Monoprint Mandalas

Monoprint Dots

Monoprint Dots… Bet you can’t make just one!

International Dot Day, and one of my all-time favorite books, “The Dot” by Peter Reynolds, were my inspiration for this lesson! I wanted to come up with a new way to make a series of quick, colorful, one-of-a-kind “dots” that could be completed in one class session. With mono­prints, only one print can be made from each design, but you can repaint the print­ing sur­face and make as many new designs as you like! These designs are styled after mandalascir­cu­lar designs with radial sym­me­try and repeat­ing pat­terns.

You’ll Need:

  • foam core board (a great way to use up odd sizes of left-overs)
  • circle template (I used a bowl to trace my circle)
  • pencil or pen for tracing
  • Xacto knife for cutting foam core board (an adult should do this)
  • aluminum foil (a little larger than your circle)
  • masking tape
  • tempera paint: red, yellow and blue (use any 2 of the 3 primary colors at one time, unless you want brown!)
  • 1″ foam brush
  • Q-tip
  • 9×12 white paper to print on
  • wet wipes for clean up


1. Trace and cut your circle, making it a little smaller than the paper you want to print on.

2. Wrap your foam circle with aluminum foil, so that one side is completely covered. Wrap the sides of the foil over the edges and tape to the back.

3. Make a “handle” from tape on the back of your foam circle, so you’ll have something to hang onto while you’re painting/printing.

4. Squirt two different colors of tempera paint (about the size of a quarter each) onto the smooth foil surface. (If you use too much paint, your design will fill back in. You may need to experiment to find the optimum amount!)

5. Holding your circle by the tape handle on the back, use a foam brush to spread the paint in a thin layer over the entire surface. Let the two colors mix a little, but not completely. This will give you some variation of color and a more interesting design. (Any two of the three primary colors will create a secondary color when mixed together.)

6. Use a Q-tip to draw a simple design with radial symmetry. Start with large divisions of space and keep adding details equally to each area until your design looks complete. You’ll need to work quickly (before your paint dries), but that’s half the fun!

7. Press your foam circle onto the 9×12 paper. Turn the whole thing over and carefully rub the paper with your hands to transfer your design onto the paper.

8. Peel off the paper and set your print aside to dry.

9. Apply more paint, draw a new design, and make more prints!



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10 Responses to Monoprint Mandalas

  1. Emily September 24, 2013 at 7:36 am #

    this is a great monoprint technique! i’ll definitely try it out with my students this year- it would be a great link-in with Cy Twombly, too!

    • Cheryl Trowbridge September 25, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

      I didn’t know about Cy Twombly, Emily, so thanks for telling me! Glad you’ll be trying this lesson…. let me know how it goes!

  2. Rina September 25, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    Hi Cheryl
    What an original project for Dot Day. Thanks for taking the time to photograph and post the entire step-by-step.

    • Cheryl Trowbridge September 25, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

      You’re welcome, Rina! I hope you’ll try it… monoprints are so much fun!! :-)

  3. Kristine January 6, 2014 at 7:24 am #

    I love that book and often started out my year with an overhead, reading the book and talking to artists about taking the fear out of art making. Lots of kids start out thinking they can’t make art. So we would do a large, oil pastel picture of circles any sizes, etc. talking about hot and cool colors, incorporating line families, patterns, etc into this as well. Such a great colorful way to start the year. I love this project as well and will be trying with my group of adult artists with disabilities. No wrong way to do it so always a plus. Thanks

  4. Laura November 13, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    What kind of paint did you use for this? I love the idea and I am trying it before doing it with a class, but I used premium tempera and none of the designs came out clearly. They are all splotchy! Any advice?

    • Cheryl Trowbridge November 13, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

      I always use the Sargent brand liquid tempera, and get great results every time. A little streakiness is to be expected (as you can see in the pics) but that’s also part of the charm! If you’re having a lot of trouble with the paint beading up on the foil, you can always add a drop of dish soap to the paint to help it stick. Hope that helps!

  5. Mr. P January 20, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

    Thanks for this!!! I was thinking of using plexiglass for a monoprint lesson this year, but this is all stuff I already have on hand!!!

    I’ll definitely be adding this to my youtube channel!!!

    Thanks again,
    Mr. P

    • Cheryl Trowbridge January 23, 2016 at 5:03 pm #

      That’s great, Mr. P! I’m glad my idea was helpful to you!!


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