acquired a smooth consistency. The mixture is then removed from the fire, and one-half cup of soap flakes and one teaspoonful of glycerin are added.

The mixture is stored in small glass jars. For coloring, a tablespoonful or more of the desired shade of tempera, show card paint, or food coloring is stirred into each jar until all the ingredients of the mixture have become sufficiently well blended.

The paper used should have a glazed surface. It should be spread on a hard broad surface, such as a table protected with newspapers, oilcloth, or plastic. The paper should be well dampened before starting to paint. The painter selects a color and dips it out with a wooden spoon. He spreads the color smoothly across the paper and then uses his fingers to make his drawing or design.

The arm is generally used for broad, sweeping background effects. Large swirls are produced by using the fingers and the side of the hand. Fine details are achieved by using the fingertips and nails. The completed finger painting should be left to dry. When dry it may be made smooth by pressing with a warm iron on the wrong side.

In addition to its recreational and aesthetic uses, finger painting is used as therapy for the mentally and physically handicapped. For these uses an experienced and well-trained teacher is essential.

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