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Watercolor Tire Wash

Sponsored by
Watercolor Tire Wash MCD@Home project from Museum of Craft and Design


Recommended for ages 5 and up with adult supervision.


In preparation for MCD’s new exhibition MOTO MMXX, familiarize yourself with motorcycle tire treads through a wax resist process! Tread patterns serve a variety of purposes, such as providing traction and grip on the road, aesthetic appeal, or visual indications of wear. Take a close-up look at tire types and decorate your space or stationary with their motifs.


Watercolor paints
White crayon (other colors optional)
Thick, absorbent paper (ie cardstock or watercolor paper with a smooth grain)
Motorcycle tire reference photos (online)
OPTIONAL: pencil or oil pastels can be used in lieu of crayon.


  • Test out the resist process. Make practice lines on paper with white crayon, imitating specific treads by looking at reference photos.
    TIP: To create solid resist lines, press very firmly, or go over the lines multiple times. Hold the paper up to the light to view your lines more clearly.
  • Experiment: draw tread patterns side by side, alone, or intermixed, or test out other crayon colors.
  • Paint washes of color over your practice tread lines. Each tread pattern can have a distinctive color, or one color can be used on multiple treads.
  • Choose your color palette and design based on your experiments.
    TIP: If your crayon pattern is hidden covered by paint, try using a damp brush to gently wipe over your design. This will spread the color, but reveal the resist.
  • Sketch your final design in crayon. Thicken lines for dramatic effect as you go. Be patient with this part of the practice, as the white lights can be difficult to see.
    OPTIONAL: Separate your treads with light pencil lines.
  • Paint over your wax lines. The sample design uses large brush strokes and negative space between and within treads to add to a sense of motion.
  • Let your design dry, and trim the page to highlight your treads. Place your artwork in a frame, or trim rectangular pieces to make stationary!



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