PetriPaint was conceived from the desire to create a class for all ages to learn about biology.  We envisioned something where kids and adults could experience science hands on without signing up for a college course.  A recent movement in the art community has developed lovingly called Bio-Art.  Then the idea struck us…. Painting with bacteria.

For those of you out there that have learned your entire life to fear bacteria, let us enlighten you to the wonderful world of good bacteria.  While it is good to fear that nasty bacterial infection there are many types of bacteria that pose no risk to humans.  For this project we picked a very safe strain of E. coli commonly used in scientific research.  You might be thinking that you have heard a lot about the dangers of E. coli and you are correct.  Some strains of E. coli are potentially very unhealthy.  However there are many strains and we have carefully chosen a safe strain.  When working with our bacteria you do not need to be concerned about touching, smelling, or even breathing our bacteria.

Liquid Bacterial Cultures During DNA Editing

So how did we make bacteria so bright and colorful?  The short answer is genetic modification.  We started with plain E. coli which is an uninteresting beige color.  Then by carefully editing the DNA of the E. coli we added genes from brightly colored corals.  The final result is bacteria that produces intense colors.

Using this bacteria you can draw pictures on a petri dish filled with agar, aka food for bacteria.  At first your petri dish will appear blank but over a week the bacterial colonies will multiply by millions and your art will come to life.

Petri Paint is a great activity for adults and children.  We have worked with children as young as 5 years old to create successful projects.


  • 6 Blank Petri Dishes to draw on
  • 1 Colored Bacteria Palette with 6 different colors
  • Painting Tools
  • Seals for Petri Dishes
  • Nitrille Gloves
  • Directions

Your art will take about 1 week to develop sitting at room temperature.  After about 1 week your bacterial colonies will stop growing and your art will remain fixed.  The bacteria will die within a month but your art will not change.  The media in the Petri Dish that the bacteria was living on is made largely of water. Over time the water will evaporate and the material will begin to dry out.  As this happens your art will be damaged.   The overall life span of your art will be 2-6 months.

Kits are made to order.  Please allow us 3-4 days to prepare your kit before shipping.

Kits should be used within 2 weeks of receiving them.  Please store your kits at or near room temperature (best between 60-75° F)

Click here to buy.

Nervous about doing the kit at home?  Join us at TheLab for an instructor guided workshop.  Stay tuned for upcoming Petri Paint Workshops.