diy project: painterly party cups

The inspiration behind these simple watercolor party cups from Stephanie Polli made me very happy. To me, this project exemplifies what makes DIYs such a great outlet for creativity — can’t find any paper cups you like? Make some! The coral and ocean blue color palette is perfect for a spring fête, and I could easily envision an entire set of great tableware inspired by these designs. Thanks for sharing, Stephanie! — Kate

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CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

I’ve been admiring the use of watercolor designs in clothing fashions and dishware this season. The look is playful and full of color. With my upcoming birthday party this month, I was inspired to incorporate watercolor designs into the party theme. I was shopping for supplies, feeling a little underwhelmed by the disposable-cup options,  when I got the bright idea to hand-paint watercolor designs on plain old paper cups. It felt fresh, unexpected and perfect for a spring gathering! — Stephanie


  • 16 oz. paper coffee cups
  • wide, flat paintbrush
  • acrylic paint
  • water
  • tarp or covering for work surface


1. Place the protective covering over your work surface. Paint will flick as you’re working, so make sure you’re not wearing your favorite shirt, either.

2. Squeeze a little paint into a cup. I used about 1/2 a teaspoon for 13 cups. Slowly dilute with water, mixing with your brush.

3. Apply thin strokes to your cup. Feel free to experiment here — it’s fun! Just make sure you don’t paint the cup to the brim. You don’t want your guests putting their lips on dried paint.
4. Line up your cups to dry. I gave mine about an hour, just to make sure there was no bleeding.
5. Enjoy!
  1. lucy says:

    i love this idea, thanks for sharing!! i’m getting ready to throw a party and these just gave me a great idea! thanks!

  2. ROXY MARJ says:

    She shouldn’t have stopped there! This carried over onto muslin napkins and/or runner would have been neat…. or even white paper lanterns…. okay i’ll stop now. :)

    + forgot to mention that I LOVE this!+

  3. theaxx says:

    ooh! these are cool!

  4. I’ve recently been experimenting with painting different objects, but haven’t tried paper cups yet. These are so pretty and would be perfect for a summer picnic!

  5. what a stunning party idea! Thank you for sharing!


  6. Priscilla says:

    What a creative way to dress up ordinary paper cups for a party.

    It would also work great to dip half of the cup into a dye bath…creating a two-toned watercolor look…

    check out my post on dip dying..

  7. oh how i love this! must be time to throw a party…

  8. What a fantastic idea! So simple and it just looks so upscale.

  9. Ariana says:

    I love it! How bright and whimsical– just goes to show that anything can be brought to life with some paint!

  10. Oh wow! I thought these were some fancy-schmancy porcelain cups made to look like paper at first! Long live DIY!

  11. Pretty! These are a create way to customize!

  12. These are really simple but such a fun way to make them unique for your party!

  13. Stephanie says:

    Thank you, Kate & Design Sponge for letting me share this project!

  14. What a great idea that adds such a nice and unique touch to any party! Thanks for sharing. xx

  15. Belly B says:

    That is such a great and fun idea!!! I love it! I think kids will really enjoy it if they could help out too :)

  16. Jasmine says:

    amazing way to spruce up the old paper cup! Perfect for an art inspired party :)

  17. Maartje says:

    Oh love the idea! But why not paint porcelain cups? That would be so cool too :)

  18. Oh wow, those are so amazingly pretty! Hard to believe they’re just plain old paper cups….

    I second Maartje’s idea, re: porcelain. They would make such a modern, fresh statement. :^)


  19. betsy says:

    love this! Any easy place to find the plain white paper cups?
    Might be a fun first item of business for a child’s bday party…have them paint their own cup…then when its time to use them…hopefully they will be dry!

  20. Holly Jones says:

    love this. i have a two-year-old bday party coming up and i can feel a decoration frenzy coming on.

  21. The paper cups are awesome…but enough about them. Where did you get those cool stripey straws?!

  22. hena tayeb says:

    Very cute. A great project for the kids to get involved with

  23. busma says:

    so simple and easy to make, thanks for sharing

  24. Brianna says:

    I was wanting to have a French themed party for my upcoming 18th, so I might try this idea with blue and red (:

  25. lindsey says:

    TOTALLY DOING THIS FOR MY 18TH BIRTHDAY THIS JUNE. and/or graduation. so fantastic, thanks for the idea.

  26. Sandra says:

    I am impressed, those party cups look very cute!

  27. nicole says:

    So pretty and fresh!

    Loving this idea for a kid’s party – and letting the birthday girl choose the colours and decorate the cups.

  28. Tiffany says:

    Totally cute idea. However, I made my own and they are dreadful!

  29. JoyHey says:

    So sweet… so inspirational!! Thanks :)

  30. Rebecca R. says:

    Could you do this with plastic tumblers so that everyone could take their cup home? Would you need any different paints?

    1. Amy Azzarito says:

      Hi Rebecca – They need to be paper to get that effect. You might be able to do something different with plastic but this paint wouldn’t work in the same way. Thanks! -Amy


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