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  1.  Take portrait photos
  2. Change photos into Stencil Style  (if you have photoshop, a great tutorial can be found at A little imagination and a pile of junk, if you have gimp or photoshop just change the "threshold")
  3. Transfer the image onto your paper
  4. Lightly trace the outline of the shapes (use graphite paper, a light table, hold the paper up to a window, rub pencil on the back, there are many MANY ways to trace and transfer)
  5. Fill in the areas that are black on the stencil image with watercolor washes
Inspiration: Artist Stina Persons (warning: some photos contain nudity, but the watercolors are safe to show any audience)

  • For younger children, you may have to transfer it to their watercolor paper for them
  • Make sure to they have the stencil photo to look at as they paint, and paint only the black shapes (we made it into a matching game)
  • Its sometimes easiest to start with the eyes
  • We practiced gradiated washes (one color going into another color) before we began 
    • I had them draw 3 shapes, in one we painted one color around the edges, then another color on the inside, one was half one color half the other, the other was painted with water and the color dropped in


To get away from the traditional color wheel, have students paint strips of color, then use a paper cutout stamp, or cut out areas of each color. Glue them onto a paper in any arrangement, (A hot glue gun is the fastest method) I used the standard circle.

Have you ever seen a RAINBOW?

Color theory and Watercolor   

There may be times when children need a few tips regarding painting and mixing colors.  Here are some things they might need help with.


You can make all the colors of the rainbow with just three.  (guide them as they figure it which ones and how to combine them to make all of the colors or "ROYGBV" Red * Orange * Yellow * Green * Blue * Violet)

Learn by Doing

  • Students could put a few drops of yellow paint or food coloring in a cup, then another could add a few drops if red, and orange will appear!
  • I've seen teachers use transparencies that are red yellow and blue and hold it to a window to let light mix them or on an overhead.  
  •  Oil based clay can be mixed together to make secondary colors 

The following is allot of instructions for a really simple thing.  You can avoid all of it by having the children draw 12 shapes bigger than a quarter.  Paint the shapes in with each of the 12 colors, cut them out and make them into a color wheel or leave them.  If you really want the traditional color wheel read on.  
  • I love using watercolors to demonstrate color mixing

  • Have students draw a color wheel, or draw one with them.  It is a circle, divided into 12.  Its easiest to divide it into 4, then each quarter is divided into three so you have a total of 12 pie slices. Label the colors before you begin.  (red, red orange, orange, yellow orange, yellow, yellow green, green, blue green, blue, blue violet, violet, red violet)
  •  It is allot easier to have younger children use larger brushes.  Flat wash or "bright" brushes are a great brush to start with.
  • If possible, remove every color from the watercolor set except the primary colors, red, yellow and blue.  (prang sets work well for this and you can usually find them at the grocery store, you could also put tape over the other colors)  
    I dont assume they will cheat and use a premixed green instead of one they have made, but its so much easier to eliminate the other colors.  Less is more.   
  • After showing students how to make a "puddle" of water in their water color tray by using their brush to carry the water over, I have them drop in a little yellow paint while explaining that the more water they use the lighter the color will be.  If its too light add more color from their paint set. We start with yellow because it wont stay yellow for long.  After they drop yellow in, I have them paint a pie slice on the color wheel and/or a line on their paper.  For young children point out the slice to paint.  Next they add a little red, paint to the puddle for a nice red orange and paint that pie slice then a line next to, or overlapping, their yellow line. Finish all 12 colors this way. 
  •  Older students may benefit from comparing the color they mixed with the pre-mixed color.  Have them paint test swatches and see if they can find a difference. 
  •  Help students avoid "scrubbing" their paper with their paint brush.  Practice not painting over an area that is already wet with paint unless doing a wet in wet technique.  They can scrub right through the paper. 
  •  Do any of the colors jump out, or does the color wheel gradually go from color to color?  Discuss intensity and saturation of color and its affects when viewing artwork.