Watercolor Resist Tropical Fish


Fish are easy to draw and the color opportunity is fantastic. My fifth grade students always do a few watercolor lessons and this year I wanted to use good old fashioned crayons as my resist tool. I have a variety of crayons: construction paper, glitter crayons and plain crayons. My students loved getting all variety and it left me wondering why I don’t use crayons more often.

Drawing the fish

The students selected their favorite fish shape and embellished with their own patterns and designs. Some students used multiple crayon colors while others selected one or two. Of course, it doesn’t matter what they choose to do.

Step 1 and 2 Watercolor Resist Tropical Fish

Painting wet-on-wet

One technique that I wanted to teach was painting watercolor on a wet surface. To do this, I had the students paint their entire background with water and then apply the watercolors. We used pan watercolors, but liquid watercolors would work fine for the background. The students tilted the paper to let the watercolors drip and mingled multiple colors together. Others used short brush strokes over the wet paper just to see what happens. This really is a fun part of the lesson, so take your time here.

Step 3 and 4 Watercolor Resist Tropical Fish

Painting the fish

After the background was painted, students used the pan watercolors and painted the fish designs. It’s important to teach the students to layer the paint by starting out with a light layer (more water than paint) and then building up color if desired.

I think the fish turned out wonderfully!

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  • Caren with a "C"

    Love this idea! My kids and I will have to try it this summer.

  • Robin M

    I did a fish lesson with my first graders at the end of school. You are right about the easy shapes! We started by holding our papers portrait style, drew a heart with crayon at the very top of the paper. Then I told them to grab hold of their hearts if they were right handed writers with their left thumb, and vise versa for lefties; then draw an oval laying sideways touching the top and bottom of the heart, and a crescent moon for the tail on the opposite end of the oval! The children were then instructed to create a pattern inside their fish with two colors of their choice. The only color they couldn’t use was blue! After the children were completed they were delighted to find out they would paint a blue wash over their fish! Their fish were sensational! It was an idea for a “welcome back” to our “CREATIVE SCHOOL OF FISH” bulletin board for the forthcoming school year!

  • Sabrina

    Just did this with my students today. A big hit with the kids and their parents!

  • Lori

    I can’t wait to do this with my girls, especially my fish loving 8 year old.

    I am passing on the Versatile Blogger Award to you. You can pick it up at http://jazzyallergyrecipes.blogspot.com/2012/06/versatile-blogger-award.html.

  • Sandy patterson

    Great lesson! Literature connection; The Owl and the Pussycat, illustrated by Jan Brett!

  • Lois

    I was wondering what is the best paper that you use for your water color projects?

    • Patty Palmer

      I like 90 lb school grade paper. The brand I currently have is Canson. You can find a link under art supplies in the menu bar.

  • Paulette

    While desperately searching for ideas for a room full of summer art camp students, I found your lesson on watercolor techniques and tropical fish. It is so easy to understand, so I think my class will really enjoy it. Thanks so much for posting and for making it available. I can’t wait to see the results.

  • Renee

    I love your ideas. Simple but they turn out beautiful.

  • Lori Kidder


  • Jennifer Wood

    Hello! Where can we get the fish drawing guide?
    Thank you!

  • mandyleecasey

    Cheat sheet link is broken?

    • Bethany

      Hi Mandy! I just tested the link and everything is working on our end. Are you using Firefox as your browser? We’ve recently learned that our downloads aren’t working with a Firefox browser, so I’d suggest using Chrome or Safari instead. If you add your email to the box we will send it directly to your email address. Be sure to check your spam or junk folders. Enjoy!

  • Lorrie

    Thank you for this idea! I’m teaching an all ages watercolor class at our library and this will work out great for all levels of ability!

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