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Sugar Skull Line Drawings & Collage

 Kids Day of the Dead art project

This is a great lesson in which to teach symmetry, line and patterns plus a dive into the South American culture.

The Sugar Skull is a symbol of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a holiday in November that honors the life of a loved one who has died. Here in Santa Barbara, there are festivals that celebrate this Mexican and South American holiday where children can decorate their own sugar skulls and other art activities. It’s truly a wonderful, family-oriented, not to mention very colorful event!

Drawing a Symmetrical Skull

How to draw a symmetrical sugar skull using a cool tracing technique. Kids Day of the Dead art project

I purchased a very cool coloring book (link at the bottom of post) at the beginning of the school year and used the drawings as a starter to this line drawing lesson. I photocopied about 5 different front-view skulls from the coloring book and allowed each child to choose their own skull. Divide coloring book photo-copy in half vertically, aligning the two sides of the skull and not the paper corners. You want to see half of the skull.

Fold 12″ x 9″ drawing paper in half vertically and draw the contour line of the skull with a black marker. Draw circles/ovals for eyes, nose shape and teeth.

Tracing the Skull

How to draw a symmetrical sugar skull using a cool tracing technique. Kids Day of the Dead art project

Fold the paper so that the skull drawing is now on the inside. The paper should look like a book with the front cover blank and the inside should show the skull drawing. When the paper is closed, the skull lines will show through the front paper. Trace over these lines then invert the paper and retrace the lines. Confused? It’s easier to do it than explain it! Once you show your students, they will understand right away, so don’t over think it.

How to draw a symmetrical sugar skull using a cool tracing technique. Kids Day of the Dead art project

It sometimes helps to trace the lines up against a sunny window. This isn’t completely necessary but the kids loved getting out of their chairs and moving around.

Drawing the Sugar Skull Details

How to draw a symmetrical sugar skull using a cool tracing technique. Kids Day of the Dead art project

Now that the child has a head complete with scary eyes, a nose and some teeth, they can mix and match the photocopies and add their own decorations. Most students in 5th grade will have the drawing skills to create a really good skull but many won’t. To help the kids make sharp lines, sit down with the “scribblers” and show how to connect lines and not leave lines hanging.

Coloring the Sugar Skulls

How to draw a symmetrical sugar skull using a cool tracing technique. Kids Day of the Dead art project

I just purchased packs of Prismacolor markers. They are wonderful despite the fact that over a dozen were damaged (no ink!). The kids colored in each shape. Some decided to leave the skull white while others colored the entire skull.

Adding Marigolds

How to draw a symmetrical sugar skull using a cool tracing technique. Kids Day of the Dead art project

Flowers, especially marigolds, are a big part of Day of the Dead. The idea is to cut flower shapes from colored paper and place around the skull. To start, kids cut their sugar skulls from the white paper and glued to a 11″ x 14″ sheet of black paper. Then they added the flowers around the skull.

I set up a table in the back of the room with scissors, glue and some mod podge. At first I allowed the kids to add their own glitter then realized what a bad idea that was, so I quickly switched the glitter to another table. The kids added glue details at the big table and then walked over to me to sprinkle glitter over selected flowers. Much better.

How to draw a symmetrical sugar skull using a cool tracing technique. Kids Day of the Dead art project

The range of details in the sugar skulls is fascinating. Some kids went very simple with the coloring of the sugar skulls just to get to the flowers and glitter stage (that would be me) while others decided flower and glitter wasn’t their thing (and it wasn’t necessarily a gender thing).

This is a sampling of some of the finished work. Most kids finished coloring and cutting out their skulls in two, 50-minute class times, while others will need another 30 minutes to finish the flower details.

How to draw a symmetrical sugar skull using a cool tracing technique. Kids Day of the Dead art project
Click to see Sugar Skulls Design & Coloring Book

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    14 Comments

  1. I did this very lesson today using the same coloring pages! I will definitely add the marigolds now after seeing your lesson! It really adds to the artwork. Thanks so much for sharing your great ideas. You were the reason I became an art teacher ….long story.

    Shanna

    October 16, 2014

  2. I love this! One ?, do you make the painted paper ahead of time or do the students do that? Wondering the same thing for the pumpkin lesson too. Thanks

    Charlotte L

    October 17, 2014

    • Hi Charlotte,
      Yes, we make the painted paper first. I actually did this with the Kinders on their first day of art. The 5th graders used scrap painted papers that we had left over.

      Patty Palmer

      October 17, 2014

  3. Love this. Any suggestions on something other than prismacolor pens? I just looked them up and they are super expensive.

    Sahnya

    October 18, 2014

    • I use Crayola broad tip markers as well. Much cheaper!

      Patty Palmer

      October 19, 2014

  4. This is a great project. I love seeing all the individual variety in the end – each expressing their own style! You can’t go wrong with glitter!

    Crystal

    October 24, 2014

  5. Did this with my students today for Halloween and they were very engaged! Googled the sugar skull colouring pages, used a variety pack of Crayola markers with lots of bright colours and different coloured highlighters to colour in the skull. For the flowers, I offered construction paper and origami paper in many colours and patterns. We didn’t get to the sparkles yet because I didn’t have any. Thank you for this simple art lesson with gorgeous results. It was very easy to prepare and do. I also learned a lot about the Day of the Dead amd the history of sugar skulls; very fascinating!

    Yen

    October 31, 2014

  6. Thanks so much Patty, youve done it again. My Year 6 boys said “this is the best art lesson Ive ever done!!!!”
    And so Simple. I also google sugar skull colouring pages but also a blank skull to give differentiation for those who wanted to design their own.I also started the lwesson with a document outlining the history and significance of DaY OF THE DEAd! rEALLY ENGAGING, TAUGHT THEM LOTS, HAD FUN AND BEAUTIFUL RESULTS.
    aLL IN ALL, A FABULOUS SUCCESS. yOU NEVER FAIL TO INSPIRE.
    tHANKS SO MUCH, TRULY.
    (ps i HAVE AN INTERN THIS TERM, SO YOU HELPED ME LOOK PRETTY DARN CLEVER

    Kim Bullock

    July 26, 2015

    • Ha! Best testimonial ever! Thanks, Kim!

      Patty Palmer

      July 28, 2015

  7. I’m am just starting to create a fine arts program at my sons elementary school. I’m so glad I came across your site. You are going to be a hit here! I was hoping to start off with Dia de Los Muertos and this is perfect. I have to have a different version of this lesson for each grade level so that will be the next fun challenge. But I do love how this came together. Do you know how long this lesson takes? I only have an hour…

    Ashley Bruce

    October 2, 2015

  8. I do love how this came together. Do you know how long this lesson takes? I only have an hour…

    Ashley Bruce

    October 2, 2015

    • It’ll take about 2 1-hour classes to do the full lesson but you can omit the paper flowers or just color them instead.

      Patty Palmer

      October 2, 2015

  9. I do not understand why you have the students only trace 1/2 of the skull at a time? Why not jus trace the entire skull at once? Is there a specific reason for this that I am not seeing?

    Jennifer

    October 22, 2015

    • Yes you can trace the whole skull. My class was practicing drawing symmetrical objects and this is a fun way to break down the drawing and create a symmetrical side. We didn’t trace the coloring pages. Kids had to look at the coloring pages and draw their own. Does that help?

      Patty Palmer

      October 22, 2015

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