Black Artist Alma Thomas art project | painting a rainbow

Alma Thomas: Painting a Rainbow

Here’s an activity that’s not only a perfect way to demonstrate brush control and paint mixing but get to know an amazing artist, Alma Thomas.

I’ve used this technique many times in a few different paintings (Van Gogh Starry Night, Byzantine Mosaics) and I love it more every time I do it. Alma Thomas developed this expressionist style of painting in her seventies and it has been a favorite for many art teachers.

To see Thomas’ art and read about her impact, you can view a few pieces HERE.

Here is a time-lapse video of the process:

You can find the full length Facebook Video HERE.

The project…

paint colors for kids art to paint a rainbow

Start by mixing some fun paint colors. I’m using a combination of Crayola brand acrylic paints and premium liquid tempera. I’m using a combination only because it’s what I have in my studio…just a random collection of paints that I had from various projects.

When mixing paints, be fearless with combining a few colors and don’t forget to add some white to really make the colors POP!

paint colors for kids art to paint a rainbow

I cut my 12″ x 18″ white sulphite paper into 12″ x 12″ squares for easier management.

To make the vertical art as shown above, use 2 sizes of flat edge brushes (½” and ¼”). Start by dipping the larger brush into paint and making small marks. The idea is to get a feel for what the paintbrush does.

Tap the brush, slide the brush, use the ends of the brush…just have fun!

paint colors for kids art to paint a rainbow based on alma thomas

To make a radial pattern, use a small template for the center to ensure that the circle starts off well. Then just do the same.

Tip: start with colors that are close to each other on the color wheel. This way, if the paint is transferred on the two colors will blend better.

Also, take a break and clean your brush really well between a few of the colors. It really helps to keep the bristles smooth and flat so that the lines are cleaner.

paint colors for kids art to paint a rainbow based on alma thomas

Let me know if you tried the activity!

What do you think?

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  • Raziya Swan

    Lovely!!! 🙂

  • Carolina

    I love this activity! I will start the school year with this artwork for sure!!! Thank you!

  • Liz White

    I can’t wait to pursue Alma Thomas and this project with our kiddos when we return to your wonderful art resources in the fall! Beautiful!

  • Ana

    I love this idea and will be sure to use it! My own work uses small cuts of paper in a mosaic technique!

  • Meghana


  • Linda Wilson

    Ooh, I want to try this myself! Looks like fun and a great way to start art at the beginning of school! Thank you!

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