Sunset Silhouettes


Understand positive and negative space with this sunset silhouette art project for kids. From Deep Space Sparkle

These stunning sunset silhouettes were created by third grade students. I must admit, that although many of my students found this project fun, many found it extremely challenging. I think a better age group would be fourth or fifth grade. If you have small classes, or if you are doing this project with small groups, any age group could do it. It just takes some explaining.

– Red, yellow & blue watercolor
– Soft leaded pencil
– Sulphite paper
– Watercolor paper
– Scissors


To start, we washed watercolor paint over regular white paper (no need to use watercolor paper here). I set out red, yellow and blue liquid watercolors and let them mix away. I did warn them about blending all three colors together. Some, of course, did this straight away and came up with a lovely muck color. At least their color curiosity is satisfied.

Understand positive and negative space with this sunset silhouette art project for kids. From Deep Space Sparkle

Set wet paper aside or put on the drying rack.

Now for the fun part. Using a soft-leaded pencil, draw a frame around the perimeter of a black piece of paper. Draw a simple scene inside the frame. It helps to have some parts of the scene touch the frame. I handed out a sample sheet to give the kids ideas.

Then with a white oil pastel or crayon, the children traced around the negative space. The negative space concept is really hard for some kids to grasp, so it might be necessary to change your dialog to “trace the sky” instead of “trace around the negative space”.

Now comes the work…cutting. Cut along white oil pastel lines. If a child accidentally cuts through the frame, tape it or take the frame out altogether. Glue onto dry watercolor paper.

Understand positive and negative space with this sunset silhouette art project for kids. From Deep Space Sparkle

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  • Janie B

    My 6th graders did silhouettes sort of like this this week. They’ve had fun. These look great. I like the framing idea.

  • K-Sue

    They are so pretty, and all different. I know the children were surprised and pleased with the results.

  • Ingrid

    Those look great!
    I’ve done a similar project with a discussion of analogous colors, either with red-violet-blue or red-orange-yellow watercolors and used black crayons for a wax resist. That might be easier for younger students, too.

  • James

    these look great. I have done them before but the “framing” seems to really finalize the assignment.

  • yifat

    hi thank you it is lovely
    Today I will try this with my kids
    This is great!!

  • artsytch

    I did a similar project and found that if you have the kids color in with a white crayon the silohuette of what will remain. I have an example for them to look at that is colored in. I explain that the side they are coloring on will be the back. Then I have them cut out the black parts that are “leftover”. This seems to help them see where to cut.

    • Beth

      This is my favorite project. I have the students use black paint to create the silhouette. It seems to be easier than trying to cut out the silhouette. I do this with my second graders and I believe that everyone is pleased when they have completed their project.

      • Patty

        Yes. painting the farm scene would be much better. Cutting out the silhouettes was really tough for this age group.

  • jess ott

    i am doing a more simple version of this with 1st grade and most are doing great, but a few just struggle with the idea of silhouettes. I might be over enthusiastic with their ability to understand, but we are trying. Yours look great….now wish me luck.

  • Ann Zito

    I am thinking that this would be super fun for a Halloween project. They can do the silhouette, and then write a spooky story about it! Thanks for the great idea!!

  • Karen

    So I am doing this with my 3rd graders this week but was going to let them piece together the black silhouettes instead of trying to cut it out in one piece. I think that that will be much easier for them while still getting the concept across.

    • Patty Palmer

      Good idea. Most of my kids struggled with cutting it out in one piece. Actually, it was a nightmare!

  • Mira Shah

    Awesome artwork. I love how you coach new art ideas to your children’s. Amazing and very inspiring. Especially Sunset Shilhouettes.

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