DIY | Extracting Liquid Watercolor From Old Markers

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Here at Playvolution HQ, we love do it yourself projects and figuring out ways to utilize trash-bound items. That’s why we love this process for extracting color from dried up markers. Below, we’ll explain two methods for color extraction and show how it can be used as paint and colorant for other DIY projects.


You’ll need:

  • Old markers (don’t use permanent markers)
  • Water
  • Containers


There are two basic ways to extract the color hiding in dried out markers. We’ll call them The Easy Way and The Way That’s Messier And A Bit More Work–But Faster. Let’s look at The Easy Way first.

The Easy Way

It really is easy. Just group your spent markers by color and:

  • Remove the lids
  • Place the markers (tip down) in a container
  • Add water
  • Set aside
  • Wait for a week (or two)

The Way That’s Messier And A Bit More Work–But Faster

This method is messier because you have to take the marker apart, extract it’s core, and slice it up. It’s faster because the color seeps out of the extracted core a lot faster. Here’s how to do it:

  • Use a pair of pliers to pull the cap off the markers end
  • Pull out the marker’s core. I used the tip of my scissors to grab it–a bamboo skewer, or something similar, would also work
  • Snip the core into 2 or 3 pieces with a pair of scissors
  • Drop the core pieces into a container of water
  • Set it aside
  • Wait about 24 hours


We opted to use glass peanut butter jars for storage. Any airtight container will work–but something that’s translucent and easy to pour from is a plus. We also labeled the containers because it’s hard to differentiate between some of the darker colors.



Here at Playvolution HQ we’ll be calling on these colors for lots of DIY projects–using it in place of food coloring or traditional purchased liquid water color. Here are a few examples of how it can be used.

As Watercolor Paint

The extracted pigment works great as watercolor paint. Just pour a bit into smaller containers and paint away. Dilute with water for softer colors. If your paint sit around for a few days and the color evaporates, just add a bit of water, stir with a brush, and you’re ready to paint again.

It can also be used as colorant in other DIY paints like this and this.

For Colored Ice

It works great for ice beads like these and other ice based projects like these Ice Blocks or Ice Glasses And Bowls.

All The Other Stuff

This color will also work in things like this Oobleck, Slow Cooker Play Dough, or Floam.


Now, when a marker goes dry because Kevin left the lid off or Katie had to color 15 pieces of white paper blue, you can still get some use out of the spent marker. Oh, and save those lids. You can use them as loose parts and have them handy to replace lost lids from your collection of not-dried-out-yet markers.

We’ll update this post with more pictures as we use this colorant in future projects. As always, your thoughts are welcome in the comments.

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Jeff is an early learning speaker, toymaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ who is really bad at getting his picture taken.