Make: Bison Art for Kids (using coffee grounds!)

This lovely bison art uses an unexpected supply to create rich color and unique texture: coffee! In addition to a cultural introduction to the Great Plains, this project is a fantastic way to experiment with the use of natural art supplies, mark-making, and give an art lesson in landscapes.

To make your own bison art with coffee grounds you’ll need:


  • Cardstock, watercolor, or a similar heavy paper
  • Construction paper in different colors
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Acrylic or tempera paints and a paintbrush
  • Scissors
  • A glue stick or craft glue


Kids Bison Art Instructions:

  1. Print and cut out our bison template or draw your own

    Download, print and cut out a bison from our printable bison art template set. You can also draw your own bison!

  2. Paint your bison with coffee grounds

    Brush your bison with wet coffee grounds (add just enough water that it makes them wet – a little soupy, but not like actual coffee) until the template is completely covered. Set the back half of your bison aside, while you continue to add layers of brushed-on coffee grounds to the front half. Keep adding layers until there is a nice contrast between the two halves of your bison (this gives the front a nice thick, furry look!). Set your bison aside to dry.
    Brew coffee, let cool, mix with grounds, then paint onto your bison template with a brush.

  3. Use torn paper to create a landscape

    For the background landscape, I used one large piece of blue cardstock as the background, and 2 torn scraps of paper to create our landscape layers on top. This is a wonderful opportunity to discuss background, mid-ground, and foreground. How do things look the further away we get from them? How do we create them in art? Which layers should include the most detail?
    Add layers of torn paper with different painted textures to create your Great Plains landscape background.
    To create a snow-covered mountain range, I dotted the blue background paper with a line of small white paint circles and then used an old plastic rewards card to scrape the paint. While dragging the card, I pushed it up and down as I crossed the paper, to create an uneven line of jagged mountain shapes.

    For the field of long green grass, I simply used a scrap of green paper that had been torn in half (horizontally).

    For the dry yellow grass in the foreground, I started with a scrap of torn yellow paper. I painted a thick layer of darker yellow-orange paint on, then used a painting technique called sgraffito to create the illusion of dry grass. Sgraffito is one of my favorite ways to create textures (especially if you’re trying to do grasses!). Simply scratch lines or patterns into the wet paint using the back of your paintbrush, a palette knife, or a similar tool.

  4. Glue your torn paper landscape layers down to create the background

    Once the paint on each of your layers has dried, glue them down on top of each other.

  5. Add your bison to the landscape

    Gently tap your buffalo to brush off any excess coffee grounds, then use a glue stick to add your bison.
    This lovely bison art project for kids uses coffee grounds and unique painting techniques for a wonderful mixed media art lesson! | via barley and birch

  6. Add details

    You can finish this up by drawing a little tail on and adding other details (like the sun we included) to your landscape. We used charcoal to smudge in a couple of areas of dark shadows to our bison as well!
    Coffee ground bison art

For more fun art & play activities using kitchen supplies take a peek at our kids’ constellation art project, or visit this BIG collection of our favorite hands-on kitchen tools and activities for little ones!

Loving the art exploration opportunities? Summer is the perfect season to try our scrap supply pool art, make a set of scrape-painted surfboards, or incorporate a little movement with a kinetic paper playground art invitation.

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.


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  1. Thank you for this! I am the director of a before and after school program. This summer we are doing a travel around America theme and learning about different states. We are going to be learning about Yellowstone and I was looking for a fun bison craft to help the kids learn about the animals in the park. I am so happy I stumbled on this craft. It will be perfect! I think the older kids will be fascinated that they can paint with coffee grounds and the younger kids always love getting to use a paint brush so it will be great!

    • Hey Alex, thanks so much for your message – it made my day! I’m glad you found our bison art too, and hope you all have fun with it as you “travel” to Yellowstone (and beyond – sounds like an awesome summer program!). It’s always fun to paint with something unexpected and it makes the room smell GLORIOUS. 😀

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