Youth Ministry Color Wars


We recently did a Color Wars event with Oneighty Students, and it was a complete blast despite the weather being FAR less than ideal (a 60-degree rainy day surrounded by beautiful, sunny 85-degree days all around).

The last few weeks, the Facebook Community has been inundated with Color Wars event questions, so since we had all the information, we figured we would just pool it all together here.


There are a number of ways you can make your own color powder, and since you’re most likely operating on a Youth Budget, you’ll want to go the DIY paint powder route since buying it in bulk is too costly to even consider (12 pounds of Holi Powder typially goes for $50 or more on amazon).

Mix Tempera Paint and Corn Starch

The first way and easiest way is to buy some Holi Powder (like above) and mix it with corn starch. If you have a 5-gallon bucket, throw in one pound of Holi Powder with a few pounds of Corn Starch and mix together. The color will blend and be absorbed by the corn starch, thus increasing your total pounds of corn starch. Depending on what color you are using and how vibrant you want your colors, you can do anything from a 1:1 ratio of pounds of Holi powder to corn starch, or up to 1:4 ratio, though the 1:4 is going to leave you with fairly muted colors.

powder paint fight DIY

Mixing the Holi Powder with Corn Starch doesn’t require a Hazmat suit, we just had a White Out theme for our event, and, well, go big or go home.

This option is ok.  It’s quick and easy, but it’s not the cheapest or the best.

DIY Paint Powder from Sidewalk chalk

The Second way is really a non-starter, and that’s to use sidewalk chalk that you bang with a hammer into powder. Some use this method to get the color instead of buying Holi powder and then mixing it with corn starch. The problem here is that it takes forever to bang sidewalk chalk into a powder (we tried), it won’t blend (we tried), and it’s made with plaster of paris, so anything that doesn’t get broken up well equates to chunks of cement being thrown around.

Completely DIY Color Run powder Recipe

The third way is cheaper and more fun, and in my mind, a better way to make your own powdered paint. It involves a lot of corn starch, food coloring gel, and helping hands.

Making your own powdered paint from scratch is not as hard of a task as it may seem. We had a group of our student leaders come on a Saturday and made nearly 100 pounds in about 3 hours. The best part was that we were able to do this at a cost of about $1.50 a pound of colored paint powder. Most of the links we found on amazon were averaging over $5 a pound for buying and shipping the Holi powder. Adding corn starch to take it further adds $1 per pound. This option was far more economical for us.

We cleaned out Sam’s Club for corn starch (where their “bulk” option was greatly disappointing) as well as a few local stores that had corn starch in smaller options (Menards had corn starch in boxes that were 1 pound and cost .89 when we did our event).

We raided Jo-Ann fabrics for Wilton Food Coloring Gel. We bought 25 of the 1 oz. containers, and aimed to have 6 colors. The food coloring gel comes in a bunch of different shades, and since we were only going after 6 colors, if they didn’t have 4 of one shade of one color, we just mixed shades. With everything except the yellow, this wasn’t a big deal.  The yellow powder was mixed together at the event anyways and it was nothing to worry about at all.

Finally, we got big aluminum foil trays and latex gloves for doing the actual mixing in the next step.

make your own hold powder tempera powder paint

We used our big aluminum trays to mix in, and we started with just a little bit of corn starch and water, and slowly added more and more. The mixture is going to become hard quite quickly, but as you mix it up it loosens into more of a paste. That’s why starting with a smaller amount and adding in is better.  It’s easier to get it to a pasty consistency and get back to it after adding more.

DIY Color run powder

It got a bit dusty and messy, but was a ton of fun even at this stage

throw your own color powder party

Students hard at work making the goop

Our trays we used were able to hold about  3.5 – 5 pounds of corn starch mixed with water, if not more. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a good hold of this and the sizes varied. I know we had bought over 100 pounds of corn starch and 25 1 oz. jars of food coloring gel, so that’d be an average of 4 pounds, but not exact. Either way, when the entire trays had been mixed into a paste-like texture (think of Elmers glue) we then added the food coloring gel and mixed that completely in. This is where the latex gloves came in handy because the gel will stain your hands and it won’t wash off.

*NOTE – The Gel fades. You won’t be able to wash it off your hands when you first get it on, but it fades in a few hours. One of our student’s gloves ripped and his hand was greener than the Hulk’s, but it was clear at church the next morning. While talking about stains, I’ll also just add now that this recipe for color powder WILL NOT stain clothes. It easily came off everything we used.

Once the color had been fully mixed into the tray of goop, we took it outside to our parking lot and let it sit in the sun (we were there for a few hours making and then cleaning up) but we eventually moved all of our trays up to my office to dry out for the next few days. Another note about this – the last three batches we made didn’t get to sit in the sun as long as the others, so they took longer to dry. When we pulverized them on Wednesday, we had to scrape off a layer of mold from these three trays.  Just keep an eye out for this. Eventually, our trays went from colored goop to colored clay bricks that began cracking on their own. We had time and heat to help with this. I’ve seen some who put their trays in the oven to dry out fully, which you may need to do.

color powder

some of the trays in the sun drying out

how to make color run powder

You can already see that water was rising to the top to evaporate off

DIY Tempera paint powder

After a while, our trays started to crack on their own

The final step in making the DIY Paint powder is to take these colored bricks and get them into powder form. We had brought an old blender to chop them up, and even bought a cheap coffee grinder to get the powder really fine thanks to tips from pinterest, but these were both a huge waste and we didn’t even use them. The bricks are so soft to the touch, we were able to put chunks of the bricks into ziploc bags and just use our hands to break them up. We could have done this in the tray, but we stored the powder in the bags until just before the event because of rain.

After all that, we had over 100 pounds of Colored Paint powder that was the same as what we would have bought online (many of the places selling use this corn starch recipe). If we really wanted to, we could have then gone the route of option 1 WAY above and mixed the colored paint with more corn starch to get even more powder, and for one of our games we did do this with some color and flour.


Many Youth Groups have been doing Color Wars for the last few years and known, and from experience, I can also tell you, all that colored paint powder you bought or spent hours making is going to be gone in a handful of minutes. So unless a Color fight is something you are doing at the end of some other event, you’ll need more activities to make it it’s own event. We had initially planned on doing slip and slide kickball, and touch the can using baby pools filled with paint water, and then the weather dropped to 60 degrees and raining on the day of our event, so we changed plans.

We had our event set up with 4 teams that students had been creating for a few weeks with sign ups and invites, so we needed to set up our field to accommodate 4 teams. Here is an image of our layout, and I’ll explain a bit as we go.

what to do at a youth group color wars event

Powder Paint Capture the Flag

We played a variation of capture the flag that involved color paint dodgeballs, and thus needed a 4 team field set up. Each of our 4 teams got their own quadrant in the cross illustrated above. Each square shown was about 75 feet, with the big square in the middle as a neutral zone. Each team placed their flag relatively centered in the back of their square, 15 feet away from the back border (because the rule was if you stepped out of bounds at all, you were out, so teems needed to be able to go around the flag). The only way to get people out was to hit them with a paint powder dodgeball, and you could only get out if you were not in your square or the neutral zone, and when you got out, you just sat down where you were. All teams were going after the other three flags, and we played a few 5 minute rounds. Whichever team had the most flags at the end of the round won and got points.

Our Powder Paint Dodgeballs were nylon stockings stuffed with a variation of the powder paint. I mention above we partially did the first two methods with the third way of making DIY paint powder. We used sidewalk chalk and some of our home made holi powder, mixed with more corn starch and flour to create a ton more powder that really didn’t need to be too vibrant. That’s what we filled the nylon stockings with. We had to make this game up on the fly as we got hit with unexpected rain changing the other games we had planned to needing to be dry based, so this was the cheapest way to make 100 more pounds of paint powder the day of the event (we made 100 bombs with 1 pound of powder each, 25 for each color team).

Each round, we changed something up. One round the neutral zone was safe for all, the next round the neutral zone was safe for no one and you could get out there. Then we did shorter rounds where it was 3 on 1 and one round of 2 on 2, all told spending something like 40 minutes with this game.

Sharks and Minnows Bloodbath

This was another game we made up that day that would keep kids from getting too wet but covered in paint. We got a ton of pool noodles, enough for every person on one team at a time to have one, and made a few 5 gallon buckets of paint water. To make the paint water, we just mixed regular tempera paint into water. The pool noodles held onto this mixture a little bit, but honestly this game could be improved upon as it didn’t work out quite like we had planned.

The object of this game was for one team to be sharks, and the other three teams to be minnows, running from one end of the field (green line above) to the other end of the field without getting hit by a shark with a pool noodle. The idea was that when someone got tagged, they would have the shark’s teams color plastered on them by the pool noodle. This worked about 50% of the time, but the game still worked as a game, it just didn’t cover everyone in color like we wanted. Each of our 4 teams took a turn being the sharks, and the last minnow to successfully cross the field earned their team points. If the sharks eliminated everyone on the first pass, they got points for winning.

Color War

Finally, the actual color battle. There was no point to this other than cover each other with color and have fun! We put all the powder in buckets in a circle in the neutral zone of our map, and let everyone have at it!

having your own color fight DIY Color fight youth ministry kick off youth group retreat idea youth color run fight color fight event

Color Slip and Slide

We had initially planned this, and then cancelled it due to the cold and rain, and then kept it going at the end after all because we figured everyone was already messy and in high spirits, and it would be completely optional as the last thing to do.

The points scored throughout the night by the teams earned the winning team the right to go down the slip and slide first.

For this, we just got a 8’x100′ roll of painters plastic from Menards (it was only like $25), and then a ton of jars of tempera art paint from Wal-Mart that we squirted all over the slide. The last thing we did before everyone went down was throw dawn dish soap on it and threw the buckets of paint water from the sharks and minnow game down the slide to make it nice and slippery.

color slip and slide

Here I am going down the slip and slide like an elegant hippopotamus being carried by the stream of a river

paint slip and slide color run powder slip and slide

youth group slip and slide color wars

Starting to look like a melting m&m blizzard

awesome youth ministry event color slip and slide

This would probably work better with one color at a time, as opposed to the whole gamut we did, as by the end of the slide everyone just looked like the bottom of an M&M Blizzard. BUT, it was still a blast, and created a lasting memory.


Will it stain clothes? No, the powder should come out. The slip and slide all washed off of my clothes (granted, I had my hazmat suit on for most of it, but I did take it off and go down in jeans and a white t-shirt with no stains). The only color that was left on my clothes after washing was a red stripe wherever the zipper on my hazmat suit was, and again, that was more so from the slip and slide.

Will it mess up the field? Elders and Deacons rejoice! The day after our event, the only visible sign that we had had 100 kids covering each other in paint and powder the night before was the mark in the grass from the slip and slide (which mowed out that Saturday).

Should students wear goggles? What about masks? They can if they want to, but we told students to only throw the powder waist down. Me, being the awesome Youth Pastor I am, completely forgot this rule and grabbed a handful of powder, turned to throw, and nailed a girl right in the face who was standing less than three feet away. She was fine, didn’t need to run to the hospital or even bathroom. Granted, this stuff probably isn’t like putting vision on your eyes after staring at a computer screen all day, but we didn’t run into any problems in our group.

How did you distribute the powder? I love the idea of the squirt bottles that a lot of people have  done. That wasn’t economically feasible for us to buy that many bottles. Instead, we filled a ton of 5 gallon buckets with the colored powder (obviously, 1 color per bucket) and placed them in a circle in our neutral zone square from the map above. Everyone started the middle and got a small dixie cup to fill up and fling the powder at others. Having the color in the circle shape helped keep the crowd fairly together to maximize the color exposure, though next year we’ll make the circle smaller so we are more on top of each other with the powder clouds.

Is the event worth it? Honestly, I think Color Wars are the new Lock-Ins. Don’t get me wrong, it was a blast, but it was soooo much work for such little pay off. It was an incredible event, made awesome memories for our students, and we’ll for sure be doing it again, but I was exhausted for a week afterwards. It’s an event that students like more than leaders, hence the new Lock-In thought.

That’s it for now. I know I probably left out a ton of details, so if you have any questions, please let me know, ask away in the comments. I’d also love to help share your ideas if you’ve got something to add! 


  1. Love these ideas! We are planning on doing an event similar to this in a few weeks and I have a quick question. When you did the slip n slide were there are 'clothing' issues with the white clothes and the water? Just want to make sure we keep this PG. Thanks! -Kurt
  2. Thanks for the details. I am planning to do this for camp this year. I was also concern of the powder being gone in 5-10 minutes, instead of making it stretch for an hour, so your ideas for using the powder and pain are great. I also was unsure if I wanted to buy the powder or make it, but after reading your blog I'm going to try to make it. Again thanks for all the details of the event.
    • Making it definitely is cheaper for a larger quantity. It's a bit of work, but in my mind worth it. Be sure to share pictures in the Facebook group! Have fun and Good luck!
  3. I'm planning on using a lot of these ideas for my sons 9th birthday in a few weeks! 15 7-10yr old boys...what more fun than getting DIRTY!?! Anyway, I have a question about the pool noodles, what do you think you could do to improve that? I'd like them to really get covered with paint here ;) I was thinking of cutting the noodles in half so there only a little taller than the buckets of paint. Any other suggestions? Thanks for the great ideas!
    • I'd probably try and use more paint and less water, though that just adds to the cost. I think the pool noodles were fine, just the water wasn't thick enough. Hope that helps!
  4. We tried this last year but the DIY powder we made got moldy! At the last minute we switched everything to liquid. We bought a bunch of tempura paints and used that instead. We had baby pools filled with watered down paint and sponges and had a dodge/sponge war. Played wet Nerf volleyball. Tug of war with paint in the middle. Also relays races with paint soaked foam balls. It was so hot that it was ended up being a wonderful alternative. Hot dog dinner, worship and youth praise band rounded out the evening. We were hosting a district event so multiple churches were there. When they came in the were given a team color and had to use face paint to designate it. It was such a hit we are doing it again.
  5. Hello! I'm planning on doing this for my youth ministry team. I was curious how much you bought? We're expecting around 100 kids! Thanks so much Sarah
  6. Did anyone experience the powder having an odor? I've had mine outside for a couple days drying brought it in and made it into a powder with ninja blender. But I cant get over the smell I added a small bit of babypowder in blender as it was crushing the powder. I have noticed it being a tad bit damp still. I hope I can get it completely dry and maybe add baking powder if odor still present. Party in 3 days I hope this does not flop.
    • Hmm, I do remember we had one batch that we scraped a ton of the top layer off when it was still like a brick because it looked weird. I'd say just keep letting it dry out in the sun. Ours didn't really have that strong of a smell, so not sure I can comment too much to that. Hoping for the best!
  7. Has anyone tried using flour instead of corn starch? Any opinions on how you think that would work?
  8. How long did it take to dry? How long was it sitting in the sun? This may be different, depending on where you live. Looking at another post, they said it started to mold? How long can you have it before the mix starts going bad? Thanks!

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