Santa Barbara Mission Paintings





The Santa Barbara Mission is perched on top of a gentle hill overlooking the city and the distant ocean. An extensive rose garden offers the visitor a place to picnic, play and enjoy the Spanish architecture of the mission.

This is my city. The weather is glorious and I imagine the Spanish Franciscans who founded the mission in 1786 thought so, too. Three adobe churches were constructed on the site–one of which was destroyed in the 1812 earthquake.  Today, the mission hold services as well as opportunities for groups to gather for retreats.

What You’ll Need:

  • Paper bag or brown construction paper
  • Black waterproof marker (I used Sharpie brand)
  • Puck tempera paint (cake tempera)
  • Paint brushes and water containers

Drawing the Mission

Drawing the mission is not as difficult as it appears. The lines and shapes that make up the main facade is easy for children to see and understand. I have done a ceramic mission with much success with my 3rd and 4th grade students and used a simple diagram that helped them build their ceramic piece. This diagram/drawing proved helpful when drawing the facade.


  • Draw a square on the piece of paper. Beside the square draw two rectangles on either side. Top the square with a triangle. 
  • On top of both side rectangles, draw two squares with arches in them. On top of the last “box” draw a dome, a smaller rectangle and finally a cross. Lots of stacking!
  • Fill in the triangle roof with a border line.
  • Add columns to the main facade making sure to leave enough room for the small arched doorway.
  • Resist filling the side columns with a brick patterns for now. Leave this detail until after you paint. Then, once the paint dries, this detail can be applied with marker over the paint.
  • Add a rectangle above the triangle roof and add a step effect to reach the cross.
  • Add steps on the bottom of the drawing. The steps are a series of growing rectangles.


  • Once the mission is drawn, the children drew large roses or there flowers near the bottom of the paper. Then, they drew a horizon line in back of the mission and then our Santa Barbara foothills and mountain range in behind.

Painting the Mission

Selecting the right paint medium for this project was a bit tricky. At first I assumed that I would use liquid tempera paint but after experimenting with it, I found it too messy for the small details I knew my students would be creating. Watercolor paints soaked into the paper too much so I ended up using my sets of cake or puck tempera paints. And what do you know. They were perfect. Puck temperas have this silky quality when applying to paper. I’m not sure why but it is really different from liquid tempera. The colors are thick and vibrant yet they dry quickly.


  • Paint the mission first using a mixture of yellow, orange and white or brown and white. When you order puck tempera, you can sometimes order specific colors and then place them in separately purchased trays. Sometimes the paints come in trays like the set above. I have three sets of puck tempera: an 8-piece set that includes brown and white, the set above and a small set of fluorescent paints. 
  • Using a brush, paint the rose garden, grass and sky. Some children had fun with the sky, opting to select colors other than blue, but its pretty common for kids in 2nd grade to choose blue.


Final Step

The last step is really important because without it, the painting will look like a hot mess. Children might even become discouraged after seeing their beautiful drawing covered by paint. Assure them that by tracing over all of their lines again with a black marker, the drawing will not only spring back to life but the colors will pop.

This is always such a transformative step.


Our beautiful Santa Barbara Missions by Mrs. Hernandez’s amazing second graders…


What do you think?

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  • Lina

    Wow. Did these ever turn out beautifully! I like how despite the same subject matter and same materials, a bit of uniqueness shines through in the small variances and the landscaping!

  • Mary

    Wonderful Patty! California Mission reports and projects have been a 4th grade staple in California since I was a kid it seems. I remember doing Mission of San Luis Rey. These came out great!

  • louise.byrne01@googlemail.com

    Work is fantastic web site is a dream

  • Pam

    I can’t get this lesson to download. Help please.

    • Bethany

      Hi Pam. I love this project! Although most of our posts come with a download this one never did. One option for you is to right-click and save that image and print it from your computer. I hope that helps!

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