Repeat Fish Collage using Painted Paper




Painted paper fish collage art project

Kids love painting paper. Place a piece of white paper and a few tubs of paint on a table and watch ’em go at it. Pure joy. If you think Kinders love this technique, watch your fifth graders. They go all out. This is also a great lessons for teaching about patterns, design and repetition.

Making the Painted Paper

Give each student two pieces of white sulphite paper and place 3-4 tubs of liquid tempera paints (reds, blues, greens, yellows…mix it up) on each table. Place brushes in the paint tubs. I suggested creating two coordinating sheets of paper, explaining that one paper will be used for the bodies and the other paper will be used for details. Well, the kids barley listened and came up with their own agenda. Honestly? It worked out much better.

With younger grades, I usually set out plastic scrapers and sponge rollers, but for the older kids, I wanted them to think a little deeper with their painted paper designs. Giving just a few brushes, the kids spread the paint with a dry brush, splattered and created patterns with the end of the brush. The effects were unique to each child.

More instructions for How to Make Painted Paper

Prep/Clean-up tips

I get that making painted paper can be messy, so here are a few tips to make your life easier:

  • Schedule back-to-back classes for painted paper. The room is already messy and filled with paint, so clean-up between classes isn’t as necessary.
  • Place big brushes in each color (2-3 paint brushes in each tub of paint). That’s alot of brushes, but it eliminates having to place containers of water on the table.
  • Fill a large bucket with water and place near the sink. Ask children at the end of the painting project to place brushes in the water. This will make cleaning the brushes easier at the end of the day.
  • Children should add names to artwork with an oil pastel before painting. Don’t use pencil as it will likely be covered up by paint.

Drawing the Fish


While the painted paper dries, draw one or two fish (silhouettes only) on the back of a white piece of paper. Suggest that the fish should be one species but two sizes. Cut out fish shapes and trace onto painted paper.  Cut out along the contour line.

Making the Repeat


Cut out as many fish as you can fit on the painted paper (alternating painted paper choices) and adding fins, tails, decorations, etc. Arrange fish on a sheet of black construction paper.

Use metallic paint to add bubbles, scales and other embellishments. if you don’t have metallic paint, use oil pastels, gel pens, crayons, even glitter.

Fifth grade fish repeat designs….


What do you think?

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  • Anonymous


    I really like these fish. I think using metallic paint is a great idea!


  • barbarasthoughtoftheday

    These fish look great. I love the repetition and the bubbles.

  • sleepyhead designs studio

    Those turned out so fun and colorful! Love it!

  • Mary

    I tend to gravitate towards painted paper art projects. This one is wonderful for a number of ages to succeed at and enjoy.
    Thanks for another great post!

  • Clover

    Love your blog!

  • Char

    I always find it surprising when my older students see the projects I do with kinder and 1st and ask when do they get to do that.

  • Joanna Maas

    I love this idea, but how do you get kids from mixing the paints and having the fish all turn out brown and gross?

    • Patty

      ha! Good question. You know, it really comes down to the demonstration. Give the kids some concrete instructions such as put down one layer of color first, then add a second color to texture with, then add speckles, etc. That sort of thing. Demonstrate yourself and warn about over mixing. Offer your students the chance to make 2, 3 or even 4 papers (cut the papers in half if you are short on supplies).Over-mixing is inevitable, but don’t be afraid to offer good tips for great technique. Good luck!

  • Randy

    Really! You’re not going to give credit to Eric Carle for this idea???

    • Jenny

      Randy, Patti has often credited Mr. Carle for his inspirational painted paper. I don’ t think she needs to do it at every breath.

    • Patty Palmer

      No. This lesson was not inspired by Eric Carle, but of course, his iconic style of painting painting is. Is there a book of his that has fish repeats like this?

  • Kathleen

    I find the in my situation that the kids really don’t want to listen. They just want to paint and are not worried about what I have to say. Is this ok or am i losing control. of the class. I really don’t want to raise my voice for them to listen to me.

    • Jenny

      Hi Kathleen, I find if I show samples of kids’ work from earlier in the day they sit up and take notice for sure. Also, this year I have economised on my language, meaning I have trimmed what I say and this is working well. When kids don’t listen, just wait. What!s the worst thing that can happen? They miss out on creating time and when this is pointed out to them, they catch on pretty fast .

  • annette mullin

    Hi there. I am a volunteer art docent and have never taught a lesson. This seems like a good place to start. How long did this project take? We only get an hour every other week.


  • amyjane7@gmail.com

    Just curious…why not just draw the fish on the back of the painted paper, and then cut out. Instead of making a template, tracing, then cutting?

    • patty.palmer@deepspacesparkle.com

      We used one paper to create the various sized fish. The one paper allowed the kids compare the sizes. But, you could just draw a fish on the back side of the painted paper, cut out an then use that as a template. I recall doing more details with the drawing but it was a few years ago!

  • clfriday@gmail.com

    I participate in the Salmonids in the Classroom project and usually have students paint rubber salmon and print against that. But I like this idea too, especially the background. I would just limit the tubs to be colors you’d see in nature, and pick papers similar. I could make deep blue be the bottom and lighter at the top as I assemble the classwork into a creek bulletin board. Thanks for sharing this!

  • ljohnston

    That is so cute! I think I will try it once all the smocks come in 🙂 I like the bucket by the sink idea…I’m trying that one too!

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