Try this at home: Gravity Painting

Use the force of gravity to make beautiful art

What you will need:

  • Washable paint
  • Water
  • Spoons or paint brushes
  • Disposable cups or paint containers
  • Foam board or cardboard
  • Thick paper
try this at home gravity art

Here’s what to do:

Note: This activity is messy and is best done outside or over a tarp or drop cloth.

  1. Use an easel, chair, box, or tree to prop up your foam board or cardboard.
  2. You can paint directly on the foam board or cardboard, or you can tape or pin a piece of thick paper to your board.
  3. Pour some paint into a container and add a little water to it. The paint needs to flow when you put it on the paper, but not be so runny that it doesn’t stay on the paper.
  4. Starting at the top of the paper, drip some paint onto the paper using a spoon or paint brush. Watch it flow down the page.
  5. Try adding different colors and tilting your board in different directions to let gravity pull the paint all over the page!
  6. Allow your painting to dry before hanging it on your wall or refrigerator.

Take it further:

  • How many colors of paint did you add to your painting? Did any of the colors mix to make new colors on the paper? Which ones?
  • Try rotating your board as the paint is moving. How does this change the shapes the paint makes?
  • Do you think you can use any forces besides gravity to move the paint? Try spinning the board in a circle or blowing on the paint.
  • To make some other neat effects, lay your painting flat on the ground. Then, dip a cotton ball in paint and drop it from shoulder height onto your painting. What do you notice? Ask someone taller to drop one. Or drop one from knee height. Do you notice any differences?

What’s going on?

Why did the paint you put at the top edge of your paper drip all the way to the ground? Gravity! Gravity is a force that attracts things to each other, and it works on everything all of the time. But, gravity is stronger when at least one of the two objects has a lot of mass (contains a lot of matter) or when the objects are close together. The Earth has a lot of mass and your paint is close to the Earth, so the force of gravity is strong and pulls the paint toward the surface of the Earth (the ground). When you rotate your paper, gravity is still pulling toward the ground, so the paint is still trying to get to the ground, but if you keep rotating or even spinning your paper, you may introduce other forces that start to affect the paint along with gravity.

Just like your paint, gravity is pulling you toward the Earth too! The Earth’s gravity is stronger than the gravitational force between other objects (like you and your painting) so we usually only see gravity related to the Earth and things being pulled to the ground (toward the Earth’s center).  Earth’s gravitational pull is so strong, because Earth is so massive, that it keeps us and our atmosphere here instead of floating off into space. Gravity is also what gives us our weight! All objects have mass (an amount of matter), but it’s gravity’s effect on that mass that makes weight. You’ve probably heard that you would weigh less on the moon or Mars than you do on Earth. This is because the moon and Mars have less mass than Earth, so their gravitational forces are smaller.

This means that your weight on the moon or Mars would be smaller too, even though your mass is the same!

Check this out!

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