Artists are introduced to a new kind of color palette and the basics of paint mixing. Then they begin the first half of a fun color collage project using a 3-color scheme and cut shapes similar to Matisse cutouts. It’s a great way to get into paint for the first time or after a long break. The work is finished next week.

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Grades 3 – 5

1 Hour & 45 Minutes, or two 52-minute sessions

STANDARDS For This Lesson


Copy and paste the text below to send your abbreviated lesson plan with national standards and learning targets to your supervisors and colleagues. Or access the WORD doc by using the blue button below.

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Week of AUGUST 7 – 11


Artists are introduced to The Art Instructor Color palette and the basics of paint mixing. Then they begin the first half of a fun color collage project using a 3-color scheme and cut shapes similar to Matisse cutouts. It’s a great way to get into paint for the first time or after a long break. The work is finished next week.


Grade 3

Create personally satisfying artwork using a variety of artistic processes and materials.

Grade 4


Explore and invent art-making techniques and approaches.

Grade 5


Experiment and develop skills in multiple art-making techniques and approaches through practice.


Students know how to mix colors and use acrylic paint
Students know how acrylic paints are mixed on a palette.


1. Warmup (20 minutes) – finish up Ink Animals, or draw from life.
2. Demo (32 min) – Students see how many different kinds of lines they can use to draw a tiger Break – end of part one if dividing into 2 sessions
3. Guidelines (10) – Students draw half of a cartoon face on PDF page. Use mirror to enjoy seeing the whole face. Play with angles.
4. Inventing Colors (37) – Fold the tiger drawing as shown. Make a shadow by tracing.
5. Clean up (5) – Clean up all the paper trash and write names.

Tap the Plus Icon (above right) to open STANDARDS information, including an Overview, Learning Targets and a Syllabus. Copy and paste to send to your Administrators or use the button below to download a Word document with the same information that you can add your info to and email to them as an attachment.

Student Work


Don’t worry about rewriting anything. Just spend a few minutes reading the lesson plan and printing out your PDFs. Then check out the READY, SET, GO! section and print your prep-page, which includes checklists and an “at a glance” outline of the lesson so you can stay on track when you’re teaching. Set out the materials from the list on your prep page and you’re ready.

That’s all you need to know. Use your smartphone to Scroll & Teach!

Art Supplies Are Needed

Our lessons are designed to work with very specific supplies (see our supplies page using the button below). We recommend ordering what you need for home delivery. However, you can try and make do with what you have on hand during the health crisis.

Lesson At A Glance

A brief overview of each step. Buttons jump to each section for detailed information.

20 Minutes – finish up Ink Animals, or draw from life

32 Min – Big painting demo: color & mixing methods.

10 Min -Students divide their watercolor paper into 3 sections.

37 Min – Artists paint their papers.

5 Min – Everyone helps

Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.



Each section is a different color. Read over once and then you can SCROLL & TEACH using any device you like. It’s designed to work best with your phone.

STEP 1. Warmup or Finish

Students will draw or finish their ink animals from the previous lesson.
20 Minutes


  • 14″ x 17″ Sketch Paper
  • 2B Pencil
  • 4B pencil
  • India ink
  • Ink dip pen with metal nib (not too sharp a point)
  • Disposable plate and tape to secure ink bottle
  • White erasers
  • Kneaded erasers
  • Water containers
  • Paper towels
  • Smocks
Remember to tape your ink bottles to a larger flat base to prevent spills!
Have everyone get their ink animals and finish or work on them as a warmup.

For students who have finished their ink drawings, have them do some pencil sketches of another animal using last week’s reference photos. See if they can make 2 quick (1 minute each) sketches and then move into a more detailed drawing for the 3rd sketch.

If anyone is not finished by the 20 minute mark, they will still need to set the work aside and come back to it at another time. Remind students that everyone works at different speeds, and it’s good to have fun projects to pull out and enjoy working on when you have extra time.

Once they get going, introduce the new lesson while they work…

“Last week we mostly used lines to create our artwork in ink. This week we will use no lines at all, only working with colored shapes. If you finished your ink from last week, try creating some interesting shapes of your own using pencil lines for edges. While you work, I’ll show some paper cut out work by Henri Matisse, a famous French artist. I’ll talk more about him in a bit.”
Teacher Talk

Read verbatim or paraphrase

Show the Matisse paper cutouts Pin Board while students work on their ink animals or drawings.

Pinterest Gallery – Matisse Cutouts

Tap the icon to the left to open our special Pinboard showing examples of artwork to display to your class. See our Article for making Pinterest work on larger displays. You can also use a laptop or large tablet and gather everyone around like you’re using a book.

If there is time, review the 4 rules from last week and emphasize the last rule.

1. Not. Too. Many. Rules.

2. Be Nice to… A) others; B) self – thoughts & health; C) stuff (supplies)

3. No mistakes allowed – All work is helpful, whether you like it or not, so can be no mistakes.

4. Mix your colors. This is what we’ll be doing today!

Advanced Student Lesson
CREATIONS - tap here to open

Our Creations lessons are for students who have completed the two years of Foundations and are ready to begin using all that they have learned to create new work. These more challenging versions of the same concepts and techniques are easily taught along-side students in the Foundations course. This allows for excellent review, and is encouraging for students to see progress from each viewpoint.

Use the Student Instructions printout below to distribute to your Creations students. Tap the image to open the PDF in a new window. NOTE: This week’s instructions take a whole page, so you’ll need one print for every advanced student you have.

2-Week Collage or Painting

Overview: Students create a larger more complex collage, with an emphasis on composition and color scheme. Give them the print (PDF is below) with instructions, and make sure you visit them often to give guidance and keep students on-track.

Instructions (also provided in the pdf below, that you can print and hand to your advanced students).

In this project, you should create 3 or 4 (or more!) thumbnail layout sketches, to work on the placement of your shapes. Thumbnail sketches should be no wider than 2″ on the longest side. These are not about details, but only the size and placement of the Big Shapes.

Remember your composition needs:

  • Emphasis – The most important spot
  • Balance – Asymmetrical is usually best for this project
  • Harmony – This is achieved mostly by having a strong color scheme using 4 or 5 colors and with shapes or subject matter that look good together. With 5 colors, make at least 3 of them closely related on the color wheel, ie: magenta, red, and red-orange.

One of the most important things to do in this project (and every artwork), is to try out several completely different design ideas. Then you can try some slight variations of an idea you like best. Only by experimenting will you know if you have found the best solution. You can always go back to you first idea if it was best, but you’ll almost always improve as you try new things.

Consider your subject matter. Even if you want it to be abstract, taking real life and then simplifying it creates much more interesting shapes and images. For this collage, you’ll use an entire sheet of watercolor paper for your background, and another sheet for your various shapes in more colors.

  1. Find examples and figure out your basic color scheme.
  2. Mix acrylic to create your background color and cover one sheet of watercolor paper. 
  3. Mix acrylics to create 3 or 4 more colors, painting them in various areas on the second sheet of watercolor paper. If you want some long shapes, make sure you create a long color area for them. Set aside to dry. Make sure your name is on them.
  4. Draw ideas and compositions as thumbnail layout sketches. Make at least 3 or 4.
  5. If papers become dry, go ahead and begin cutting; drawing with your scissors.

Finish the project next week, or if you’re a fast worker, create two works that go together.


Tap images to open Creations Student Instructions and Reference Materials in new windows

Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.

STEP 2. Paint Demo

Students will gather to watch a big paint and palette demonstration
32 Minutes


  • Black Sharpie
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paper palette pad, or disposable trays/plates
  • Watercolor Paper OR you can use some cheaper card stock
  • Brushes – All sizes
  • Water container
  • Paper towels
  • Smocks
  • Bag of peanut-free chocolate chips
  • Baggies or paper towels for chocolate chip snack
All materials are suggestions and may be modified as you see fit. We have tried many items, and these seem to allow the most versatility for the cost.

Brushes should be nylon for springiness and durability. Round brushes are the most versatile.

Paint pigment list:

  • Napthol or Pyrrol Red
  • Hansa or Light Yellow
  • Pthalo Green (blue shade)
  • Cyan or Cerulean Blue
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Dioxazine Purple
  • Magenta
  • Burnt Umber
  • Raw Sienna
  • Titanium White (professional grade only)

2.1 demo

Gather the students around a table where everyone can see, and have your complete demo setup ready to go. This is a lot of information, so go slowly and carefully make all the points. You can show the video too, which is useful if you are not experienced or have a very large class that can’t all see you do a live demo.

Squeeze a chocolate chip sized bit of paint out onto your palette pad using any color. Then, hand everyone about 3 or 4 actual chocolate chips. Before getting these out, make sure everyone can have chocolate.

Trader Joe’s has peanut-free chocolate chips.
“Look at the chocolate chip, and then look at the paint chip on my palette. They are the same! Many artists have to work a while to learn how much paint to first put out, but we like to use the paint chip method, because it’s really easy. Everyone already knows how big a chocolate chip is. You may eat your chips now, by the way.”
Teacher Talk

Read verbatim or paraphrase

2.2 DEMO

Shading with 5 Steps. Show how you use layers to create shading instead of pressing hard all at once, to create 5 levels of grays.

Tap the 4 arrows icon to enlarge the video to full screen.

Review the demo video and demonstrate to your students, or you can simply display the video on a larger screen for them to watch.

2.3 demo

You can either learn the demo video so that you can do it yourself, or you can display and show your students the paint demo video. This is also helpful when you have too many students to see you as you work.

  1. Double-fold the palette pad cover so it doesn’t pull the glue loose
  2. Squeeze small amounts – the size of a small chocolate chip
  3. Place paint chips along one edge of palette – any order is fine
  4. Today we want just a few bright alike colors but usually you’ll put out all your colors
  5. Practice mix with tiny amounts before making larger paint mixes
  6. Wipe your brush with a paper towel to clean most of the paint off. (wipe/wash/wipe)
  7. Create a string of beads by mixing new colors from half of your current color
  8. You can see a history of what you’ve done
  9. Never, ever, ever (except for bright red) use paint from the pigment tubes without mixing with others
  10. Press down on a brush to bend the bristles for complete coverage of large areas
  11. Use the tip and just a little bending of bristles for doing details, edges, and lines
  12. To make clean edges, line must be in front of the brush tip, not underneath the brush. Sneak up on it.
  13. Never try to write with a brush. Always pull with it. It’s not like a pen or pencil
  14. Make Black using Dark Brown and Dark Blue. They both are dark like black, and begin with B like black. Use almost twice as much blue as brown with student grade paints. If it’s too brown, add blue; too blue, add more brown. (This has been corrected. It wrongly said use twice as much brown. That won’t work!)
  15. Add white to black to get gray colors

How tos

In more detail, here are specific instructions and some tips for this very important demo.

– How to fold open the palette pad. NEVER tear pages out until they’re used up.

– Draw lines for placement of colors along long edge

– Squeeze out paint chocolate chips in any order
– Always keep enough paint out to use or you become handicapped

Open the paper palette pad, taking care to not tear any pages out as you release the cover from the glue at the bottom of the pad. It’s glued at the top AND the bottom so that it will not slide around as you mix. Then fold the cover back at the bottom of the tape, about 1 and 1/2 inches from the top edge. Holding that top 1 and 1/2 inches down against the pad, fold the cover around the top edge and underneath, so that the cover doesn’t pull the pages of the pad away from the bottom edge. If you wrap the cover back like normal, it pulls all the pages loose very quickly.

TIP: With 8-10 year olds you should open all of the palette pads for them.

Draw a grid of squares along the edge to hold the paint chips. You can also draw some mixing boxes for young students, or even a series of boxes for the string of beads. (see mixing techniques below).

  • Yellow is very, very weak. Only add small bits TO yellow. Don’t add yellow to another color mix.
  • Green is very, very strong. It’s like the Incredible Hulk! Purple is also quite strong. So is red.
  • Colors are ingredients. Mix at least 2 of them together.
  • All colors except white are translucent. (You can see through them)
  • White makes all colors opaque (You can’t see through them)
  • The missing color, Orange, is easily mixed by adding tiny bit of red to yellow. Show how strong and weak these 2 colors are.
  • The missing color, Black, is the color we make by mixing 2 parts dark blue to 1 part dark brown (This is easy to remember because only dark colors make black, and only colors that start with B make black).
  • Adding white to our mixed black makes beautiful grays. Adding more blue or brown changes them.– Practice mix first with small amounts and a small brush. (make several colors in a string of beads)
  • String of beads: by changing each color with only half of the original blob, you not only have more colors to work with, but you can also see what you did for each step.
  • The more colors you have the better. Never make only one blob, but as many variations as you can. Make ’em small.
  • Once you get some colors you like, make some larger batches to paint with, but still use the String of Beads half-blob method instead of doing it all in one spot. See how many blobs you can make on one palette!

Show how to make a slightly watery thin layer of paint on the watercolor paper.

2.4 demo

Also cover how to use a brush.

You can show the technique as you explain.

“There are several ways to use acrylic paint on your brush. Sometimes you want a wet brush with flowing paint, and sometimes you want a dry brush, with not much paint.

Today we will be in between these two extremes. You want to use more paint, but not much water so that your brush is full, but the paper doesn’t get too wet. You’ll want to mix more of your color AFTER you figure out how to mix it.

To spread paint, you should bend the bristles and press down as you paint. When you start to see the paint run out, get more right away. We want to completely cover the paper with a bright layer of thin color.  You should see some streaks too, so if you don’t, spread it out more. Thin paint will dry fast and keep your paper more flat. ridges of paint and blobs will not, so if you see these, spread them out.

Teacher Talk

Read verbatim or paraphrase


This is the end of part one if you are dividing into two, 52-minute sessions.

Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.

STEP 3. Guidelines

Students draw lines to divide their paper into 3 sections
10 Minutes


  • 8.5 x 11″ Cover Stock
  • 2B or 4B Pencil
  • White Eraser
  • 11″ x 15″ Watercolor paper
Show how to use the smaller card stock to trace a guideline on the larger watercolor paper.

Demonstrate how to divide the watercolor paper using a sheet of cover stock paper and a pencil: hold up a sheet of 11 x 15 watercolor paper horizontally, and a sheet of 8.5 x 11 cover stock paper vertically. Align the smaller card stock so that it fits against the left side of the watercolor paper, as shown in the diagram below. Then you draw a pencil along the edge of the cover stock to divide the watercolor paper into 2 sections. Have students put a small star on the watercolor section that is underneath the cover stock. This will be their background area.

Next, show how to use the cover stock again as a straight edge, but this time turn it sideways and lay the edge across the middle of the smaller section of the watercolor paper; the one without the star. Draw a line dividing this section into 2 halves. It doesn’t matter if the line is straight or in the middle.

I want you to follow along while I show you how to divide your paper into 3 sections with pencil lines. First, write your name on the back and then pick up the smaller paper I gave you.”

“Now you have 3 sections. The larger area is your background, and you’ll want to pick a color you like. Then think about 2 additional colors that will look good with it. These will be the 3 colors of your color scheme. Look around the room for color ideas if you need to, and then think about how to mix these colors using 2 or more pigment colors from your tube”

Teacher Talk

Read verbatim or paraphrase

Removing watercolor paper from pads: Show how to tear out paper by holding at the loose end, not the glued or taped end which most kids will try to do (this tears the edge up). 1. Open pad like a book with the page to be removed on one side, and the rest of the pad on the other. 2. Hold loose end of page by the corner farthest away from you. 3. Secure the rest of the pad with other hand, putting your weight right next to the spot where the paper is glued. 3. Tear page off at an angle pulling across and towards you

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STEP 4. Inventing Colors

Students will mix and paint their 3 colors
37 Minutes


Students know how to mix colors and use acrylic paint


  • Acrylic paints
  • Paper palette pad, or disposable trays/plates
  • Brushes – large sized
  • Water container
  • Paper towels
  • Smocks

Pinterest Gallery – Matisse

Tap the icon to the left to open our special Pinboard showing examples of artwork to display to your class. See our Article for making Pinterest work on larger displays. You can also use a laptop or large tablet and gather everyone around like you’re using a book.

Queue up the Pin Board and then show it after everyone is busy working on painting their color areas.

Place the sheet of watercolor paper on one side of their work space and the palette pad on the other. Tubes of paint and water tub should be set on the table around the top of the paper and pad.  Begin painting!
“Remember to practice mix and make a string of beads. Then you can choose the best color you made and make a larger batch of it. You’ll need a small brush to practice mix, and then switch to a large brush to paint on your paper with the larger batch. It’s ok if there are streaks or color changes because that can look great”
Teacher Talk

Read verbatim or paraphrase

Students set up their work area for painting.

Ask several people to go get water tubs filled, and others to find smocks. That way you have two or three groups in different areas so you don’t get backed up with lines.

Then help everyone mix one color at a time, and paint their 3 areas. Remind them that the large on is going to be the background. The other two areas will be cut off and cut again into shapes to make a design next week after the paint has completely dried.

 Use the Pinterest section above to talk about the artist, Henri Matisse.

Explain how he made shapes with paper and scissors. Matisse also simplified and exaggerated the shapes to make them expressive. Color was a huge part of his expression in these works.

Standing paint tubes up if they have a big flat cap, looks nice, but they fall over into your palette and make messes easily. Just let them lay flat on the table
Once students get going, take a quick break and explain how to clean brushes.

There are two cleaning methods:

  1. Cleaning while you’re working

  2. Cleaning after you’re finished

1. – Wipe-Wash-Wipe (WWW) is how we clean a brush during painting, using a water tub. First you Wipe as much paint off as you can (this keeps your tub cleaner, and prevents so much paint from going into the sink drain), then Wash in the water tub. Finally, Wipe again to dry the brush because we don’t want the leftover water making out paints runny.

2. – Super Wash at the end of class under RUNNING WATER in the cleanup sink. You should get the group to follow you to the sink and watch you demonstrate Super Wash (3 or 4 at a time so they can see).

  • Wipe your paint onto a paper towel instead of putting into water.
  • Wash your brush by firmly tapping (not jamming) the bristles on the bottom of the water tub
  • Wipe your brush off to dry it so you don’t get water in your paint.

Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.

STEP 5. Clean Up

Everyone helps
5 Minutes


  • Paper Towels
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Sink
  • Waste baskets
  • Well-lit spot for photos
  • Camera or phone-camera
Students set up their work area.

  • Wash hands
  • Super-wash brushes!!
  • Put art supplies away
  • Wipe tables & toss trash
  • Remove any smocks (last)
  • Check for items on floors and tables
Try to get photos of your student’s artwork. Find a good spot for quick lighting without highlights or shadows from your hands and device. Ideally in-between two strong lights on each side.
Make sure you see the kids connect with parents and tell them about the class if you can!
Use this button to jump down to the preparation section.


The information you need to make your lesson work



This lesson provides understanding



This lesson shows application and movement


Self Expression

This lesson allows personal freedom


  • Practice and improvement  mixing single-pigment colors & designing with shape & color
  • Understanding how tube colors work together on a palette
  • Accomplishment in finishing a collage artwork
  • Fulfillment choosing and inventing colors and designs


Spreading paint into large areas on the palette – This is almost always a problem with new and young artists.

Cap Snapping – The Amsterdam acrylic paints (and some other student brands) come with a snap-open cap. It’s messy, wastes paint, and eventually makes it impossible to close the lid. Instead, have students unscrew the lid like their professional white paint lid does. Emphasize that professional artist paints only have screw-top lids, and use the phrase, “Don’t snap the cap!” to help them remember.

Too much water in the paint– Just a small amount of water will create a fluid paint that is easy to spread on the paper, but too much will puddle and warp the paper, as well as look pale.

Forgetting to add water – No water at all, will make students want to use more paint, which will actually take longer to dry.

Not enough colors – Most artists will want to use their first color instead of creating several practice mixes to choose from.


Ingredient colors – This is an exclusive ArtSquish term that we use to help students understand how a mixing palette works. These colors are too dark and/or harsh for painting, and are used as ingredients to make good colors. It’s good to use a cooking analogy, and there’s a teacher talk in the lesson that does just that.

Paint chips  –  Paint should be squeezed out of the tube in the same size and shape as a chocolate chip.

Collage – Artwork that is created by cutting shapes out of colored paper and pasting them onto another surface. Our collages today will use paper we’ve painted ourselves, just like Matisse did.



Practice the Painting Demo until you can do it well. This is a great demo that you’ll need to do again.

What your room needs

Here are your printable lists and room prep instructions.


Opens in new window



  • 8.5″ x 11″ card stock
  • Water containers
  • Disposable plate and tape
  • to secure ink bottle
  • Paper towels
  • Smocks



  • 14″ x 17″ Sketch Paper
  • 11″ x 15″ watercolor paper
  • 2B Pencil
  • 4B pencil
  • Black Sharpie
  • India ink
  • Ink dip pen with metal nib (not too sharp a point)
  • White erasers
  • Kneaded erasers
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paper palette pad, or disposable trays/plates
  • Brushes – Large


Artists’ Choice & Drawing

Students will finish up their Color Cutouts from the previous lesson. After that, everyone can move into working with pencil drawings and Artists’ Choice.

Accuracy Puzzles

Students will work on deconstructing a diagram of an image, working on it like a puzzle. Beginning first with the Frame (the box that holds a picture), they learn how to work on the rectangular proportions, before moving to the second step, Big Shapes. Details are added last, completing the 3 Steps to Accuracy.