Emotion Portraits


As a creative warm-up and to practice making thick, thin and expressive lines, I introduced the sixth grade art rotation with Emotion Portraits. I found this idea on Flickr from one of my favorite art teachers Artsy T. Her flickr site is fantastic and her style of projects is nothing less than inspirational. (Here is the link to her Emotion Portraits and you can peruse her site from there.)

What you’ll need:

  • 12″ x 18″ white paper (watercolor paper is not necessary)
  • Waterproof black markers
  • Watercolor paints. I put the watercolor paint in little condiment cups, then I place the condiment cups in a 6-well palette.


To begin, I asked the students to call out an emotion. I explained in brief how to draw a simple face then added the emotion focusing mostly on the eyes and mouth. Students gave more emotion examples (angry, sad, pensive, joyful, bored, frustrated, etc) and this time, I demonstrated how to use thick and thin lines to convey the emotions. The kids really got into this part so I turned the tables and asked a few random students to come up and try drawing an emotion. The class guessed the emotion. They really loosened up. This helped break the terror of using a black marker without any practice. Please stress that this project is just a warm-up and if they make a mistake, no biggie. Releasing pressure allows the students to be creative and mistakes or not, the portraits are truly the result of an emotion!

Colorwheel of emotions from Deep Space Sparkle

For color, I spoke a briefly how certain colors affect moods. I placed a poster on the white board for kids to come up and look at but basically, I let them have free reign of the watercolors paints and let them be expressive. In addition to the color theory chart, I place a Fred Babb poster on the board as well. His expressive use of color is by far, my favorite sample.

This is a quick project. Only two -50 minute class times. Everyone finished.

Sixth Grade Emotion Portraits:


What do you think?

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  • Rockabye Butterfly

    I like this Emotion Colour Chart! wow, with all the art classes I’ve been through, I never even knew about this! Awesome! Something I will teach my daughter about in the future….

    <3 Rockabye Butterfly


  • Ingrid

    http://www.mariaclaudiacortes.com/ “color in motion” is a very fun animated short that shows various emotions and characteristics associated with colors! Love your blog!

    • Patty

      Thanks Ingrid. I’ll check it out.

  • Beth

    Where did you get the emotion color wheel and Fred Babb picture?

    • Patty

      Hi Beth,
      I found the emotion color wheel via google and the Fred Babb art is from a book I own. Check out my other Fed Babb lessons and read through the comments. Others have tried to source Fred Babb’s work so you might find some tips.

  • marita

    Grat idea de emotion color chart!!! I will use it with my “older” students!
    yhankd for the tip

  • Niccole

    THANK YOU! This project rocks. I love the icebreaker and the color wheel of emotions. I am doing a lesson on Van Gogh, talking about his portraits. This will definitely add to the lesson I had planned. I love your website! We did your Dio De La Muerta sugar skull project last year and people LOVED them. (;

    • Patty Palmer

      Yay! Glad you like it. I was inspired by another art teacher and felt the same way when I found it.

  • Kayden

    oh my

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