Part of the thrill of being an occupational therapist (OT), is the daily challenge to be ever-more resourceful. Paint swatches is a product of creativity-on-a-budget. I do admit, I obtain paint swatches by going to Menard’s and smuggling out a stack of 20-30 once a month. 

I dread the day someone will question: 

“why do you have so many paint swatches?”

Resident Hall Poster I made, 2011

My affinity for paint swatches grew out of a collage experiment that was either inspired by Pinterest or late nights rooming Walmart. As a Resident Assistant for the university dorm, I was in charge of hall decorations. I’m not a great interior decorator, my wife would be glad to tell you.   

However, I do have a knack for being crafty, especially when it comes to being inexpensive. 

Paint Swatch Inspiration 

Paint swatches work awesome in combination with Di-cuts, or the stamps. I can take no credit for this however, as Pinterest is the leading source of this idea. 

Christmas Cards

Step 1
Step 2

Cards don’t have to be christmas themed however, one could make  a variety of cards with paper shapers.  If your wondering what paper shapers are, they are like hole punches except in a variety of shapes. 

What I believe makes paint swatches appealing, is that it seems to be an unfamiliar art supply. There is a certain amount of novelty, even though practically everyone passes by them at the store. 

Paint Swatches in Groups 

One of the most common groups I lead is a sensory group reviewing the sensory resources available on the unit. 

During the process I have participants first write on one side “Calming” and on the other side “Alerting.” Next the participants have a few minutes to write down corresponding activities or resources, with the middle colors being for those in-between activities. Of course I always include at some point during the group, the question; 

“What is your favorite name of a color on your paint swatch?”

My personal favorite color is Funky Frog.

I am constantly changing up the way I use paint swatches. Especially because there is always that one participant who says “I’ve already done this.”
Another way I change this activity is by having the opposing categories as “social” versus “alone“. 

Often the group activity is not necessarily centralized around using the paint swatches. There might be a group discussion on activities available on the unit, or as a group creating a poster first. 


Visual cues are great with color

I find using the long paint swatches with tearable sections work great for small cue card projects. For this reason I keep  variety of different types of swatches.

Multipurpose book marks or…
Coping skill cards!

One group I’ve facilitated is making coping skills or positive affirmation boxes. I will begin with a short discussion then provide handouts and resources. I have pre-made/pre-written prompts for those patients who have difficulty brainstorming their own or just need prompts to get started. I use the long and thin paint swatches that tear off for this activity. 

Grading the Activity 

When I worked at a state hospital, it took more effort than a discussion to prompt the participants to list activities or resources. In this case, more emphasis was spent on identifying and exploring activities they would be interested or willing to try. 

I used a less-than-6″-string rather than a push pin due to safety precautions. 

Activity list
Graded activity list

I then printed out lists of activities the participants could engage at while in the hospital and they cut out ones they were interested in and glued them to the paint swatch instead.

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