Color Mixing Fish Art Lesson

April 13, 2016

This color mixing lesson is a perfect introduction to color theory for preschool and early elementary school children.  It teaches the primary colors and allows them to mix their very OWN secondary colors. Children also get to explore mixing a variety of blue tints for the water, which is something I find they really enjoy.
 
The cheerful fish are a very forgiving subject to draw, and templates can be used to make this even easier for learning artists. The textured, glimmering bubbles in these mixed media paintings are shiny and oh so fun to make for their little hands. 
 
Here is a tutorial for a Color Mixing Fish Art Lesson that the young person in your life would just love to try!
 

Color Mixing Fish Art Lesson

Supplies Needed:
Process:
1. I always think it’s important to gather and prep the materials before starting any art project with little ones. They can grow impatient and lose focus if you get sidetracked finding and preparing supplies.
  • Prep oval templates by drawing on oaktag: one 6 inch oval and one 3 inch oval per student or they can share.
  • Cut ovals out of oaktag.
  • I also like to put the primary colors into a paint palette ahead of time, as well as putting brushes in filled water bowls. 
 
2. Using oval templates and pencils, draw 3 large ovals and 3 smaller ovals on the watercolor paper. 
3. Demonstrate how to transform the ovals into fish by adding tails, fins, eyes, mouths, gills, and patterns. I like to take this step VERY slowly, and add tails to all the fish first. Then we add fins to all the fish. Then eyes, mouths, etc. 
 
 
4. Encourage children to decorate each fish with a different pattern. Brainstorm some possible patterns such as polka dots, stripes, zig zags…etc. 
 

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5. Outline all pencil lines of the fish in black sharpie markers. If you have ample time, you could do this step after the paint dries instead. 
 
 
6. Using the primary color tempera paint palette, paint one large fish yellow, one red, and one blue. 
 

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7.  Encourage children to think about what colors will be mixed together to make the secondary colors. Discuss and apply each color one at a time. This is how I like to do this starting with orange:
 
  • Demonstrate how to take a few brush fulls of yellow and add the paint to an empty well of the palette.
  • Rinse out brush, and add a brush full or 2 of red paint to the yellow.
  • Explain that to make a nice orange, more yellow is needed than red because it is lighter.
  • Compare the custom oranges the students mixed up and point out how some have more yellow paint, and others have more red paint.
  • Discussing these different ratios is so much fun with little kids!
8. Paint one small fish orange. Repeat step 7 to mix up green and paint another small fish. Repeat this step for the last fish by mixing up purple. Each painting should have the 3 large fish painted red, yellow, and blue. The 3 smaller fish should be painted in the secondary colors of orange, green, and purple. Some students will paint 2 fish red, or take some other creative liberties, and THAT’S OK!
 
9. For the background, add white paint to the palettes and explain to students that we will be mixing tints of blue. Explain that we will be starting with a very light tint and slowly adding more blue paint to make a darker blue tint. Add one brush full of blue paint to the white paint in the palette. This lightest tint can be added to various places in the background in wavy brush strokes.
 

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Next add 3 brush fulls of blue paint at a time to darken the blue paint. Add some more brush strokes to the background to create some ripples in the  water. Keep darkening this blue tint and filling in the background until it is entirely tints of blue and looks like wavy water!
10. Now it’s time for BUBBLES. These are the finishing touch that really makes these fish paintings come alive. I love using modeling paste to create a variety of textures on paintings. 
 
Modeling Paste Bubbles
Modeling Paste Bubbles

Using a popsicle stick, students scoop out a small amount of paste and roll it into a ball with their fingers. Dip the ball into a bit of water and stick it to the painting to create a bubble. Repeat, adding several bubbles to each fish. 

 

11. Paint the bubbles with a shiny or glittery paint. Kids LOVE this step since most go crazy for anything that sparkles or shines! We used Crayola Pearl It and Glitter it paints, but any iridescent paint will work!

12. Kids can also use the eraser end of a pencil to add some more bubbles. The eraser is a great printmaking tool for realistic, dimensional bubbles!

  That’s it! These Color Mixing Fish paintings are complete!

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Please share your paintings if you decide to try this art lesson out. What is your favorite color mixing art lesson for preschool and elementary children?

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