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How do you dye styrofoam balls with food coloring?

Decorating with styrofoam balls can be a fun craft project for holidays, events, or just for fun. While plain white styrofoam balls work fine for some projects, dyeing them with food coloring allows you to create balls in any color you desire. This opens up many more decor possibilities. Dyeing styrofoam balls is an easy process that only requires a few materials.

Materials Needed

Dyeing styrofoam balls with food coloring requires just a few simple materials:

  • Styrofoam balls
  • Food coloring
  • Small cups or bowls for dye baths
  • Spoon for stirring dye bath
  • Latex gloves (optional)

The size and number of styrofoam balls depends on your specific project. Craft stores sell styrofoam balls in a variety of sizes from 1 inch to over 12 inches in diameter. Buy however many you need in the sizes desired.

Standard liquid food coloring is perfect for dyeing foam balls. You likely have this already in your pantry. If not, it’s inexpensive and available at any grocery store. Buy primary colors like red, blue, and yellow plus whatever other shades you want to make.

You’ll need a container to mix up and hold the dye bath for each color. Small paper cups or plastic bowls work well. It’s best to use separate containers for each color.

A spoon is helpful for stirring the dye baths. Plastic spoons are ideal since the food coloring can stain.

Latex gloves are optional, but they keep your hands from getting stained. Food coloring can take a bit of scrubbing to completely remove from skin.

Choosing Your Colors

After gathering your materials, the fun part is choosing what colors to make. Primary colors like red, blue, and yellow allow you to create all other hues. Mix two primaries to make secondary colors:

  • Red + Yellow = Orange
  • Red + Blue = Purple
  • Blue + Yellow = Green

You can experiment to get specific shades. More red mixed with yellow makes a deeper orange compared to more yellow. Adding white food coloring pastes lets you tint to lighter or brighter versions of colors.

For multi-colored balls, choose complementary or triadic color schemes for lots of visual interest. Complementary colors are across from each other on the color wheel, like red and green or blue and orange. Triadic schemes use three colors evenly spaced around the color wheel, like blue, yellow, and red.

Preparing the Dye Bath

Once you’ve chosen your colors, it’s time to prepare the dye baths. This is easy and only requires a few drops of food coloring per cup or bowl of water.

  1. Fill cups/bowls half full with warm water
  2. Add around 10-20 drops of food coloring to each
  3. Stir until fully dissolved

Use separate cups for each color to keep dye baths pure. Make enough dye to fully submerge each styrofoam ball, adding more food coloring for darker shades.

Dyeing the Balls

Dyeing the styrofoam balls is a quick and simple process:

  1. Submerge a ball in dye bath, rolling it around to wet all surfaces
  2. Let soak 1-2 minutes until colored throughout
  3. Remove and allow to dry completely on paper towels
  4. Repeat, using fresh dye baths for each new color

The porous styrofoam soaks up the food coloring quickly. A brief soak of a minute or two gives rich even color. Roll the ball around while soaking to ensure all sides absorb dye.

Remove and place on paper towels to dry. The color may look slightly uneven at first but evens out as drying continues. Allow an hour or more to fully dry.

To repeat with a new color, use a fresh dye bath. This keeps colors pure. Follow same process, soaking balls 1-2 minutes per color.

Creating Multi-Colored Balls

For patriotic, holiday, or decorative balls with multiple colors, you can easily dye each half or section separately. Here’s one way to do it:

  1. Cut ball in half using a serrated knife or styrofoam cutter
  2. Dye each half a different color and let dry
  3. Glue halves back together with super glue or styrofoam glue
  4. Use toothpicks to hold in place until dry if needed

Cutting cleanly through the middle can be tricky. Take it slow and use a sawing motion. A serrated knife works best to get a even cut.

Dye each half a different color and let fully dry before gluing back together. White craft glue or super glue designed for styrofoam bonds the halves seamlessly.

Toothpicks can hold the ball together while glue dries. Insert several around the seam to reinforce and hold in place.

Sealing and Protecting

Although fairly colorfast, dyed styrofoam balls may bleed a bit if they get wet. Sealing them in protects the color and prevents transfer.

There are a few options for sealing dyed styrofoam balls:

  • Clear acrylic spray paint – A few light coats seal in color effectively.
  • Mod Podge – Brush on to seal and add glossy sheen.
  • Clear nail polish – Brush on to evenly seal surface.

Test sealers on one ball first before treating entire project. Multiple light coats work better than one thick coat.

Handled gently, sealed dyed styrofoam balls will retain bright color without bleeding or fading over time. Reseal occasionally if needed.

Displaying Dyed Styrofoam Balls

The possibilities for decorated styrofoam balls are endless! Here are some fun ways to display dyed styrofoam balls:

  • Christmas tree ornaments
  • Garlands strung together
  • Wreaths and swags
  • Centerpieces floating in bowls
  • Table scatters in a vase
  • Mobile hanging decor
  • Party favors or gifts

Ornaments look stunning on the tree, especially with complementary color schemes. Hang individually or group several balls together for impact.

Create a patriotic garland by stringing red, white and blue balls together with fishing line or wire. Drape across a mantel or fence.

Nestle dyed balls into a wreath form or glue onto a grapevine wreath base for bright color. Hang on doors or walls.

Float assorted colored balls in clear glass bowls for quick and easy centerpieces. The water refracts the colors beautifully.

Scatter down a table runner or fill clear vases with dyed balls in one or multiple colors. The colors pop against the clear glass.

Suspend balls from the ceiling or hang on fishing line to make a colorful mobile. Group by color or mix multiple shades.

Place one large ball at each place setting and allow guests to take home as favors. Or give mini styrofoam balls as fun gifts.

Tips for Success

Follow these tips and tricks for getting the best results when dyeing styrofoam balls with food coloring:

  • Use very warm water for the dye bath – it helps the foam absorb color.
  • Rotate balls while soaking so all sides get evenly dyed.
  • Replenish dye baths that get diluted for saturated color.
  • Allow dyed balls to dry completely before handling.
  • Seal finished pieces to prevent color transfer.
  • Clean up spills right away to avoid staining.

With a little creativity, you can produce custom colored styrofoam balls to use in endless craft projects and decorations. Dyeing foam balls is fun, fast and easy for stunning results!


Dyeing styrofoam balls with food coloring opens up endless possibilities for decorating, craft projects, gifts and more. With just a bit of food coloring, water and time, you can transform plain styrofoam balls into any color imaginable. The dyeing process is simple and the vibrant results bring brightness and cheer wherever they are displayed. Get creative with colors and use dyed foam balls for holidays, parties or just to brighten your home decor.