AlmaThomas Painting a Rainbow art lesson for kids

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.

Download my mixing colors worksheet by clicking the yellow button below:

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The project…

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!

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!

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.

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!

    • June Smirh

      Love using paper scraps too!

  • 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!

  • Shilpa

    I loved this activity . Can we make a lesson out of this or just give as activity

    • Team Sparkle

      Hi Shilpa!!

      Up to you, we’re hoping to add an Alma Thomas inspired lesson to The Sparklers Club for our 2021 bundle series.
      Make sure to lookout in our Sparkler Community FB group for the membership votes 🙂


  • Robin

    I was exporing 2nd grade art option and found this. It was inspiring to find! Thank you

  • Tammy yumego

    interesting and will be a lot of fun

  • Tammy yumego

    interesting and will be a lot to work on but at least it will be fun

  • Christina

    Thank you:-)

  • Jacob Fowler

    I think it was nice and colorful

    • Angela Simpson-Juhan

      Glad you enjoyed it! We’ll be re-creating it again next month but in a different way 🙂

  • Josiane Pacheco

    Achouma experiência maravilhosa e uma pesquisa dr cores e formas fantasticavevtodos devem vivenciar.

  • Sarah McCormick

    This would be great to have in a form we can send to parents working with students at home.

    • Sarah McCormick

      OK i see its going to be in a future bundle. I’m thinking I’ll copy the concentric circles, and the falling lines onto the paper before they paint as I’d use it with prek or kinder…

  • Marcus

    Marvelous Bravissimo. I love this painting it it really explains the character.

  • sofia

    I love it

  • Kim

    Love learning about Alma Thomas!!

  • Jessica

    Not too fast thank you! :3 <3

    • Patty

      Hi Jessica….make sure you use the pause button so you can go at your own pace 🙂

  • Denise


  • Michele Goaslind

    I love this lesson! And i have been wanting to use it during Black History Month but with current covid restrictions i am wondering how to make this happen. My students arent allowed to share materials and sit far apart. I just don’t have that much paint to allow each student so many options. I am wondering if i can do this with paper strips and oil pastels and get the same effect.

  • Juliana Nielsen

    Love it! I’m going to work up some samples for my students to try with watercolors (it’s all they have right now for paint 😉 I know it won’t be as fantastic as the tempera/acrylic, but I think it’ll still work. Thanks for the inspiration, DSS!!

  • Juliet

    Wow it’s lovely, Thank you each new art activity brings in excitement to the children.

  • Vanessa

    Thank you for this – it’s a perfect project to start off with for this first term of school here in Durban, South Africa where we are in the middle of Summer with lots of rainfall and rainbows!!

  • Jacob Zabicky

    Quite impressive! It materializes the “ideal” of “painting like a child” of many good painters…

  • Susan Baker

    I can’t wait to do this project with my kiddos when I return to school in the fall! Well Done and simple.

  • Deborah Lawson

    I had an opportunity to view her work at the National African Art Museum in Washington. Phenomenal! I can’t wait to do this with my Art Students! Thanks for sharing. Deborah L. Lawson

  • June Smith

    Great! Love this lesson. Plus, I haven’t mixed acrylic and tempera paints before. Good to know. Thank you Patty and DSS Team.

  • Mary Lou Arnson

    I love this! I have done it with paint sticks but now with remote teaching my students don’t have supplies. Any ideas for modifications?

    • Bethany

      Hi Mary Lou. One modification that could work great is to have your students use the broad side of color markers! Share your finished projects and let us know how it goes!

  • Lizzy

    So awesome, when I did this it was so fun, creative, and artistic!

  • Laiyana Bradfield

    OMG!! It came out perfect!
    P.S if you do not have paint or you are not allowed to use it, use markers or even colored pencils.

  • eli

    love it

  • Shayaan


  • Nadine Hamlin

    Fun lesson!!

  • Cynthia

    this is a great lesson plan. My students will really enjoy these!! Thank you


    I’m working on a lesson plan about symmetry and black history; I am a Sparkler & assumed her work would be included in the Black History Month bundle. It isn’t. That’s fine, I can get to the lesson here. But is there a printable for members to use and/or a slide deck for Ms. Thomas? Also, I’ve typed Alma and Thomas and symmetry in your top tool bar and this lesson does not come up. The only way I could find it is via a Google search. That seems odd.

    • Bethany

      Hi Emily! This lesson is not a part of The Sparklers’ Club membership so it does not come with the slide deck and other resources that are a part of Sparklers’ Club lessons. When I searched the Deep Space Sparkle site with the word “Alma” three options came up including this lesson. When searching in the future I’d suggest first starting with one world to see what comes up, then you can narrow down your options from there. I hope that helps.

  • EM

    Love this.

  • Robin

    Fun color lesson!

  • derwoedr

    As a member how can I save the video clip to link it in my lesson plans for reference later???

    • Patty

      You can copy and paste the post URL but we don’t have separate links for each video

  • Denise

    I am not able to open PRINT button. Help!

    • Bethany

      Hi Denise! Everything is working on our end. If you click the download button and add your email address we will send the lesson directly to your inbox. Be sure to check your Spam or Junk folders to make sure it didn’t end up there. Enjoy.

  • jenny

    TY so very much. I am very sick this week and this lesson will help me tremendously. I was lucky enough to see the Alma Thomas retrospective in Virginia Beach, and of course, fell in love! Thank you, I know my students will love this!

  • lori

    This is beautiful it opens up are creativity.

  • Stephanie Guerrero

    This looks fantastic! We are learning about Alma Woodsey Thomas and this fits perfectly!

  • Nicole

    Beautiful! I would love to do this with my class!

  • ABW

    Great lesson. Do you think first graders would be able to do this lesson?
    Any adaptations you would recommend?

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