Paper Self-Portraits for Third Grade


The paper portrait is yet another fun and easy way to create portraits for your students. Although this project is simple and fun, there are certain steps the children must do along with the teacher in order for the project to be successful.

This project usually takes three, 45-minute class periods, perhaps allowing some extra time on another day for the detailed-oriented children.

What You’ll Need:
– 12 x 18 white paper
– 12 x 18 background paper (let the kids chose from a variety of colored backgrounds)
– Skin tone paper (1/2 sheet per portrait)
– 1 sheet paper for hair (size varies)
– 1 piece paper for shirt/shoulders
– Variety of sequins, buttons, etc.
– Use glue sticks instead of white glue for this project.

Steps to Create a Paper Portrait

I place one tray of tools (see sidebar) on each table. The tray contains scissors, markers, glue, etc.)

On the white paper, I instruct the students how to draw a simplified face. Starting with a large letter “U” in the middle of the paper, we draw the face. Then draw two lines for the neck, ovals for eyes, hair and a mouth. Don’t worry about a nose or any eye details. Add shoulders and a neckline. The kids should write “top” of shoulder section, “face” on head and “hair” on hair.

Have the children cut out the contour of their head and shoulders. Then, cut hair away from face and shoulders/top away from face. Each kid should have three sections: Hair, Face and Top.

With the skin colored paper, have the kids trace around their “face” template. With the hair colored paper, trace the “hair” template. And finally, with the top colored paper, trace the “top” template. Cut out.

Starting with the cut out top, glue it down on the background paper. Then glue the face, then the hair. It’s important to do it in this order.
This part usually takes about 45 minutes.

Throw away all template paper (white pieces) except for face. At this point, each child should have a face, hair and top glued down on their background paper.

Now its time for the details. Cut out the eyes and mouth from the white face template paper. Glue the white ovals onto the face. The kids can color in the colored parts of their eyes and make a dot for the pupil.

Trace mouth onto colored paper and glue onto face.

Now let the kids chose buttons, sequins, etc for necklaces, shirt patterns and buttons. Let the kids decorate the background paper if they wish. I usually bring out my collage box that holds different pieces of tissue paper, printed paper, etc. for them to use as they see fit.

Third Grade Paper Portrait

The gallery above featured portraits that used realistic colors. For an added twist, or to tie-in with a unit on Picasso or Pop Art, try using natural or Expressionistic colors for the facial features and hair. The fourth graders loved this option and allowed them to expressed their quirky side.

Fourth Grade Pop Art Portrait

These Portrait Lessons are included in the Portrait Pack inside The Members Club.

New to portrait making in the art room? Download this free handout by clicking the yellow button below and we’ll email you the K-6 portrait making guide!

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  • Kelly Neal

    Hi! I purchased and downloaded the portrait packet a few weeks ago. I love it! (Especially as a non-art teacher.) However, the hyperlinks embedded in the pdf file are not clickable. Is there a way to get them?

    • Patty Palmer

      Hmmm…I better check that out! I’ll email you with some links. No doubt they are art supply links, right?

  • Sue

    Please send the free templates for the portrait making guide

    • Bethany

      Hi Sue! This is Bethany from Team Sparkle. Thanks so much for letting us know that there is an issue with the link. It should be fixed now. Enjoy.

  • Ritika

    Shapes template

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