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!

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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!

  • 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

  • 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.

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