Thermal Painting

Analysing the Creative Practice of Thermal Painting

Interaction Design, Somaesthetic Design, Experience Design


  • Lead Researcher


  • Interviews
  • Think Aloud sessions
  • Thematic Analysis


  • 12 months


Sosuke Ichihashi, Xingyu Li, Haiqin Xu, Dr. Noura Howell

1.Thermal Painting

Thermal painting is a multi-sensorial painting experience that lets you feel thermal feedback while painting.

The project offers a multisensorial experience for an artist and is also attempt to study the variation in the creative output when the artist is gets an additional sensation of thermal feedback while painting on the canvas.

2. Why Thermal Painting?

One of main motivations for this approach to use tech to create for artists tools to explore creativity in sensory ways, to be more immersed in the painting through the multi-sensorial experience of the sight and temperature. Creativity and sensation has been explored before in studies such as:

a. The Impact of Sensory Stimuli on Creativity

Researchers have investigated how sensory stimuli, such as ambient lighting, scent, or even tactile sensations, can influence creative thinking and problem-solving. For example, a study might examine how exposure to warm lighting or scents associated with relaxation affects participants' creative ideation during brainstorming sessions.
Lighting: How it affects us both mentally & physically. — The Behavior Hub

Frederica, Gonçalves., Diogo, Cabral., Pedro, Campos., Johannes, Schöning., Johannes, Schöning. (2017). I Smell Creativity: Exploring the Effects of Olfactory and Auditory Cues to Support Creative Writing Tasks. 165-183. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-67684-5_11

b. Synesthesia and Creative Expression

Synesthesia is a neurological condition where individuals experience sensory crossovers, such as seeing colors when hearing music or associating colors with letters and numbers. Research has explored how synesthetic experiences impact artistic creativity, as synesthetes often report unique and vivid sensory associations that can be expressed through art.
Synesthetes are More Involved in Art — Evidence From the Artistic Creativity Domains Compendium (ACDC) - Lunke - 2022 - The Journal of Creative Behavior - Wiley Online Library

c. Environmental Factors and Creativity

Studies have examined the impact of the physical environment on creativity. For example, researchers have investigated how the layout of a workspace, the presence of plants, or the color of the walls can influence creative thinking and productivity.
Benefits of Plants in the Office | Wasatch Greenscapes
Sensory Experiences and Consumer Creativity | Journal of the Association for Consumer Research: Vol 2, No 4 (

d. Emotional Impact of Sensory Stimuli on Creativity:

Emotions can play a significant role in creativity. Research has explored how sensory stimuli can evoke different emotions and how these emotions, in turn, affect creative output. For example, exposure to warm colors might induce feelings of comfort and positivity, which could influence creative thinking.
The temperature of emotions - PMC (

e. Art Therapy Interventions

Art therapists often use sensory interventions, such as the choice of art materials or the sensory environment in the therapy space, to promote creative expression and emotional healing. Research in this area explores how these interventions impact the creative outcomes and well-being of participants.

The creative process in visual art is focused on the process itself rather than the final product. It is a journey that requires relating oneself to the things seen, ideas heard, and materials used to give aesthetic form to one's own ideas .

Bijender, Singh, Chauhan. (2015). Creativity in visual art. International Journal of Research, 3(1):37-40. doi: 10.29121/GRANTHAALAYAH.V3.I1.2015.3051

3. Research Question

Our investigation is that whether artist “feel” the colours they are applying, the creative output would considerably change. This offers novel forms of creations and performative fine arts that can involve audiences to “feel” what the artist is applying as well.

It might also offers people without sight to explore paint in a way they would not have.It can invoke subjective emotions about the work in creators and viewers solely based on the temperatures they felt.

"Does the interaction between thermal sensations, as perceived by the user, during their painting process influence the creative decisions and outcomes in painting?"

4. Analysing creative practices through prototype

a. Prototype

We started our investigation by creating a working prototype using an iPad & Apple Pencil for input and using thermal blinds to regulate the thermal feedback.

Our investigation was about thermal sensation and painting and our goal was to study the very undamental practice of painting, hence we included a brush as an way to paint for feedback.

b. Demo Day

To investigate further we demoed the setup during the Digital Media Demo Day to about 15-20 folks who visited the setup as a fun to try experience.

c. Analysing Artists through a User Study

To investigate the thermal sensation and creativity better and dive into if there is an influence of thermal feedback into creative practices, we particularly wanted to study artist who have brushwork experience. The study is a qualitative study of artists processes, approach and creative decisions when thermal sensations are an added part of the traditional painting experience.


  1. Artists who specialise in Brushwork
  2. Above 18 years of age

Our study design asks artist to undergo a 75 minute study in 4 parts. We're doing the study with 25 Artists. The study has iRB approval and is currently running.

PART 1 - Intro

Asks them to paint the brush to free paint in a sheet

PART 2 - Thermal Painting

Asks them to free paint again this time but in this session, they are provided thermal feedback.

PART 3 - Interviews

Semi-structured interviews about their general practice and their task for the study

PART 4 - Look Back

Think Aloud exercise of the thermal painting session.