Martin Luther King Jr. Portrait Art Project

Few figures in American history inspire hope in the human spirit quite like civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr. His iconic I Have a Dream speech outlined his hopes for the future of the country where equality, community and peace reign supreme. On the third Monday in January, we celebrate King’s birth and legacy and what better way to honor him and guide your students towards thinking on a more global scale than to have your students create a portrait of Marin Luther King Jr., surrounded by their own dreams for society.

Watch the full video tutorial here…

Click the yellow box below to DOWNLOAD the Marin Luther King Jr. Drawing Guide below as well as our other January freebie lessons coming out this month… (NOTE: We recommend downloading the freebie using Chrome or Safari)

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– 12″ x 18″ white sulphite paper

– Black waterproof marker

– Pan watercolors

– Medium round paintbrush


Start off by drawing a large oval in the center of your white sulphite paper using a waterproof marker.

Next, add ears halfway down the outside of the oval. Draw a hair line from the center of the ears that goes up, flattens out a bit in the middle, then goes back down toward the center of the other ear.

Draw a nose in line with the bottom of the ears near the center of the face. To draw the nose, start with a “U” shape for the center, then a “C” shape on the left of the “U” and a backward “C” shape on the right side. Add two lines for the sides of the nose.

Add two eyes in line with the top of the ears, then thick eyebrows on top.

Draw a mouth halfway between the bottom of the nose and the chin. Add a mustache on top and two curved lines for cheekbones.

Martin Luther King Jr. portrait art lesson project for kids

Add two long, curved lines for shoulders that extend to the bottom of the page. Draw two triangles for the collar of the shirt from the chin. For the knot of the tie, connect the shirt collars with a curved line, then add two lines that go down to the bottom of the paper for the tie.

*As an alternate twist, students could draw a self portrait.


Martin Luther King Jr. portrait art lesson project for kids

Use the waterproof marker to divide the background into several sections with curved lines. Some can go horizontally, some vertically and some diagonally.

To add contrast, make the lines thicker by drawing a second line parallel to the first, then fill in the space in-between with the marker.

Martin Luther King Jr. portrait art lesson project for kids

Add the phrase: “I have a dream…” in one section. Select 3-4 other sections and add some of your dreams. These could be personal dreams and goals or loftier goals for society as a whole.

Martin Luther King Jr. portrait art lesson project for kids

You could take a few moments to brainstorm some words to use with your students before they begin this step, if you wish.

Use pan watercolor to paint in the portrait and the background.

Martin Luther King Jr. portrait art lesson project for kids watercolor

Click the button below to DOWNLOAD the January Freebie Pack. Add your name and email and we’ll send it to you!

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  • John Mauro

    I have been following your site for years and love the projects you do. I am always looking for new ideas for my classroom and you have given me several great lessons.
    Thank you!

    • Hannah

      Hi John,

      Thank you for the support!!

      Happy New Year!

      -Hannah (Team Sparkle)

  • Ronace Zielinski-Hogan

    Thank you very much Dr. King’s free art lesson. Love everything I have purchased from you! Excellent lessons and easy to follow! Young artists love them! Your lessons make valuable
    connections across the curriculum. Looking forward to joining your Sparkler Club!

    • Hannah

      Hi Ronace,

      Thank you so much!! We’re so happy you and your students enjoy them?

      -Hannah (Team Sparkle)

  • Aleena Sohail

    Love this! Please send?

    • Patty

      Happy to! Just scroll up and click the box that says January Freebie Pack > click yellow button > enter your name and email and we’ll send it to you 🙂

  • Holly M Magcalas

    LOVE this!! Can’t wait to use it with my kiddos!!

  • Mia

    I would love this project handout to be emailed to me please! It is fantastic

    • Patty

      Go ahead and click the blue box, enter your name and email and we’ll send it to you 🙂

  • Leslie Bell


  • Melissa Miller

    The yellow box doesn’t do anything, is there a way to get this download?

    • Bethany

      Hi Melissa. Thanks for reaching out. If you are having trouble with a download please contact Shannon at support@deepspacesparkle.com and she will lend you a hand with everything.

  • Nicole Venegas

    I would love to be able to do this project with my kids. I have tried to click both spots for download and neither are working. Can you please help?

    • Bethany

      Hi Nicole! Please reach out to Shannon at support@deepspacesparkle and she can help you out with the download! It’s a great lesson!

  • Jessica Sue

    This looks like an awesome project; definitely helps kids think of their own personal goals and dreams. I am, though, having trouble accessing the January freebie pack (I clicked the button, but it didn’t do anything).

    I LOVE following Patty and the rest of the Deep Space Sparkle team; thank you for always supporting other teachers with great new lessons and ideas!

    • Bethany

      Hi Jessica thanks for the kind words! If you need any help accessing the January freebie pack please reach out to Shannon at support@deepspacesparkle.com and she will lend a hand!

  • Niri

    Hi! I was not able to download the Martin Luther King Jr portrait lesson file. Can you send it to me? Much appreciated!!

    • Bethany

      Hi Niri. If you need help with a download please reach out to Shannon at support@deepspacesparkle.com and she can lend a hand.

  • zenart2010

    The yellow box to download is not working

    • Bethany

      Hi! Please reach out to Shannon at Support@deepspacesparkle.com and she can help you get the download!

  • Gigi G

    I really like these wonderful art projects for my g-grandbabies, which I am homeschooling during this national health-challenged period in our history. I am continually looking for “pretty” things for them to do, and what is prettier than the art they create.
    Thank You.

  • Amy Wong

    I’d like a January packet please (:

  • T Ruiz

    I’m excited to try your MLK project with my students! Can’t wait to get started.

  • Bethany

    Please reach out to support@deepspacesparkle.com.

  • Mia

    so cute! This is so creative!

  • Claire Arzuman

    More relevant than ever for students to express their dreams of the world during the beginning of 2021!

  • salladel

    It won’t download!

    • Bethany

      Please reach out to support@deepspacesparkle.com and they can help you!

  • Tanya Wilkins

    Simple straight forward instructions with basic art supplies most schools should have available-looks awesome and look forward to implementing into my art class-thank you!

  • Sandie Nelson

    I am new to the Sparklers Club but I have been watching your videos for a while know. I love everything about this club. I have been using it every chance I get. Thank you for making it so easy and helpful..

  • jaden

    I really enjoyed this and I had lots of fun!

  • Sara Dunning

    LOVE this lesson! It was a hit with my 4th and 5th graders last year. This year I have 6th & 7th graders and I will be opening our watercolor center and starting them off with this lesson on Friday. SO EXCITED to do this one again – thank y’all so much!

  • Bridgette Taylor

    Please send me the MLK Portait guide

    • Patty

      Absolutely! Just click the “click to download” image, add your name and email and we’ll send it to you!

  • Tenzin Dazey

    I love it.

  • Jennyg

    I have used this lesson for a few of my K-1-2nd grade art classes during remote learning. We have had some excellent discussions about MLK and have created some amazing art work! Oh how we love to draw a mustache and think about our dreams of the future – No Corona Virus! I am using this lesson for my formal observation this year and have included the book, The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. by Johnny Ray Moore. Thanks for the great lesson!!!

  • Gerry-louise Robinson

    This is just perfect, especially during these very difficult times both remotely and what is going on across the country. The simplicity of the project allowed me to open a discussion that was age appropriate especially when deciding what words to put on the background….it also was a great place to start really exploring the different views on how to colour the face – many of my students had various thoughts on tones and shades and that had opened a door too. Thank you!

  • Lucy Van Goethem

    I sent in my email and have still not received the download. this has happened before, and I’m not sure why.

    • Bethany

      Hi Lucy! We have heard this recently and have been working to fix the problem. I’d suggest you try again later today! Just click the “click to download” image, add your name and email and we’ll send it to you!

  • Sarah norman

    Hi, for some reason, i can not get the freebie bundles to download to my district email. Could you please send them to me? I would like them all … or at least this one. Thanks!

    • Bethany

      Absolutely! Just click the “click to download” image, add your name and email and we’ll send it to you!

  • Sharon Britt

    I did this lesson with my middle schoolers. They were engaged the whole time and liked the lesson. Some of them drew MLK Jr. from photographs. Many of their posters turned out fantastic.

  • Glennis Posey

    Very interesting.

  • Emily M Bisland

    I am working with 2nd and 3rd grade and would love for them to try this activity!

  • Travis

    is so cool

  • Mariosa Mc Groarty

    Hi there I can’t seem to get the file to download for me. Would you mind emailing it to me?

    Thank you

    • Bethany

      Hi Marisa! 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. We did learn that the Firefox browser does work as well as Safari and Chrome so we suggest using one of those. Enjoy.

  • Tanya Fortune

    Great Work and Instructions! Thank you for these tips to assist me teaching Art classes to grades K-12 at my Private Academy.

  • Seema+Shahzad


  • Ms Ryan

    Fantastic resource

  • vickie.jordan

    i would like this for my art classes very educational

  • Kim Martin

    Love this for my second step lesson about compassion. Thank you! The kids should love it too.

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