Pirate Ship Art lesson for Fourth Grade

This lesson combines many techniques: drawing, cutting and shaping with paper, painting waves and composition. I chose to do this lesson with an upper grade class but it’s suitable for much younger children as well.


  • Brown, black, white and gray construction paper (I cut the white, black and gray paper in 4″ x 6″ pieces, the brown/black in long strips for masts and a larger brown for the hull)
  • scissors and glue sticks
  • oil pastels
  • 12″ x 18″ white construction/sulphite paper
  • tempera paints in blue/green/purple/light blue and white and red/yellow
  • larger paint brushes

Step One: Creating the Ocean
Mix up some tubs of paint and add some large brushes to the tubs. Paint the entire paper with one blue. If you want to have a sunset, add a horizon line and paint above the line orange and below the line blue.
Now, add a contrasting color and swirl the two together. Students can use plastic forks, the backs of their brushes or even their fingers to create waves. Use any technique you would like as long as the entire paper is covered with paint!
Set aside to dry.

Step Two: Making the Pirate Ship
I drew a few pirate ships on the white board to give the kids an idea of different shaped hulls. Don’t get too fancy here as the idea is to draw a very simple hull with an oil pastel and then cut out. To make it easier for the students, I pre-cut brown pieces of paper (approx 4″ x 6″) and had them draw on that paper. This just makes sure that they don’t draw too large or too small. It seems to work, so give it a try.
I also assisted the kids in cutting (with my large trimmer) different sized masts. I mass-produced a big pile and the kids selected two or three.
Once the hull is cut out, turn it over to the bad side and glue on the masts. At this point, the ship is free-standing and not glued to the paper.
Now start cutting out sails with the smaller pieces of paper. Here’s a tip: cut out a square, trim the bottom to form a curve, trim the two sides to form curves, leave the top uncut.
Step Three: Embellishments
After the sails are added, flip over the pirate ship and glue to background. Putting the ship on a slight angle will give the picture movement. Using oil pastels and scrap paper (if you wish) add details to the sails, fish in the water, decorations on the boat, etc. The kids love this part. Give them a challenge by asking each student to come up with his/her own insignia for their sails.

Fourth Grade Results:


  1. Paintedpaper says:

    Ahoy Matey! These are wonderful!! I love anything pirate.. :)

  2. Hope Chella says:

    I want to do this with my after school kids now. Love it! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Rooney says:

    I appreciate the labor you have put in developing this blog. Nice and informative.

  4. 2 Soul Sisters says:

    Hey, I just added you to my Blog Roll List. I am an art teacher in Tallahassee, FL. Check out what we have to say- we are just getting started in the blog world….

  5. Kelly says:

    Beautiful! I love the Eric Carl feel to this project. :-)

  6. Sun-Kissed Scholars says:

    We linked back to you, with a 5-year old's effort on this project. :-) Thanks so much for the wonderful ideas!


  7. carly@LearningParade says:

    Well shiver me timbers these boats are brill!
    We do a Pirates topic with our 5 and 6 year olds; I think we will give these a try – the way the waves are made is just so clever. Again, thanks for sharing! Your blog is my favourite art tutorial source.

  8. William says:

    Great—since my school are Pirates!

  9. [...] to use cool colors or warm colors or create certain textures within their creating process. For the Pirate Ships, I wanted my fourth graders to create a stormy sea or if they wanted, a calm one. Their painted [...]

  10. I did something real similar to this over the summer with sail boats and they turned out nice, but I absolutely LOVE the pirate ships. Also, what a great project for a bunch of boys-always looking for art projects that are appealing to them.

  11. Lynna says:

    I’m doing this lesson with my 4th graders next week and I’m curious about what you used the 4×6 white and gray paper for…is that just a varation for the sails? Thanks…our town’s mascot is a pirate, so I know my kids will love this lesson!

  12. [...] make a pirate like this one from Handprint and Footprint Arts & Crafts or this boat from Deep Space Sparkle. [...]

  13. Hi Patty,

    I used this project in an Art Camp that I did this summer with elementary school kids. I linked back to you here: http://exploreandexpress-sheila.blogspot.com/2011/09/kunstwoche-pirates.html

    Thanks for sharing your great ideas!

  14. [...] you are looking to add to your fun, you could make some pirate ship art, or pirate puppets, a homemade cutlass.  There are some great instructions for a newspaper sword, [...]

  15. I’m the Editorial Assistant for Fun Family Crafts and I wanted to let you know that we have featured your pirate ship! You can see it here:


    Thanks for a wonderful project idea!

  16. Heather Stewart says:

    I just completed this project with my Kindergarten class. We had so much fun and they turned out great! We are going display them for our “End of the Year” art show! Thank you for all your wonderful ideas!

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About Patty

I teach art to 400 school children in Goleta, California. My art library contains hundreds of free art lesson ideas. My shop has art lesson plans, videos and resources to help you teach art to kids. It's a whole lot easier with Deep Space Sparkle.

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