You Be You Watercolor Fish Project






Looking for an adorable art lesson that bridges literature and art? You Be You by Linda Kranz (author of Only One You) sets out to explore beauty in difference through a little rock fish named Adri.

This 5 minute read will transition your little ones into an art activity that explores the use of oil pastels and liquid watercolors.

You will Need:

  • 12″ x 9″ 90-lb watercolor paper
  • Liquid watercolors (blues and greens)
  • Brushes
  • Oil Pastel (Including black)
  • Pan watercolors (optional)
  • Table salt
  • About 45 minutes

Using either an array of oil pastels or just black pastels like I did, children will draw a shape using their knowledge of lines to create a fish. Encourage the children to connect the top and bottom of the fish with connecting lines so that the fish will have “stripes”. Other shapes can be added too.

Here’s a handy little coloring page or drawing guide to use with this free Deep Sparkle Lesson. If you do this lesson with older kids, they may want to use the handout as inspiration or as a drawing guide. Either way, the handout can be download for free! You can download this Pattern Fish Drawing Handout by clicking the download button below.

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Need more instruction? Try this script….

Place oil pastel near one side of the paper, but don’t go too close to the edge. Draw a dot (a dot is a circle that is filled in). Draw a circle around the dot. You just made an eye! Starting just in from of the eye, draw a curved line up and around the eye (like a rainbow) and all the way to the other side of the paper, but don’t go to the edge. Now, go back to the place in front of the eye and this time make a curved line (like a smile) to the other side of the paper. Connect the lines with a tail. Here are some tail shapes you may like to draw (draw a few tail shapes). Now add a mouth and some fins. Does your fish have big fins or small fins? Does your fish have stripes or poke dots? Does your fish have hair or long eyelashes? A crown? Go ahead and finish drawing the fish while I set out the paints.

Watercolor Paints

I love using liquid watercolor paints with beginning painters. You can read about liquid watercolors here. Set out two colors of liquid watercolor paints. I use baby food jars to store my watercolors in. Ask the children to paint the water/ocean first. They can blend the two colors together or choose one. It’s up to them.

While the background is wet, sprinkle a pinch of table salt over the wet background.

Painting the Watercolor Fish

While the background dries, set out a tray of regular pan watercolors and allow the children to paint their fish with colors from the pan. I use removable pan watercolors and I literally remove the black, brown and white colors from the trays. This way, the colors have a better chance of staying bright.

If you don’t have pan watercolors and prefer to stick with liquid watercolors, set 3 or 4 liquid watercolors in baby food jars and place in plastic muffin type palettes to prevent spills.

Kindergarten Watercolor Fish


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  • Sarah Lin

    What a beautiful and cute project! I can’t wait to do this with my kinder class (I’m an art docent). Did you do a directed drawing for the fish? If not, than how did you explain tothem how to draw their fish shapes? Thank you!!

    • Patty Palmer

      Hi Sarah,
      I just added a guided drawing script in the post for you. Hopefully, this will help!

      • Sarah Lin

        Thank you!!

  • Connie Robbins-Brady

    Thanks for the great lesson. I am an elementary school counselor who uses art as a connection for learning. Our topic this month is Self Confidence, I will use the book and watercolor lesson today with my 5th graders and later this week with my 1st. The rest of the school will have the lesson over the next few weeks. Thank you, love the connection to social skills!!

  • Phyl

    I was confused for a moment, and then I realized this book is by the same author as Only One You, which is equally adorable and says lovely things about bring yourself. Very similar. I posted a lesson that I did using the other book, back before I retired. If anyone wants to take a look, I posted it here: http://plbrown.blogspot.com/2011/04/only-one-you.html

    • Patty Palmer

      Yes, it’s a sequel. Cuteness times two!

  • Linda Kranz

    Hi Patty! I came across your vibrant colorful blog and wanted to let you know that your students fish are amazing! I’m the author and illustrator of Only One You and You Be You. I’m so glad you found my books and that you are sharing the messages with your students. I love art! And children’s books are so wonderful. I’m always on the look out for a new special book to add to my collection! Keep inspiring your students and your web followers! Wow!

    • Patty Palmer

      Hello Linda!
      I’m a big fan of yours! How wonderful that you were able to find my site and see the children’s art inspired by your great art! Thank you for your gifts…keep writing!

  • Karma.gandi@gmail.com

    Hi Patty
    I have a quick question on the salt and watercolors on this project. Since I dont have watercolor paper as part of our supplies in school I used regular white drawing paper to try the prototype. I used liquid watercolors ( Dr Ph Martins is what I had at home, I have the Saxs ones at work). I added the table salt but it did not do anything. Is this because of the paper? Also do you tell yr kiddos to paint clean clear water on the background first before adding the liquid watercolors? Or do you apply the watercolor directly?

    • Patty Palmer

      Using watercolor paper on regular drawing paper creates a different effect than using watercolor paper. With watercolor paper, the texture allows the watercolor to sit on top of the paper. This is important for the salt effect. If you use reg paper, the watercolor will soak into the paper and therefore the salt has nothing to react to. Does this make sense?
      When you want a smooth wash for a background, using water first allow the paint to spread easily and evenly. Not necessary though if you want to blend colors or have a strong color saturation.
      Hope this helps!

      • Karma.gandi@gmail.com

        Yes thank you Patty for a timely answer. Much appreciated. Sincerely, Carmela

  • Shiloh Seitz

    Patty, have you ever noticed liquid watercolors smelling bad after about a week or so? I keep them in the disposable cups with lids and had this horrible smell out of certain colors! I am wondering if that is common and I should plan on them only lasting a week or so. I also dilute them with water. I use the blick brand.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Patty Palmer

      No this is not common. Call Blick and ask for a new set. They are very good with returns.

  • Karen

    I love this book and will try these adorable fish with my K’s. I have one question. You say to paint the fish while the background is drying, I think. Are they painting the fish on a separate piece, then cutting out and gluing onto the background. Sorry, but I’m confused. Thanks so much.

  • Mary

    I did this before and you had a handout was the fish for inspiration. The Free Download was Shape birds, which doesn’t fit. I wondered if you knew. I do love your lessons and use them all the time. I received many compliments on your tonal winter painting project.

    • Patty

      Oops! So sorry about that Mary. I’ll have the website team fix that.

  • Samara

    The download does not work on my end?

    • Bethany

      Hi Samara! This is Bethany from Team Sparkle. Thanks so much for letting us know that there is an issue with the link. It should be fixed shortly. Please check back soon. Enjoy.

  • Ginny

    Mil gracias. Thank U so much!

  • Susie Smith

    Both my 5 and 6 year old granddaughters received this book from us. Delighted with the art idea to go with such an exquisite book. Many many thanks for coordinating the project and book.

  • Angie

    I’m excited to use this project for an art show in May! Thank you!

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