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!


  • 12x18 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!

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