Resist Painting With Rubber Cement

Don’t you love ambiguous sentences. When this one accidentally happened, I started looking them up on the internet and had a really good laugh. Here were some of the better ones: The children are ready for eating. Milk drinkers are turning to powder. Stolen painting found by tree. Iraqi head seeks arms. Now back to rubber cement…

It’s always great when you can look beyond a product’s original purpose, and see it’s potential in other areas. Thanks to a couple of great websites (The Artful Parent and The Disarranged Studio), I now know rubber cement is much more than just an adhesive I like to pick at and pull once it’s dried and done its job.  It can be used as a resist, allowing you to create batik-like drawings, which magically reveal themselves once the rubber cement is removed.


  • paper, canvas board or cardboard
  • rubber cement
  • an old paint brush
  • watercolour paint


1. This project involves applying rubber cement to paper, painting on top of it, and removing the rubber cement once dry to reveal the drawing. Of course the layering can continue with more rubber cement and more colours, but these first steps are a great and simple way to teach kids about resist painting. You can point out that the areas under the rubber cement will remain white.

2. Begin by adding rubber cement to paper, cardboard or a canvas board. It usually comes with a large brush attached to the inside of the lid. This is great for drizzling it and creating curvy, organic shapes. You can also use a fine paint brush if you want more control when applying it. Just make sure it’s an old or inexpensive one you won’t need again, because it may not live to tell the tale. Allow to dry completely.

3. Once the rubber cement has dried, you can paint on top of it using watercolours. Whether you use a single colour or many, make sure the entire surface is covered. Have children notice how the rubber cement resists/repels the paint, and prevents it from adhering to the paper in those areas. This is the case if the watercolour paint is fairly diluted. If you’re using watercolours from tubes (which I did for the black) and don’t dilute them as much, the paint will adhere to the rubber cement, but it will still be possible to remove it. It just takes a little more muscle.

Out of curiosity I tried acrylic paint, and it was extremely difficult to remove the rubber cement. In fact, I gave up because I thought my fingers might burst into flames from the friction, so do stick to watercolours.

4. Now’s the best part. Once the paint has dried, you get to gently rub off the rubber cement using your fingers…actually the thumb seems to work best… and watch the magic slowly happen.



Filed under painting

6 responses to “Resist Painting With Rubber Cement

  1. laurenfinley

    Thanks for the credit (altho’ I really shouldn’t take credit!!). Your blog is fabulous. I look forward to seeing more!

  2. Thanks so much Lauren. I’ve really enjoyed your blog as well. If you provided information that inspired someone, I say take the credit! It’s probably next to impossible to find out who originally came up with the idea, but I’m guessing it was a big accident!

  3. Linda

    fun idea, but Rubber cement contains hexane or heptane, potent neurotoxins and is not safe with children — be sure to use a non toxic like Elmers Craft Bond, but even that has latex.

    • Right you are Linda. At least the highly toxic benzene has been removed from the consumer-grade formulas and replaced with the less toxic solvents you mentioned. However, it should still be used briefly and in a well ventilated area or better yet, outdoors. Once dry, it’s safe to work with since the various solvents have evaporated.

  4. Holly S

    That is interesting about the toxic chemicals in Rubber cement. My daughter did this project in school last year and I know they didn’t do it outside. It was in the art classroom. So you have 21 students using rubber cement in a classroom that is not well ventilated. Interesting and very disappointed in our school.

    I love this project, though. I will be sure to use Elmer’s at home.

  5. Thanks Holly. I’d love to know how it works out with Elmer’s.

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