How to Draw a Sugar Skull and other Day of the Dead Art Projects for Kids

Sugar Skulls & Day of the Dead Art Ideas

Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated on November 2nd. The holiday focuses on the gathering of family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. In Mexico, Dia de Los Muertos is a National holiday. Sugar skulls are often used to decorate the this holiday.

How to Draw a Sugar Skull and other Day of the Dead Art Projects for Kids

Families build private altars honoring the deceased and decorate with sugar skulls, Catrina dolls and marigolds. Many communities in the United States celebrate Day of the Dead, including my own hometown, Santa Barbara. Drawing and painting Sugar Skulls has become a very popular art and classroom activity, not only for the kids, but for me.

I’m totally obsessed with the color of this holiday and I love the whole idea of celebrating and honoring our loved ones who have passed.

One of my favorite lessons to do with older kids (grades 4-7) is to draw a sugar skull. I used a symmetry techniques with my 5th graders but quite honestly, it can be a bit time consuming and a little confusing if you aren’t familiar with the process.

Instead, I created a drawing handout which explains how to draw a sugar skull by using reference points. This is a fantastic drawing technique that can be use with any type of object but is particularly good with round shapes.

Take a look! This quick video shows how to draw and paint a sugar skull WITHOUT using a template. The choice is up to you based on your classroom of students. If you prefer the drawing guide, scroll below and click the download image to access a free sugar skull PDF.

How to draw a sugar skull free handout

Day of the Dead Picture Books

Surprisingly, there are few picture books on the market that detail this colorful celebration but I’ve used a few of these with my art projects.

Day of the Dead Picture Books
Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead/El Dia de Los Muertos

Clatter Bash! A Day of the Dead Celebration

The Dead Family Diaz

Festival of Bones

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How to Draw a Sugar Skull and other Day of the Dead Art Projects for Kids

Here are a few Day of the Dead Art Projects for you to try:

Torn Paper Calaveras (skeleton) with Marigolds

Sugar Skull Collage with oil pastels and paint Perfect for grades 1-3

Sugar Skull Drawing with markers and painted paper flowers Perfect for grades 4-7

Day of the Dead Calaveras Drawing Project Perfect for grades 1-4

Your turn….

Do you celebrate Day of the Dead? Have you done a Day of the Dead art project with your students or kids? I’d love to hear how you celebrate Dia de los Muertos.

Share your ideas…

What do you think?

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    Thank you for the sugar skull handout! Just in time for next week 🙂

  • Marcia Beckett

    Super handout! Thanks for sharing.


    I love it! Thank you!


    Hi Patty,

    Is the link for the sugar skull hand out still available some place? I can’t seem to locate it or get it to open.
    I would love to try it as a drawing guide!


      I removed it because it was a seasonal download but I just loaded it again in the shop. You should be able to download it now. Thanks!

  • Jennifer Bucher

    Thank you for generously sharing your ideas! I have done a lesson for Dia de los Muertos in many different ways. I have had students paint skeletons on black then used scrap papers to embellish – they have used mask molds to create a white mask and then painted on designs and added mixed media.. we have created skulls from model magic and mounted them in a paper mache created niche with a copper tooled front design hot glued on.. so many ideas! I would love to hear from others as well!

    • Patty

      It’s such an artist’s celebration. Love all your ideas!



  • Leeanne

    Wow! So lovely! I tried to download your sugar skulls free guide and nothing happens? Is the link for the sugar skull hand out still available some place?

    • Patty

      It works…try clicking on the black box “Download Sugar Skulls Drawing Guide” and click on the white box. It will ask you fo royal email. Then just fill out the form and we’ll email you the PDF. Make sure to check your junk folder 🙂

      • Ellie

        I Love it! So fun, and with endless desings, I could do a million of these! Thanks for this!

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