Most kids have been introduced to watercolor painting at a pretty young age and so they have at least a familiarity with using it.
Whether you are teaching art to just your own children in your home, or to a larger group of kids, watercolor is likely a staple as far as your art supplies go.
There are several reasons why I find it to be such a great medium: It is easy to use and easy to clean up.
It gives the kids great practice for painting and learning about different types of brushes if you want to introduce that, it is forgiving – you can water it down to lighten or nearly erase it if you mess up, and you can keep layering to make it more vibrant.
For this project, you don’t need too many materials and there are two ways to utilize the lesson – one would be adding a top layer of construction paper as we did with the hearts, or just having them paint and add the salt with no top layer glued on.
I will cover how to do both of these methods.
You will need to decide prior to teaching it which you’d like to do so that you can have the materials you need ahead of time.
You can also offer the option to them and let them decide.
In my classes, I had each of them start with the heart piece and then I told them that after they created one like that, they could do whatever they wanted, and that worked out well.
Painting With Watercolors and Salt
You will need:
- watercolor paper for each child, I would suggest at least 2 pieces per
- water cups
- brushes in a few sizes for each child
- plastic disposable tablecloth
- cover-up or apron for each child
- salt – (just regular table salt)
- construction paper in various colors
- watercolor paints
- glue sticks
Step by Step Instructions
To start, put down the tablecloth to catch the wet paint and the salt.
Give each child a pencil, paints, water, brushes and the watercolors, plus the paper.
The idea with this project is to create more of an abstract type of painting.
If they get caught up in painting a specific scene or anything too detailed it will completely take away from the point of this. For those kids who struggle with the concept of “abstract”, just tell them to focus on the colors and blending them, and not to think of it as creating a specific subject.
This is about color and texture.
I suggested that they choose about 3 of their favorite colors from the palette that they thought would look nice together and be eye-catching and then to paint the entire sheet of paper in those colors.
Explain for any children who aren’t as familiar with this type of paint, how to build up the color to make it brighter.
When you begin the painting, many times the colors come out more pastel and light, so let them soak in a few minutes and add another layer until you achieve the color you prefer.
They do need to understand that the water can be too much, and it will mellow the color, so it’s best not to over-use the water, but to use it when you need it.
Adding the Salt
Now, as far as the salt goes, you must wait until there is wetness built up a little to add it, or it won’t have much of an effect.
In my classes, I found that if I allowed the kids to add their own salt, they went completely overboard.
Even with kids that were middle school age, which I didn’t expect, it was way too much, and it took over the paintings and not in a good way.
So, I had them paint for a few minutes and then I started walking around with the salt in my hand and when I saw a good wet area that had paint on it built to a nice, bright color, I would ask if they were ready for it.
Some would wait, and some would go for it. If you sprinkle some in the palm of your hand and then grab a pinch of it, it works best.
Add the full pinch of salt over the area and then sit back and watch it work. You should see dots appear and start to grow a bit. If there is no reaction, it is likely not wet enough.
You can have them add a bit more water and paint and try again.
If you trust them with the salt themselves, then I would put out 2 shakers, so they can easily share them if there are more than two kids.
Shaking the salt on from the shaker works well if the whole painting is nice and wet, otherwise, quite a bit of the salt will probably just fall off and not stick.
Once they play with it a bit and get used to seeing it work, they will have a better understanding of the texture it makes and how much they want to add it to the painting. Sometimes less is more and it looks good just here and there.
Have them blend the colors in at least a few places to make them more cohesive and not necessarily “striped” looking.
Another cool way to do it is to add water first to the paper so it’s already damp and then add drops of paint. It will allow the paint to work through the paper in a neat way, but it is not easy to control the outcome, so they have to be willing to handle that.
They can also add little shapes or other details to make the painting more interesting, like the swirls I added on mine, but too much will take away from the overall piece and the texturing.
The last step is to let the painting dry and then tap it lightly to shake off the excess salt.
Cutting the Heart out of Construction Paper
To add the heart or any other shape over the top – Let them choose a color or construction paper and give it to them, along with a pair of scissors.
(I found this was a great side lesson – teaching them how to cut out a heart well.
Show them how to fold the paper in half and either draw on the half of the heart or just cut it out so that they have a nice, evenly matched heart when they unfold it. Many of the kids I was teaching had never done this.)
When the painting is dry, use a glue stick to glue on the heart.
The paint has to be dry in order to attach the heart, so if they have to leave before that happens, just send it along with them and tell them to glue it later. (Or tell the parent is probably best!)
This makes a great Valentine’s Day project!