Rainbow Puddle Paper

Cool Science, Quick Crafts


quick, simple and super cool!

the science behind it:

the rainbow magic happens via a process called thin film interference – the same process that creates rainbows in oily puddles on the street or in soap bubbles! a drop of nail polish in water spreads out and forms a thin film, and this coats the sheet of black paper.

when light hits the film, some of it reflects off the outer boundary, while some of the light travels into the film and bounces off the bottom boundary. as a result, the light waves are all on different tracks and interfere with each other, causing us to see different colors.

5 minutes

maker checklist

  • medium bowl with water
  • clear nail polish
  • black cardstock
  • paper towels
  • pencil, ruler, scissors
  • rubber cement



cut the black cardstock into rectangles. ours are 2×3 inches, but any size works!


fill a wide dish or shallow bin with water, and place a piece of black cardstock in it, so the paper rests just below the surface of the water.


drop 1 to 3 drops of clear nail polish onto the water. watch it spread! this is the cool part!


pull the paper out quickly but carefully, and at a slight anle, so it catches the rainbow design. practice a few times and you’ll get the hang of it!

set aside to dry, then mount on a colorful piece of cardstock.