Cave Art (1)

Cave art is synonymous with the stone age. Images of hand prints and animals in dark caves are fascinating and this simple activity will allow you to recreate some of the magic. It is perfect for a history/archaeology/painting clubs, classroom assignment or themed party, although it can get a little messy so old clothes are recommended. Special equipment is required, although this is relatively inexpensive and can be found at most good art shops or online.

Materials & Tools:

  • Nickel-plated, folding mouth artist atomizer >> click here for suppliers <<
  • Acrylic (Poster) paint - natural colours like black, red, brown or yellow work best
  • plastic/polystyrene cups
  • Water
  • Calico or Muslin gauze sheet (1m x 1m minimum)
  • Gaffer Tape / pins /nails (depending on the surface)
  • Cardboard for stencil silhouettes (optional)
  • Hand wipes / soapy water (optional)
  • Sterilising tablets (optional)


Decide where to mount the calico sheet - the ideal would be on an outside wall (or artist easel). As calico is a plain-woven textile made from unbleached cotton, it is perfect for this task, as it quickly absorbs the tiny paint droplets, without causing drips. Use the Gaffer tape (pins / nails) to securely fix the calico to the desired wall / location.

Pour some of the paint into a plastic/polystyrene cups and add water (as necessary) to make the consistency of the paint more watery. There should be sufficient paint in the cup to allow the bottom of the atomizer to be immersed in the paint and the top to be over the cup.


In the simple activity, the idea is to have fun and be creative.

  • First place your hand or a stencil on the calico sheet - it is very important that this is kept absolutely still while you are painting
  • Take the cup and atomizer down tube in your other hand (or ask someone to hold it for you)
  • Aim the end of the atomizer where you want to paint at about 10-15cm away
  • Blow - short, sharp, hard blows !!
  • It may take a while for the paint to emerge from the atomizer, but keep on trying
  • Once the paint starts to flow out, aim the atomizer around the hand/stencil that you are painting
  • If you want to use different colours, remember to keep your hand/stencil absolutely still while you change over paints
  • If you want to try this with several children, you should consider sterilising the atomizer between every person


  • The secret of using the atomizer is short, but very strong blows with your lips fully enclosed around the end piece - this creates a Venturi effect which is the reduction in fluid pressure that results when a fluid flows through a constricted section of pipe
  • NEVER inhale through the atomizer (or you will have a mouthful of paint)
  • It does take some practice to getting the paint consistency right and then holding the bottom of the atomizer in the paint while blowing through the straw end
  • For small children, it is suggested that an adult hold the plastic/polystyrene cup
  • Once you do get the technique, the results are very good and by combing different colours, you can achieve some stunning layering results
  • Clean the atomizer by blowing it through with fresh water (not paint) to remove the colour and then sterilise before allowing to dry
  • Use the cardboard to make stone age animal silhouettes and use them with the hand outlines to make a prehistoric scene



  • Use a small sponge to dip in the paint and then dab over the hand / stencil
  • Paint the hand or stencil and press firmly onto the calico
  • Use paper instead of calico, but do not hang this vertically as the paint not be absorbed and will drip down

Further Activity Examples:

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