ART TECHNIQUES Editors choice, Painting techniques 3 Comments 2 min read

Sip, Paint, Sip | Sketches with Wine, Tea and Coffee

We’re all guilty of forgetting a coffee, a tea, or a glass of wine. What to do when it’s lost its aroma and those once tantalizingly fragrant notes are gone? Use its stain to your advantage! These can all be used with brushes and paper in much the same way one would use watercolors. Here are the results of my own tests in which I created three value sketches created these common beverages. Each of these sketches was created using hot press watercolor paper and a round watercolor brush.

Coffee Sketch

What I did

For this coffee sketch, I brewed myself an espresso using a fine-ground dark roast. Once cool, I tested it on a piece of scrap paper before painting the study below. I created the study by lightly sketching the subject to help identify the areas of light and dark. While espresso can seem rather dark, you can see in the test that it results in a rather light wash. As sediment settles to the bottom of my coffee cup, it can be used to create slightly darker layers. Darker areas can be achieved by building multiple layers, but there seems to be a limit as to how dark the coffee.

Testing with espresso
Study with coffee and light pencil

Tea Sketch

What I did

This tea sketch was created using black breakfast tea. To achieve a deeper concentration to paint with, I simply steeped two teabags in a standard cup, letting them both steep for longer than I would normally. Once cooled, I tested the brew on a piece of scrap paper. The tea creates a wonderful amber quality that is exciting to paint with. As with the coffee, the color is rather light but it leads to darker values with multiple layers. Any sediment that settles to the bottom of the cup can be used to create deeper values and add some interesting texture.

Test with Tea
Study with Tea

Wine Sketch

What I did

I selected the remaining wine from an old bottle that was now undrinkable. Pouring the wine into a small pan, I let it simmer on medium heat on my stovetop. The attempt here is to create something more concentrated with which to paint. This wine resulted in a beautiful, warm quality and results in darker values when dropped onto the surface with minimal brushwork. For this study, I added a few loose pencil lines to clarify some edges.

Test with Wine
Sketch with Wine

Try these yourself and explore other new mediums to see what new opportunities open up for you! Feel free to leave any suggestions for uncommon pigments in the comments section below.

About the Artist

Meet the Artist

Scott Maier is an artist and content director for, where he has streamed live over 150 times for Drawing Together. He’s also the author of the instructional art book, See, Think, Draw: An Easy Guide for Realistic Drawing and Beyond.

Join the Conversation!

  1. Did I see that you use Tintoretto watercolour brushes, I have some now too! Probably the best brush for watercolour that really holds the water. We now have a supplier in Toronto at the Gwartzmans art store. Enjoyed you pencil article, love graphite and I also enjoy using Derwent Water-soluble Sketching Pencils which blend with watercolours so well.

  2. These are very cool. I had thought about trying tea in watercolor just to see what happens. (As a teenager, I used tea to stain fabric.) But as Karin mentions below, since tea is acidic, how long will the effect last?

  3. Hello. These look like fun! I may be wrong but I suppose these are intended to be fun and not to be long-lived as both coffee and tea are acidic?

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