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Foil Turtle and Fish Collage

Foil Sea Turtle & Fish

This tin foil sea turtle and fish collage was a huge hit with my third grade class. The kids loved how the sea turtle and fish looked, swimming in the glittery waters.





There are a couple of ways to make the water background for the sea turtle and fish. One method is to use liquid or tray watercolors and table salt to make a traditional speckled background as shown below or you could use Mod-Podge and glitter liquid watercolor paints.



  • To make a watercolor and salt background,  use 6″ x 9″ pieces of 90 lb watercolor paper and regular watercolor paints.
  • Wet the paper with a sponge or large brush, then mix blue and green watercolors onto the wet watercolor paper (wet-on-wet technique).
  • Sprinkle regular table salt or Kosher salt over the damp paper. Salting the surface will give the “ocean” a sparkly quality.


I made glittery paper by brushing a combination of glossy Mod-Podge and glitter watercolor paints together.  The students brushed the home-made “glittery paint” onto a piece of blue or lavender drawing paper. The results were shimmery and ocean perfect.

The recipe isn’t exact, but I used about ¼ cup of Mod-Podge and pour enough glitter paint into the solution until I saw the color emerge. It’s good to remember that the Mod-Podge dries to a clear finish, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see the glitter at first. It will dry and the sparkles will emerge!


After making the background, decide of you want to draw a Sea Turtle or Fish. If you draw fish, you can draw two or even three to fit onto the paper. The sea turtle is larger and is best to draw just one.


Set the ocean paper aside and use the handout to draw the fish or sea turtle.  The idea is to keep the drawing very simple because the drawing will be created on tin foil. It may be helpful to do a practice drawing on a piece of paper cut to the same size of the tin foil.

Draw one turtle or 2-3 fish on a piece of 6 x 9 heavy duty tin foil. Do not color in yet.



To make a texture board, cut heavy board (tag board, etc) into 9″ x 6″ rectangles.

Cut up old mesh vegetable bags and tape to cardboard. I made about 25 and had a few 6th graders help with the taping.



Hand out pieces of tin foil, colored permanent markers and texture boards. Make sure to use permanent markers as regular Crayola markers will smudge. I like Sharpie brand markers.

Put tin foil directly onto texture boards and COLOR fish or turtle with Sharpies and watch the texture of the netting show through. The kids LOVE this step. I do, too. It’s really cool.
After coloring the turtle and fish, carefully cut out fish and glue (white school glue) onto dry glittery or watercolor paper. This part isn’t easy as sometimes the tin foil will tear. If you can persuade your students to draw large turtles and fish, the process will be much easier and far more satisfying.

Here’s a free drawing handout PDF you can get by emailCLICK to get the How to Draw a Sea Turtle & Fish Handout

Third Grade Gallery


HAVE YOU TRIED THIS LESSON? Let me know what you think…


  1. What a cool technique – these are really beautiful!

    Katie Gonzalez

    April 17, 2009

  2. I would just like to say that I absolutely love this blog! So much inspiration! Thank you for the time you take sharing it with us.


    April 18, 2009

  3. Katie: I know! The kids loved this lesson. My third grade classes have been challenging this year so I knew I needed something great to hold their attention. It worked. The kids were attentive and engaged. Just make sure to explain that the foil might tear when cutting but that gluing will fix the problem.

    Sonja:Thanks so much for saying this. It keeps me going!

    Patty P

    April 18, 2009

  4. Hi. First of all this site is terrific so thank you! It may sound like a silly question but could you please tell me what you mean by coloured sharpies? In Australia we may use another term?


    August 16, 2009

  5. Sharpies are a cheap brand of waterproof markers in the US. Thanks for pointing out the confusion!

    Patty P

    August 17, 2009

    • These look beautiful! I can’t wait to try them.I just thought of an idea, maybe fully glue foil to a piece of reg paper (with dots of glue) then put on board with netting. Maybe it will be stronger…


      June 2, 2016

  6. Wow! This is probably one of the best art blogs around. I am a second year elementary art teacher and it was extremely helpful in planning lessons. I am planning on using so many of your ideas. Thank you so much and keep up the great work. Is there a spot where people can post some of their best project ideas? It might add to the whole community! 🙂


    September 22, 2009

  7. Hi Kim,
    Your idea of starting a community board is fantastic. How do I do it? Seriously! Perhaps the best way is to
    open up a Flicker account and have people post there…or email me photos? Any suggestions?

    Patty P

    September 23, 2009

  8. Wow excited, thanks for freshing my ideas.


    July 28, 2010

  9. I’m student teaching in 4th grade right now. I am very fortunate that I get to teach art to my class since the school doesn’t have an art teacher. I made these with my class and they turned out absolutely amazing! My class has gotten so many compliments! Thanks for all the great and fun ideas!


    April 3, 2011

  10. I have texture plates that we used instead of having to make ones with the netting. They worked well! Your ideas are inspiring and awesome. I love all of the pictures you post!


    November 7, 2011

  11. Cute project! 🙂


    September 11, 2014

  12. Facebook has an amazing art teacher group! You guys should join!


    September 12, 2014

    • What’s the name of the group, if you don’t mind sharing?


      July 28, 2015

  13. This is exciting! Fish and turtles are great. I can also imagine that a seahorse will mix well with those sea creatures! Thanks for the tutorial. It seems easy but I must first try how that watercolor painting works. 🙂

    Bumblebees R Us Day Care Center

    September 13, 2014

  14. this is really cool we did it. It was AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Julia Harman

    September 21, 2014

  15. Thank you for the great idea. My kids loved it. We coloured with sharpies first, and then applied the texture. The material I chose for the texture did not show through after colouring.

    Awesome afternoon of art thanks to you!


    January 7, 2015

  16. Thanks so much for sharing this! They all turned out beautiful. We went this Summer to a Turtle Release and this is perfect to do with the kids. Attempting it tomorrow. 🙂


    July 28, 2015

  17. This is an Awesome project and so many Elements of Design in here… Thank You! Wonderful!!!


    October 1, 2015

  18. Do you think Kindergarten could do a simple fish?


    April 8, 2016

    • Yes but make it super big so they can cut out easily. Also you may want to use heavy duty foil as little kids might have tendency to tear their drawings when coloring. Let me know how it turns out!

      Patty Palmer

      April 8, 2016

  19. These are fabulous. Thanks so much for sharing all your wonderful ideas. I am also loving listening to your blog.


    April 14, 2016

  20. These are beautiful. I am a librarian at a small private school. The children like to respond to a book through art (and so do I). Thank you.


    April 15, 2016

  21. Hi Patty, do you think that this would be fun and easy enought for 2nd graders?


    March 12, 2017

    • Actually, no. Cutting the foil is a challenging. But it really all depends on what you do with the foil. You can create beautiful fish (the kids would love this) and add the coloring & texture but perhaps not cut the fish out. Or older kids volunteers can cut instead. Hope this helps.


      March 13, 2017

  22. I am a homeschooling Gran, who lives right on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. This fabulous project is perfect for both my granddaughter’s wall mural (major art project for the year) and to showcase our local environment! A heartfelt thank you to you, Patty!

    Janet Jackson

    May 17, 2017

    • You are so welcome Janet!


      May 17, 2017

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