let it (spraypaint on) snow…

by Grace Bonney

i love when i see something that makes me grin and think, “oh man, why didn’t i ever think to try that before?” so when i heard from graphic designer jennifer in new jersey about her snow painting project i was all smiles. jennifer explained that during the last snow storm she and her sister made a bet on whether or not you could spray paint on snow. so jennifer created a little “let it snow” design, printed it and then cut out the letters on a piece of 11×17 paper. after a little spraypaint she created the fun design above. needless to say she won the bet.

this is such a clever idea, i’d love to see it used in a really large scale. i can only imagine how cool this would look from above if you did a super-scale version in a field. this would be a great technique to use for outdoor events or even an outdoor wedding that got a little snowy. thanks so much to jennifer for sharing!

*update: if you want a more environmentally friendly version of this idea, try making your own vegetable dyes and using them in a spray bottle to get the same effect.


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  • This is a really neat idea, but I worry about this being non-environmentally friendly. What happens when the snow metls?

  • When we got 14 inches of snow this Christmas, I asked my husband if spray painting on snow was possible. Guess now I know it it! yay!

  • When I was a kid, we built giant snow sculptures at school and “spray painted” them with a food coloring solution in spray bottles. It would create a shell of ice and keep them around a bit longer. While I’m sure that the colors you can get by mixing food colorings doesn’t compare to the palette available with spray paints, it is certainly a less-toxic and more environmentally sensitive approach.

  • then the snow melts, bringing the paint with it, further polluting and poisoning our already hurting environment.


  • This is cool and all, but I’m sort of shocked by how environmentally un-friendly this is.

    What’s going to happen when that snow melts? All of that spray paint will just seep into the ground. Not cool.

    • emma

      you can use other types of paints/coloring to get the same look. i’ve been googling around for more ideas since i got this original email and have found posts about people using vegetable dyes, so there’s definitely an eco-option if you don’t want to use spraypaint.


  • Same thing can be done with food coloring on a water bottle! We used to make forts out of snow when I was little and then “graffiti” the walls. Prob a little more enviro friendly too. :)

  • Would make a great holiday card, too! Imagine your family laying in the snow with a “Happy Holidays” message spray painted above everyone’s heads :)

  • I usually love all your posts, but this one irks me. Aside from the environmental issues, do we really need more visual clutter in our lives? Why not just enjoy nature as it is.

    • julie

      in a way, d*s is all about adding to or customizing the visual environment around you. i’m not sure i’d use the word “clutter” to describe something like this, but i know that not everything we post is going to be everyone’s favorite.

      if you use the vegetable dye version of this project not only will it be eco-friendly, but it will dissolve with the snow around you, so it won’t leave “clutter” behind.


  • Grace, thanks for your response. I’m glad to see you’re highlighting a more eco-friendly approach.

    However, I don’t think you should be promoting this idea at all. I think it’s contrary for a blog that highlights green living (the small measures column) to talk about how cool it is to spray paint snow. I love your blog and I don’t mean to be negative here, but green living shouldn’t be a once-a-week idea.

    To me, this post sends the message that an interesting design idea trumps sustainability.

    • emma

      i’m afraid i’ll have to politely disagree. for me, design*sponge has always been about finding interesting ways to create a world around yourself that you love. sometimes that means adding to things, sometimes it means leaving things the way they are. but more often than not, we post ideas that are about customizing your surroundings, and for me, this is a great example.

      i understand you, and others, having a problem with the spraypaint, so that is why i’ve posted a green alternative. but i don’t think the entire idea should be thrown out the window because the initial example was made with spraypaint.

      at the end of the day, i’m an idea fan. things that make me smile, make me view my surroundings differently, and make me excited to try something new will always be positive for me. but- not every idea is perfect right off the bat. so i’m glad that we’ve found a way to make this concept more eco-friendly. i don’t think you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater here, so i hope that people can see there is a way to keep both this idea and your green morals intact.

      however, if the idea of adding to your natural surroundings is the major issue here, i’m afraid we’re at an impasse. i love the idea of adding something temporary and beautiful to your natural surroundings if it doesn’t harm the community around you. with the altered version of this project this idea fits my personal guidelines so i’m glad that we chose to share it.


  • I think it is a very nice idea, and I think it is a very nice way to execute a temporary “installation” piece.. Thank you for sharing, regardless of the disagreements expressed here! Good ideas always trigger conversation/disagreements/opinions!

  • I think this is a cute idea! And grace, I agree with you completely and good for you sticking to your guns! Good thing there was no one painting mahogany furniture in the snow, then we’d have a meltdown ;)

  • I like to write love notes to my husband this way, but I just do it by hand and with fruit juice. I love the idea of a template…so cute! I must agree, however, that I’d never use spray paint. Juice is usually on hand and non-toxic!

  • Very fun idea and great eco option, Grace. Kudos to Jennifer for her interesting idea (isn’t that what design*sponge is all about?) and you for sharing. It’s inspiring to see an idea that continues to grow once posted.

  • I like the idea in the example pictured above; it looks pretty and spare. Unfortunately, this idea was taken to its ugliest extreme last year on campus during student elections at a small university I work for. By the end of campaign season, the snow around our school looked like sad, melty snow cones. More depressing than even the brown snowbanks that linger into April!

  • This reminds me of Chihuly. He did snow painting (squirt bottles filled with dye) for inspiration… and for fun!

  • I LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i have already done it. I used vegetable dye and it worked wonderfully!! thanks for the wonderful and artsy idea. my favorite posts are the one with painting ideas and this one ‘tops my charts’ b/c it’s so unique and the snow has been a constant white for weeks, so i added purple foot print stencils all the way up to my house and it looks AWESOME. Anyway, I can’t believe this all caused too much controversy. D*S is totally about creating something where there is a need or a want. Obviously you don’t NEED colorful snow, but some people WANT it! :) So, it’s beautiful to some– including me!!!

  • i understand where everyone is coming from with this being “unfriendly” to the environment, but let’s not forget that spray painting furniture and other objects is just as harmful.

    not that i am attacking your post – or previous posts – grace! i like the non-toxic idea, and the feisty discussions.

  • My dear friend just got engaged after her now-fiance spray-painted the words “Beverly, will you marry me?” in the snow a few weeks ago. What a beautiful winter wonderland image! I think it is a lovely idea with veg. dyes

  • How cool would this be at a wedding in winter? I love that idea!! I’m with you Grace…why didn’t I think of this?? I went out with my husband the other day to make snow angels (something we haven’t done since we were kids!) and when we went to take pictures…well, it was very hard to take pix of white snow angels! (of course we are only amateur photogs!) perhaps the veg. dyes would have made our pix much more outstanding :)

  • Years ago, my little sister recieved a “sno-paint” kit for Christmas (actually fitting as we live where it gets a lot of snow!) It is the non-toxic squirt bottle kind. We had a lot of fun with it, (decorating snowmen and such–wish we would have stenciled) but I suppose that it would be cheaper to DIY!

  • Chalk line marking paint, comes in a can, is non toxic, designed to go on the ground and comes in some brilliant flouro colours. Also due to the chalk base, it will probably give a more intense effect. Also, using plastic lace would make an awesome stencil. I only wish it snowed in Melbourne so I could give it a go.

  • Love it, we used to do something similar when we were young. We would fill balloons with water and food coloring and then throw them at the huge icicles that grow down the sides of mountains over the rocks. They were like ice rainbows which made me feel much better about cold. I still want to do it every time I’m driving and see roadsides with perfect ice covered rocks.

  • How is this any different than all the paint that goes on baseball diamonds, football fields, soccer fields, etc. I hope all the people who disagree with this post don’t support football or driving a car or buying food in plastic wrappers. We all can do our part to help the earth but we all do our part to pollute it too-no way around it.

  • I agree with everyone who’d rather not see paint sprayed on snow. It melts, after all, and then we drink it. So how about doing the food coloring in a spray-bottle thing instead? All the little things we do–or don’t do–really add up.

  • it’s one thing to drive a car as a necessary evil now and then to get by in this modern fast paced world if you’re also watching how often that is, recycling, etc. I just moved out of the city and am driving again after 3 years of not owning car, it doesn’t mean i’m going to go do something as harmful as spraying chemicals into the ground. I grew up on an organic farm and I can tell you that to be certified organic, farmer’s soil samples must meet a certain standard—it takes YEARS to get these chemicals out of the ground to produce the healthy kind of food we all like and we ALL pay the price because chemicals travel miles through soil when it rains/goes into drainage ditches/water systems. Anyways, i don’t want to gripe too much. It IS a sweet idea, just perhaps a bit irresponsible to teach people how to pollute so blatantly. Thank you for your update to the post to make it eco-friendly!

  • I agree with several folks here that my first reaction was HORROR!!!
    It’s like spray painting a lake or a river. Just go ahead and kill all the fish now. Yes, the visual aspect is cool, but the disregard for the environment is shocking. Yes, the eco-friendly option was offered, but I was disturbed by the overall nonchalance over the “original” polluting method. I know we’re not all hippies, and neither am I, but I am saddened that design can be so shallow. Kudos for all the entries with better coloring choices that won’t kill.

  • What Meg said times a million. Fine, it’s not good for the environment. But everyone needs to get off their high horse unless there isn’t a single aspect of their own lives about which some holier-than-thou stranger on the internet could pontificate and snub their noses. This isn’t a green blog; it’s a design blog. Where’s all this eco-conscious haterade on all the posts about some new furniture design or paper-cut artwork or bed linens or dishware? Considering how wasteful most design is, some of you need a serious reality check.

  • Check out these images, it’s called “Glacier Games” by the artist Erik Burke- hopefully no one played the game?! But another great play on the idea of spray painting snow. Sitting on piles of snow in dirty parking spots, the spray paint seems harmless compared the grime created by the cars!!

  • “I agree with several folks here that my first reaction was HORROR!!!
    It’s like spray painting a lake or a river. Just go ahead and kill all the fish now.”

    When you woke up this morning, Ibidem, did you think to yourself, “Today I think I will go on the internet, find the tiniest, most insignificant semi-offense I can find, then escalate it up to the point where I feel justified in using the words “horror”, “shocking” and “kill””?

    I’m curious. It just seems to be the sort of thing you’d need to plan ahead of time.

  • Being Canadian and living in the land of snow, snow and more snow. I automatically assumed that it was vegetable dyes and thought ooh my kids are going to have fun with the spray bottles spray painting the back yard today! Also thanks Misty loving the coloured water filled balloon idea!

  • Yikes. Some of the comments here are getting really nasty. I had no idea people would get so angry about expressing some concern for our environment.

  • Well, I guess I’m seeing two general camps: those who really care about pollution, and those who don’t. Blandwagon, you’re obviously in the second camp.

    I do feel that strongly about paint in our ecosystem. And about oil spills into our waters. And design should never encourage either. But many of you make a good point in that this is not a green blog. Maybe I should look for a green-design blog instead. Any suggestions anyone?

    • ibidem

      there are some really amazing green-focused design blogs out there, my tops would be: inhabitat.com and treehugger.com


  • I had no idea people would get so angry about expressing some concern for our environment.

    I think it stemmed from the way you and others did it, Emma. Nobody likes being scolded, especially by a self-appointed spokeswoman for Mother Earth who seems to be assuming that the rest of us don’t care about nature.

    Perhaps instead of leaping to berate Jennifer over what you must admit is an infinitesimal eco-sin, it would have been more encouraging to write, “Hey, what a clever idea! And to make it more environmentally friendly, use a water and vegetable dye spray!”

  • Really? Refusing to be condescending to someone who didn’t realize the environmental implications of their actions is not caring about pollution? You seem to be conflating rudeness with passion. So none of you righteous souls eat meat or animal byproducts, right? None of you own more than a couple (to be generous) of each article of clothing? None of you ever buy new furniture, appliances, artwork, books, shoes? None of you own computers or televisions? None of you use electricity? None of you buy anything that comes in plastic packaging? Right? The list goes on forever. No one who lives in the Western World is flawless when it comes to environmental impact. You could always do better than you’re doing, use less resources, and there will always be a vast number of things that you do which some pompous vegan nudist who lives off the grid could chew you out for. The difference is that some of us also care about not polluting the world with unkindness as much as we care about not polluting the world with chemicals.

  • e, you make a great point and i respect it. it hurts to be brushed into a big pile of “you” and “they” though. just because i’ve tried to make big changes in my life like recycling, not driving a car, cutting down on meat, having parents who got into organic farming (they aren’t hippies btw, far from it), etc. whatever, it doesn’t mean i’m some “vegan nudist who lives off the grid.” I’m none of those things actually and I don’t think anyone else said they were either. You seem like a much too intelligent and caring person to be making sweeping generalizations and perhaps we’d all understand eachother a bit more if insults weren’t being thrown about. Just a thought, I really am not trying to preach, just hoping for a peaceful meeting of the minds on what i think is a really fabulous blog.

  • Kate, my second comment was in direct response to this statement: “Well, I guess I’m seeing two general camps: those who really care about pollution, and those who don’t. Blandwagon, you’re obviously in the second camp.” I should have addressed the person/statement I was responding to so my mistake for being unclear.

    My mention of “vegan nudists living off the grid” was not an insult (I find at least two out of three of those traits pretty admirable, actually). I also wasn’t claiming that anyone here is one of those things. My point was actually that no one here is, that there is always someone doing it better than you (and me). I’m not religious, but the parable about those without sin casting the first stone sums it up better than I did, apparently. My intended point was the exact opposite of a sweeping generalization–an acceptance of the fact that like everything else in life there is a very broad spectrum, and rather than being self-righteous we should reflect on our imperfections before rushing to put someone down for theirs. And we should accept that just like us, everyone else is just trying to get by and be the best they can, which is a never-ending process.

    In response to you, I reread your comment about the danger of those chemicals and your perception of the necessary evil of driving a car. None of the facts you stated were untrue and it’s very admirable of you to make any efforts to have less of an impact on the environment. I don’t eat meat. I could list facts about the environmental impacts of eating meat and make you feel guilty for eating any. And you’d probably say much of what you’ve said already, that you do a lot of things to benefit the environment, and hope to do more, and you might feel like who am I to judge you for one thing you do imperfectly when you do so many others right? You’ve drawn a line for yourself dictating what is acceptable in your life (driving a car sometimes, eating some meat) and what is not (spray painting snow). But why do you have any more authority than someone who draws a different line, like someone who thinks that eating meat is unacceptable or someone who, for all you know doesn’t eat meat, but spray painted snow once? It’s not about what was said, but how. It’s not a competition. We all want the same thing. And yes, it is a fabulous blog. I’m sorry if I came off too antagonistic. I just get really heated when people turn something so good and important into some sort of club.

  • Kate, to clarify further, I’m not accusing you of being one of the ones turning it into a club or a competition. Proverbial and personal yous are hard to differentiate in text. “It’s not about what was said, but how” is referring to the original comment I responded to, and others, not yours to me.

  • anyone see the irony of making a sign that says “let it snow” after it has already snowed? it’s like the folks who put the word “sleep” over their beds. do you really need the reminder?