Rainforest Animal Batik Art


I think the process of creating this rainforest batik art is quite magical but unfortunately it has a low success rate. By that I mean, students are usually frustrated or bored with the lengthy process (about 3-4, 50-minute sessions).

Basically, the idea is to draw a picture (in this case, rainforest) with a light colored chalk. Then, color between the lines with oil pastel. The trick is to color deeply making sure no white paper remains. After the entire picture is filled with color, paint piece with black tempera paint. After the paint dries, scratch off with a wooden dowel, popsicle stick or even a coin for the batik portion.

Sounds easy enough, right?

First of all, it’s very important that the children draw the picture large. Small details don’t cut it here. They must press quite hard with their oil pastels to achieve a rich color so that the tempera paint will scratch off easily. The paint ultimately sticks to all places where the oil pastel doesn’t cover. So the chalk lines must be thick to provide that high contrast look.

The children certainly love the idea of painting over their picture with black paint (and yes, we tried washing the paint off with water, but that’s a whole other story) but it never quite works out well for everybody. Perhaps it’s the grade level. Most of the time, the drawing is indistinguishable or the children tire of scratching off the paint or the children scratch so randomly that the paper is just one big mess and then they’re annoyed that a perfectly good drawing went bad…I could go on and on.

I’ve done this lesson a half dozen times with my fourth grade students. And in most cases, I say I won’t do it again. But I always do. Have you tried it? What were your thoughts? A Yay or Nay?

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  • Laura Douglas

    Hi Patti!
    I LOVE Batik projects and it can be a frustratingly lengthy process. I do mine a little bit differently. Students draw with chalk first, as do yours, on heavyweight paper. Next I pre-mix glue with either acrylic or non-washable tempera paint. Students paint, filling all white space. Next, we paint the layer of black, dry then WASH in the sink. The kids LOVE this! I have them come up one at a time…water running lightly and a sponge handy. a quick wipe or two and voila! Into the drying rack they go! Still a lengthy process but they are thrilled when they get to wash their artwork so it pays off! Let me know if you ever try it! Good luck!

  • Kellie D

    Hey there Patti,
    The process I got from a seasoned teacher (thanks Fallon!) is less complicated and the kids loved it. Using 80 or 90# paper, students draw first (we used pencil). I stress that the entire paper is to be filled in completely with crayon. If they want white in the finished project, use white crayon. I steer them away from using black in the crayon process due to the amount of black that will be present when things are finished. I set up a water station and paint station near the sink, ask them to dip the piece in the water and then gently crumple it, smooth it out and do it a second time. They then smooth out the piece VERY CAREFULLY on a section of newspaper and head to the paint station. Here they cover the piece with diluted black tempera. I stress that the paint can not dry on top or it will be ruined. They then head to the sink where I station myself. I take the work off the newspaper, gently rinsing it under a trickle of water and replace it on the newspaper. The work needs to dry flat and looks fabulous when mounted on a contrasting piece of paper. I show them my examples and where they ripped in the process. They never noticed the rips before and have the confidence that it will work out when they do it. The kids loved it so much they asked to do smaller versions when they got done with the first.
    I think I’ll try it with the pastels and see how it works out. Good Luck!

    • amy gibbs

      I love this technique! The crinkling really makes the “batik” look good. I’ve used heavy craft paper to do this, but you have to be VERY careful, as it can tear easily when wet. Crumple it when still dry, then soak it briefly under the cold water, then brush the diluted tempera (even better, if you can afford it is liquid watercolor). The brown makes the piece look very earthy.

  • Susan

    I think Phyl at: There’s a Dragon in my Art Room has a great technique, you can see more here:
    Good Luck! Susan

    • Pat

      There is a similiar technique as the one at There’s a Dragon in my Art Room that I have tried and has worked great. Instead of using aloe lotion and toothpaste, use Elmer’s Gel glue. I found this on That Artist Woman’s blog. Probably more expensive, but you won’t have to fill old glue bottles. Also, of course this is on fabric, not paper, as yours is. But you end up with a real batik like effect.

      • Patty

        Yes, you’re right. This sounds interesting! Do you think this would work on paper? Probably not, huh?

  • Julie Kohl

    I do mine quite differently. I have my students draw a picture onto thick construction paper and color it really dark and heavy with REGULAR Crayons. Usually we do this with a van Gogh lesson and I have them draw a vase with some sunflowers. They also have to color the entire background. The key is think, heavy coloring so that part usually take 1 1/2 to two class periods for a 9×12 piece (including the time to draw). Next – the sudents carefully crumble up their picture, open it and crumble again 2 or 3 times. This creates “cracks” between the wax. The next process is a little difficult to manage and students usually need to have another activity (mine draw in sketchbooks) while they wait for their turn. One at a time students come to the counter and cover their paper completely with their choice of paint color (darker colors work better). As soon as they have painted their entire paper we place it on a screen and gently wash the paint off under running water. Pictures are then places on the drying rack but you must be very gentle to avoid tearing. The paint gets into the cracks that were crfeated in the wax and creates that Batik-type look. When the paintings dry they usually need to be flattended and I stack them all up and place under a few heavy books. The following week students will choose a piece of 12 x 18 construction paper to mount their picture to. If you use the same color as the paint they chose they really pop.

  • Donna Barton

    I have had the best results using oil pastels and a heavy wash of PRANG/pan watercolors. (I have tried india ink and liquid w/c but the prang did the best) We did mola designs and did a wash of red w/c. I have also had students draw an upclose peacock with tails fanning out and filling the page. The peacock design already has plenty of white spaces left for the black paint. For the molas, I have the students draw their SIMPLE design with pencil and emphasize that they must leave space for the paint to fill in. They color close to the pencil lines but must leave a white outline. When applying the watercolor I encourage them to mostly paint the white areas. The paint tends to dull the oil pastel. I have also done a large central intial and border design around the edge. They must color very firmly with the oil pastels. This is where many students get bogged down. Like you I have many pictures to show so the students. (Samples of molas and pictures of peacocks) I have not tried crumpling the paper so sometimes the effect is not as much like a batik. If you do paint over the oil pastel it does stick in some places. The pictures where the student failed to color firmly are the ones that are not as successful. Thanks for all your wonderful ideas!

  • Phyl

    Hi Patty, I haven’t left a comment in a while because it is more difficult for some reason, since you changed over your blog :-(.

    Anyhow, my toothpaste batik process, that a couple of people have already mentioned, is done on fabric. I tried it on paper first and had limited results. I did however have some interesting results on giant coffee filters given to me from the corner convenience store. My process is crazy experimental though, and you have to use that approach with the kids, so that they are prepared for things to go wrong. They LOVE the process – the room smells so nice, and it’s just so darn FUNNY to be drawing with toothpaste. This year we did a lot of touch-ups with colored Sharpies, because for some reason the colors didn’t hold as well. Nobody minded. In contrast to the paper processes some people have posted above, you need to wait a day or two to wash it after the painting is complete.

    I think the results you posted are lovely, but I can see that the kids would get frustrated with the whole scratching process; I would too. I’ve tried some of the paper processes described above (painting and washing) and had some success, but I think it has to be kept small to avoid the frustration with both having to color hard and fill in spaces. I don’t think I’d do the scratching thing. (I think I’d “scratch” it from my favorite project list!) Also you really have to watch the time, because if it isn’t washed off after the paint is put on, it sticks like crazy.

    One more thing – I have some pics I pulled off the internet last year, of happy sunshines done obviously with the process you described. I saved the pics because I was stumped as to the process and keep meaning to experiment. Could they have been something you once posted?

    • Patty

      Hi Phyl,
      Hmmm. Happy sunshines? I don’t think they were mine. Sounds fun, though! You’re right about the scratching. With so many other options, I’m definitely going to scratch this idea!

  • Suz

    Hum, see I like the look of the scratching away not as a batik effect but as a scraffito way of exploring visual texture. I think linking it with animals is a good idea, the whole fins, feather, fur approach to to visual texture. HOWEVER, I can see how the kids would get really tired of coloring and scratching, scratching, scratching. I would not have the patience to do a whole sheet of paper that way as an adult!. How about just doing the animal on a separate piece of paper (much smaller) and after scratching away the black paint cutting out the animal and gluing it onto a oil pastel or painted background. In fact, my 4th graders are doing rain forest birds right now and I’ll have one class do scratch art on just the bird and paint the background and see how it goes.

  • Cheryl Hancock

    Hi All,
    The crayon batik lesson I use is pretty fool proof and no more than 2 lessons-
    crayons, edicol dye ( food colouring black) white paper- heavy cartridge ( not sure what you would call it in the US. Plenty of newspaper and a iron for pressing out the dyed paper.
    Students draw and colour with crayon pressing hard onto the paper. They need to colour every thing in. Of course you could use chalk first but I generally dont find it is any more helpful.
    When they have a really good think layer of crayon on- ask them to check against the light for the crayon – waxy sheen. I then ask them to crumple their paper up to crack the crayon. When that is done they flatten out the paper carefully not to tear it. We then use black edicol dye to paint over the whole surface. the ink tends to soak into the cracks.. I have not tried it with tempera or chinese ink but suspect that would work well. I then speed up the process using an old household clothes iron to dry and flatten the art works. I place a pile of newspaper under neath the wet art work and after every two or three pieces replace it with a new sheet or two.
    The paper is dry straight away .

  • Sarah Dougherty

    I am going to use this technique for Jime Dine hearts next week and I’m really excited about it. I think the texture it creates will really give my students a first-hand experience with Dine’s style and creating texture. My example looks great, anyway!

    • Patty

      That’s a great idea! I might just have to try it!

  • Rebecca

    Glad I came across this post and all the wonderful comments! (Though I wish I’d found it BEFORE doing a similar project with my 6th graders.) I was going for an oil pastel batik process, but have turned them into scraffito due to not being able to wash the india ink away as planned. Ah well…you learn as you go. I’m so glad to see I’m not the only art teacher sifting through the various options. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and to all the commentors for sharing theirs, as well! I have hope! 🙂

    Here’s the post I just wrote about my challenges with this: http://elementalartroom.blogspot.com/2012/03/6th-grade-self-portraits-learning.html

  • Sue Brown

    I’ve tried this with 7th grade, same results, lol!

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