One of the many fun ways to combine art and science is by making crayon resist snowflakes with watercolor.
Students as young as kindergarten love learning how to draw snowflakes. And it’s even more fun when you draw them with a white crayon so they magically appear when painted over with watercolor!
Before you draw or paint…
Begin this lesson by sharing some fascinating facts about snowflakes. Did you know that snowflakes are made of tiny hexagon-shaped ice crystals? And that these ice crystals have six (occasionally 12) arms or branches that radiate out from the center symmetrically? You can find all kinds of interesting snowflake info like this on snowcrystals.com.
Next, share some photographs of real snowflakes – taken with a special microscope to show their incredible designs. A quick internet search or Ken Libbrecht’s Field Guide to Snowflakes (affiliate link) will offer some great examples.
Demonstrate how to draw a snowflake
Demonstrate how to draw a basic snowflake using diagonal and horizontal lines:
1. Draw a tall, skinny “X” with 2 diagonal lines.
2. Then draw a horizontal line across the middle, where the 2 diagonal lines intersect. Try to keep all the lines evenly spaced.
3. Decorate each of the six branches (or arms) in the same way, using short lines and small circles. Make sure your snowflakes are symmetrical!
Display some examples of different snowflake designs for inspiration. Then have students practice drawing snowflakes with pencil and paper before moving on to their project.
Make beautiful crayon resist snowflakes with watercolor
You will need:
- White heavyweight construction paper or watercolor paper
- White crayons or white oil pastels
- Pan or liquid watercolors in cool colors (blues and purples)
- Salt (optional)
- Use a white oil pastel or crayon to draw snowflakes with different designs all over your paper. Make some of your snowflakes large, some medium-size, and some small. This will make some of them look closer (the larger ones) and some look farther away (the smaller ones). Remember, no two snowflakes are exactly alike!
- You may want to use a Sharpie to write your name near the bottom before you start to paint.
- Then, paint over your entire paper with a watercolor wash. Use lots of water and lots of pigment. Avoid using black or brown, or mixing complementary colors. (Mixing colors that are across from each other on the color wheel will yield brown or gray.) Every time you pick up more paint, dip your brush in the water first.
- When finished painting, but while your paint is still very wet, sprinkle pinches of plain table salt over it. The salt will repel the water (and the color) from itself, leaving a “snowy” effect.
- Let dry completely (preferably overnight) before brushing the salt into the garbage and revealing it’s cool effect!
- It’s very hard to see a white drawing on white paper! White oil pastel will be a little easier to see than white crayon, but more difficult to draw details with. It’s a trade-off. But either will work for making crayon resist snowflakes with watercolor.
- Use cool colors only, or at least a very limited palette. With the Prang OVL-8 watercolors you can remove the black and brown pans (and any others you don’t want kids to use) temporarily for this project. Or, you could use liquid watercolors and only set out specific colors, like blue and purple. I’ve seen many projects ruined because students got carried away and mixed colors that looked like mud over their snowflakes!
- Avoid a “bad hair day”. When Kinders want to pick up more watercolor on their brush, they often grind their brush into the paint. This is because they’re used to painting with tempera and not needing to add any water. Pressing so firmly into the paint makes the hairs of their brush splay out in every direction, forcing paint down into the ferrule. This will cause a “bad hair day” for your paintbrush every time!
- Use your cheap brushes (the red-handled ones that come in the paint sets) and protect your good brushes. Oil pastel will get into the hairs of a brush and require soap to clean it out. Crayon doesn’t usually have this effect.
I find myself reminding kids over and over that if they have to press hard with their brush to get more watercolor, it means they need to add more water!! This can be hard on your paint sets, and your brushes!
But kinders learn by doing, and eventually, proper brush techniques will sink in! Don’t let this wear and tear on your supplies stop you from giving your students opportunities to work with watercolor. With practice, most of them will have the hang of it by first grade. These crayon resist snowflakes with watercolor are a great place to start!