An Illustrated Guide for Tea Stain Art

Updated on November 1, 2018
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Celeste drinks 3 or 4 cups of tea every day. After noticing the patterns her teabag made on paper, she began to see shapes and make art.

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Finding Shapes in Random Places

When I was a little girl I remember lying on the grass with my friends. We would stare up at the clouds and find one that looked like a dog or a dragon. It became a game to see who could see the most pictures in the sky. As an adult I played the game with my son. Sometimes we’d look at the grain patterns on wooden floors or the squiggles on a granite counter top. Low and behold, he would find a duck and I would find a crocodile emerging from the water. It’s a fun game to pass the time but as my son’s learning coach at his school I also always felt that it stimulated his creativity. What I didn’t realize was that this was a phenomenon that entertained a number of scientific studies.

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What Is Pareidolia?

To see a definite shape in a random place actually had a name. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is defined as pareidolia. For years, I would find myself staring off into the distance and at that moment I would find a shape in a random object. It always had a calming effect on me. As if removing my mind from the present for a few seconds rewired my mood. After reading a number of articles about pareidolia I found that it wasn’t all that unusual. According to a number of studies, neuroscientists have discovered that the human brain finds a pattern in much of what it sees. It helps us make sense of our environment and this can calm many anxious moments. At least it does for me.

A Tea Stain or Art Stain

I drink about three or four cups of tea a day. You would think that I would have a saucer or dish of some sort nearby to put my soggy teabag in, but I never do. In our house, I am in trouble constantly for leaving the bag in my cup. So I started laying them on random pieces of paper on my desk. In my defense, I do clean up multiple times daily and that is when I started to notice the tea stain patterns on the paper. It was almost always a folded piece that I stole from the printer. So the tan colors showed up beautifully against the white. Even the lavender lemon tea that left a slightly yellow stain was clear enough to see a pattern in. See the duck on water greeting card in this article.

Next time you finish a cup of tea put your tea bag on some paper and see if you can make out a pattern. It surprised me how many images I could find.

Below is a stain which immediately looked like a cat to me, but when my son looked at it from across the table he saw a fish. I photocopied the stain to show both images.

One Stain, Two Possible Images

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You Will Need:

  • Printer paper
  • Wet tea bags
  • Black fine tip marker


  1. After making a cup of your favorite tea, place the tea bag on some white printer paper.
  2. Allow the tea bag to sit for at least half an hour.
  3. Remove it carefully.
  4. Allow the paper to dry.
  5. You can iron the paper to straighten it out or leave it under a pile of heavy books overnight.
  6. Once your paper is dry you can trace the outline of the image you see or even draw inside the pattern. It’s totally up to you.


  • I have used the pictures on greeting cards or placed them in frames.
  • I found a tiny journal at the dollar store and used one of the pictures to decorate the cover.

Pasting onto a Tea Bag-Wrapped Canvas

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Above I used a tea bag wrapped canvas, some twine, glue, thumbtacks, a square of craft paper and a leaf design tea stain to make this wall hanging. I thought about the thumbtacks afterward so they are not in the materials picture.

A Duck on Water Greeting Card

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Good to Know

Cardboard or darker colored papers don’t work as well. I tried watercolor paper and it didn’t stain the paper at all.

Black tea or berry teas with a lot of fruit pigments like raspberry or blueberry work well.


I put a small drop of food color in the center of the paper and then place the wet tea bag on top of it.

If you see more than one pattern in one shape, photocopy your page. You can maybe make a collage from that one shape.

© 2018 Celeste Wilson


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    • celeste inscribed profile imageAUTHOR

      Celeste Wilson 

      22 months ago

      You are most welcome Lorelei and you're right each piece is completely unique. :0)

    • Ladymermaid profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      22 months ago from Canada

      Using coffee and tea to create an old fashioned look on paper is an art theme I have been craving to use although I just haven't gotten around to it yet. Each piece would definitely be unique which is what I truly like about this idea. Thank you for sharing.

    • celeste inscribed profile imageAUTHOR

      Celeste Wilson 

      23 months ago

      Hi SS, you are very welcome. It is so special to have memories. My mom and I still look for patterns and pictures in random places. :0)

    • profile image


      23 months ago

      OMG, this is what I did when I was a young girl, having no siblings or cousins I would amuse myself either staring at the clouds in the horizon, (we lived near the sea and waves would lash at our garden retaining wall).

      In the bathrooms, the floors were cemented and with age had developed cracks, that turned the fine cracks into unusual shapes dogs worms, and faces. I would take a lead pencil and go over the shapes that my eyes spied! Those were days when it was fun to let one's imagination run riot!

      Thanks for bringing my memories back


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