Colored sand, such as the type used to make sand art and sand mandalas, can be made at home so you don't have to buy it in a sand-art kit. Making it yourself allows you to whip up custom colors using food coloring, instead of settling for colors that aren't quite what you want, dyed with who knows what. Allow your hand-dyed sand to dry out before handling it, otherwise your hands may end up matching the sand's hue.
Cover your work area with an old plastic tablecloth or wax paper. This protects the work surface in case some of the food coloring drips unexpectedly.
Place a glass bowl on the work surface. Fill the bowl with as much sand as you would like to tint, leaving at least an inch or so of space to allow for mixing without spilling the sand.
Squirt a few drops of food coloring in the sand, applying the drops in several different areas of the bowl. Mix the sand with a plastic spoon or fork to expose as much of the sand as possible to the food coloring.
Add more food coloring, a few drops at a time, until the sand takes on the desired tint after you stir it. If the sand doesn't seem to be absorbing the color, stir in a small amount of water. The moisture helps the sand absorb the color. Continue stirring until the color is consistent throughout the sand.
Pour the sand onto a cookie sheet with raised edges so it can dry out for several hours. You can skip this step if you're pouring the sand directly into glass vessels for decoration.
Create your own layered sand-art jars by mixing up several colors of sand in separate containers. Layer one color at a time in a jar or wide glass, tilting the vessel slightly to create angled layers. Set a votive candle on top for a colorful candle display.
Mix the sand with your hands, if desired, while wearing rubber gloves. It may seem easier and a bit more tactile to mix this way than with a spoon or fork.
Powdered nontoxic tempera paints may be used in place of food coloring. Add water, a little at a time, if you use powdered paints. The moisture allows the sand to absorb the paint color.
If you dry the sand on a cookie sheet, after it's dry, push all the sand into a mound near one side and use a large funnel to pour the sand off the sheet and into a container.
Do not use sand from a beach or scooped up outdoors, as it isn't clean and may contain insects, debris and bacteria. Use play sand, sold at home-improvement stores -- it's clean because it is designed for use in sandboxes.