Oil Pastel Fish – Kindergarten Style!

Oil pastels, with their rich colors and expressive line quality, are one of my favorite mediums to use with kids. And the key to getting the best results with any oil pastel lesson is LAYERING!


  • 12×18 black construction paper
  • Oil pastels (We use the Pentel 16 color set.)

1. Set aside your black oil pastel… you won’t use it until the end!

2. To begin this project, first break all your oil pastels in half (yes, I really did say that!). Then, peel the paper wrapper off of one of the halves of each color.  Use the peeled halves for filling in large areas (on their side) and the halves with the wrapper on them for drawing with.  The wrapper helps hold the fragile pastels together and keeps them from breaking as easily. 

3. Use a white oil pastel (with the wrapper on) to draw a large oval shape in the middle of your black paper.

4. Add triangle shapes for the tail, the upper fin and the lower fin.

5. Next, draw a large circle for an eye and a curved line for the mouth.

6. Now add some fun curvy shapes for kelp (seaweed) or coral to fill in the empty areas. (You are still drawing with your white oil pastel!)

7.  Finally, it’s time for some color!  Now you will use the pastels that you peeled the paper off of.  Choose a color for your main fish shape and pinch your pastel in the middle using your thumb and index finger, laying it on it’s side as you fill in the shape.  

8. Choose another color to draw with (wrapper on!) and press hard as you layer this second color over the first.

9. Continue this process of layering your colors, first using the side of a peeled pastel and then drawing over it with a second color, for your water, seaweed or coral, and fish’s fins. Make sure you cover your entire paper with at least two layers of color… we’re playing “Hide the Black Paper”! (Hint: Layering white on top will brighten any color!)  

10. As a final step, use your black oil pastel to outline all of your shapes and sign your name at the bottom!

Oil pastel masterpieces by kindergarteners Brooke, Lindsay, Trevor, Kai and Ava.

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5 Responses to Oil Pastel Fish – Kindergarten Style!

  1. Offgrid February 11, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Wow – Awesome work… http://www.Offgrid-Living.com

  2. Phyl February 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    So cute – and all my oil pastels seem to be broken anyhow….

  3. Pamela Holderman February 15, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    I love these -thanks for the idea!

  4. jgg October 18, 2013 at 5:56 am #

    liked the lesson, easy instructions with very nice results! Will use it but will not decide on size of eye or type of line for mouth. Being an teacher of rehabilititating arts and an artist myself I think there should be as much freedom of choice as possible within a brief. The fun curvy shapes for kelp are a good idea (:

    • Cheryl Trowbridge October 18, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      I’m all for giving students lots of room for creativity and self-expression. Good idea… thanks for sharing your thoughts on that!