How to Paint on Scallop Shells

Updated April 17, 2017

Scallop shells make for great canvasses. Their unique shapes make for equally unique art. Since each shell has a different texture and lustre, your scallop shell paintings will turn out different each time. The variances in the shells can become part of your art.

With a little bit of preparation, you can paint your own scallop shells. Half the fun of these paintings is hunting for your own shells and choosing what to paint based on what the shell looks like.

Clean the shells you have collected by soaking them in lukewarm water. Be sure to get all the sand and debris out. If you like, you can use bleach to make sure everything is out, but water will do just fine. Scallop shells are naturally porous, so this is all the treatment they will need.

Use your brushes to paint directly onto the shell. Acrylics show up nice and bright, and it's best to keep the colours separate. If you want a softer look, mix the paint with water. Both the smooth and the rippled side are suitable for painting on and will result in different effects.

Make sure to clean your brushes thoroughly with water before changing colours, especially if you have only one brush. Use the paper towel or cloth to dry the brush in between colours.

Let the shells dry in the sun. If that isn't an option, a heated room will do. Make sure they are completely dry to the touch before carrying on to the next step.

Apply a clear coat to the painted scallop shell. You can purchase clear coat in an aerosol can at any hardware store. It will protect your painted scallop shell from chips, scratches and general wear and tear.

Let the clear coat dry completely before hanging the shell for display.


Make your shell 3-D! You can add things like sand, smaller shells, or plants to your scallop shell to help bring it to life.


Be careful not to let the clear coat get too thick. It could leave your painting with drip marks. A nice light clear coat is best.

Things You'll Need

  • Acrylic paints
  • Brushes
  • Water
  • Paper towels or cloth
  • Scallop shells
  • Clear coat
  • Bleach (optional)
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About the Author

Meagan McDougall has been a professional writer since 2006. First appearing in "The Martlet," University of Victoria's student newspaper, she now primarily writes journalistic articles and screenplays. Her focus areas are entertainment, the arts and the environment. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Victoria and a diploma in writing for film and television from Vancouver Film School.