Watercolor Birds Art Lesson


Watercolor Birds

This is a super easy project for middle elementary kids. I like to demonstrate how to draw a tropical bird using the steps below. As I’m drawing, I explain how it’s easy to alter the shape of the body, shape of the beak or the expanse of the wings, etc.

Depending on how well the class listens or what their energy is, I’ll either do a direct line approach or demonstrate first and have them complete their own drawing.

Sharpie brand black drawing pens
12″ x 9″ watercolor paper
Liquid watercolors

Here’s What We Did:

You can decide which is the right method for you. Here is my basic grid for drawing a tropical bird:

After the drawing is complete, use watercolors to finish of the painting. I used liquid watercolors since I wanted to focus on blending and a more casual approach to painting. If you want more detail, I’d recommend using cake watercolors.

Painting with Watercolors:

I love liquid watercolor paints as the colors are intense and require little mixing. I pour a tablespoon of paint into a small condiment cup and then place the small cup in a muffin-style palette. This helps prevent tipping.

Children simple dip their brushes into colors and paint. I’d recommend painting the background first, letting it dry for about 5-10 minutes and then begin painting the parrot.

Because wet paint will easily mingle and spread, the results will be similar. If you want a crisp edge to each area of watercolor, allow spaces or areas of paint to dry before painting beside it.

Fourth Grade Results 

What do you think?

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  • Aimee Sirna

    These are GREAT! What did you say to the students about color? It kind of looks like you may have discussed warm/cool with them.
    Also, how do you use the liquid watercolors? Do you dilute them yourself, or are the students diluting them?
    Love your blog!

  • Patty P

    Hi Aimee,
    Liquid watercolors come in a bottle. They are concentrated so you can add however much water you want. I love them for projects that need vibrant color but don't have alot of time. The kids just pick a color, brush it on and if they want, can blend immediately with another color. Fun and fast.
    I preselected the colors, obviously. Some cool, some warm. The kids figured the contrast out on their own.
    I love their signatures…aren't they fun?

  • Char

    How long does a bottle of liquid watercolor last? Do you water it down? Often, the younger students have trouble with regular watercolor paint because they want to goop it on and don't use enough water even after repeated direction and a demonstration.

  • Patty P

    Obviously, how long the bottle lasts depends on how often you use it! If you are asking if the bottles are worth buying, then that answer is absolutely. I love liquid w/c. Give it a try…you'll figure out how much water to add.

  • Lizwensley14

    Thanks Patty, This is exactly what I was looking for, bright birds to use my new liquid watercolours with. I got lots and some sparkley ones from Blick when i was visiting the USA at Christmas. Can wait to let the children have a go with them. I've not seen liquid watercolours here in the UK, much less a lesson which utilises the vibrant colours they achieve. thanks and we're having a group try with the Russian line drawings next week, hope to send you photos of their art. Liz

  • Jill

    This is my first year teaching art, so first let me tell you how much I love your blog! It has been incredibly helpful to give me a good jump start with project ideas. I just did this project with my 4th grade students and they absolutely LOVED it! They had a lot of fun and everyone of the projects turned out well.

  • Arnie

    Cool and colorful design. Very artistic. I like the watercolor designs very much. This is also very amazing.

  • Tracy

    Hi there. I'm loving your blog. I don't teach art, but have two girls 7&8 years old who inspire me to look at sites like yours!
    This lesson on birds is so beautiful, I want to try it with my girls. I notice that your kid's birds don't look like they came from the line drawing you have above. I absolutley LOVE your step by step line drawings because I can't draw (and of course my kids expect me to be able to teach them how to draw). Do you have the step by step that you used for your students in this lesson? Their birds are so gorgeous. Thanks for sharing all your lovely lovely ideas, your blog is really fab.

  • Erica

    I love the variety! But I’m always curious on your posts: In this case, if you do a step-by-step approach, why is there a variety of birds? Do the kids just automatically know how to draw a different type of bird? Do you make a reference sheet?

    In love with DSS, I’m a first year teacher just trying to find my way!

    • Patty

      Great question! I do a guided drawing (more detailed for younger students 7 and younger) and less detailed for older (8+). I don’t use drawing sheets but included them in all my lesson plans for teachers who may not have the chance to demonstrate alternatives. I like to show children how they might approach a drawing and give lots of options. Even when I’m doing directed draw, I always show or suggest alternatives. Hope this helps!

  • Cheryl

    I love this, thank you! I’m continuing a bird lesson from last year (2nd to 3rd) so I wanted to use paint this time instead of crayons and colored pencils. Starting out with a line drawing will act as a review from last year and then we can talk about color and blending. I also love that most of the student’s name are at the bottom right which is what I instruct them to do 🙂

  • Toby Graham

    Hi this is great thank you! I’m a pre service teacher who loves maths and science but can’t draw at all! After a few attempts my bird looked kind of okay and I can work with that ? I think the kids will love it

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