Texture with Acrylics: A Homeschool Art Lesson

Texture is the last element of Art we are studying this year… The look and feel of a surface… Since we’ve mostly been painting I decided we would focus on creating texture with paint. Last week we practiced watercolor texture techniques and this week techniques in acrylics.

We began by viewing the paintings and slide show in the National Gallery of Art lesson on Texture, which includes oil paintings by Chuck Close, Leonardo daVinciMartin Johnson HeadeWinslow HomerFitz Henry Lane, George Stubbs, Joseph Decker, Judith LeysterSir Peter Paul Rubens, and Henri Fantin-Latour. We looked for  textures like poodle fur, lion’s mane, curly hair, soft velvet, delicate lace, smooth skin, shiny satin, scratchy twigs, bristly nest, downy flower, churning water, smooth water, shiny leaves, and wrinkled skin, and discussed how they might have created the texture.

Next we moved on to the hands-on part of the lesson. The basic format was again inspired by Watercolor Techniques lesson from DeepSpaceSparkle.com but we used acrylic type paints (gouache and tempera) instead of watercolor, and our focus was on techniques to create texture.

Here’s what you need:

  • 11″ x 17″ card stock (or 2 8-1/2″ x 11″)
  • Paint (we used Crayola gouache and tempera, nothing fancy)
  • Cups for water
  • Paint brushes (medium to large)
  • Palettes (we used plastic lids, about 6″ across, 1 for each color, and passed them around)
  • Sponges with different sized holes and textures (cut into smallish pieces, easy for kids to hold)
  • Paper towels or rags
  • Straws
  • White tissue paper
  • Plastic wrap
  • Toothpicks
  • Sand
  • Sharpies

To begin, we drew 4 rows of 2 boxes on our card stock, leaving room at the top for the title, “Textures with Acrylics”. We labeled each box: 1) Sponge, 2) Fingers, 3) Palette Knife Effect, 4) Dry Brush, 5) Tissue Paper, 6) Plastic Wrap, 7) Scratching, and 8) Sand. (see below) I invited the kids to use fancy lettering or create frames around their boxes if they wanted to.



 1) Sponge

Use a lot of paint or a little, light touch or heavy, a sponge with small, fine holes or a sponge with large, open holes (like a loofah) for a variety of effects.




2) Fingers

Think finger painting is just for kids? Check out these links about artist Iris Scott.

Fancy Finger Paintings by Iris Scott

Iris Scott Finger Paintings



Use long, smooth movements, or squiggly, or make a bunch of fingerprints for a variety of effects.



3) Palette Knife Effect

Instead of using real palette knives in our class, we used straws. Hold the straw almost parallel to the paper and scrape the paint around. Although straws don’t allow the control you would have with a real palette knife, it was an inexpensive way to expose the kids to the technique and let them experiment.




4) Dry Brush




5) Tissue Paper

There are 3 ways to use tissue paper while painting.

  1. The first uses Gesso or ModPodge and the tissue paper is left on the paper or canvas to dry, and apply paint afterward.
  2. The second involves crumpling the tissue paper and using it much like the sponge, dabbing in the paint and applying to the paper or canvas.
  3. The third, which we did in class, involved applying a thick coat of paint to the paper (make sure it stays wet), crumpling the tissue paper a little, then applying it to the paint pressing the paper into the paint, then removing the tissue paper carefully to avoid ripping. This techniques creates a variety of results depending on how much paint is used, how crinkled the paper is, how long you leave the paper on, etc….




6) Plastic Wrap

This is a cool technique where you apply plastic wrap to wet paint and move it around to create texture. You can get a variety of effects with this technique. For example, in the first sample below the plastic wrap was taken off not long after applying. The second sample below the plastic wrap was left on an hour before removing and the paint was mostly dry.




7) Scratching

Pretty self-explanatory I think, you apply paint to the paper or canvas, then scratch it away with something (we used toothpicks) to expose the paper or canvas underneath the paint. Be careful though, if you’re using paper, not to scratch too hard or the paper rips up.

A fancier version of this technique is called Sgraffito.




8) Sand

This one is kind of messy and ruins the paint you use it with, so I kept it till last. Basically, pour sand into your paint on the palette, a little or a lot depending on how much texture you want, mixing the paint and sand together thoroughly. Then paint. You can use fine or coarse sand depending on the look you want.


You can use just a little sand, like the red example above. Or a lot of sand, like the examples below.



Make sure you scrape your sand/paint mixture from your palette into the trash before rinsing in the sink and wipe your brushes with paper towel before cleaning in the sink… to avoid clogging your drain.  = )

That’s it!


Our school year is about finished so we’ll have one more project and then our end of year art show!…

(If you’re looking for other fun acrylic painting techniques to try with your kids, check out Artchoo.com.)

Posted in Blog Posts, Fabric of Life, Homeschool Tagged with: , ,

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