Finger Painting School Paints

LEVEL: Preschool and Early Primary

Finger Painting School Paints
Kids love finger painting. It is so simple and doesn’t require any instructions to have some fun. It allows children to explore textures and colours with their fingers while developing fine controlling skills with hand-eye co-ordination.  Children also learn how to change the look of their painting by adding, mixing and blending colours.

Older children enjoy finger painting as an alternative medium to work with.  It can be fun trying out how many ways they can use their own fingerprint to create flowers, bugs, caterpillars etc.  The use of art scrapers can be very exciting by making quick and amazing designs.  
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You will need:

: Finger Paint or a thick tempera poster paint.
   See tips on paints below.
How to thicken Tempera Paint.
: Paper
: Laminated table top or plastic sheet
: Paint scrapers or plastic combs
: Spoon (optional)
: Apron and a cover sheet or newspapers
: Paper towels – for clean-up.

Before you begin:

You might need to keep a close watch as children like to touch things with paint on their fingers and it won’t take long for paint to get everywhere.  Making sure you have aprons on and laydown your plastic coversheet will help.

More than often finger paintings are painted far too thick. This can take a long time to dry and when thick paintings are dry they flake off the paper within weeks. Also the paper can get too soggy and rip. This is why quite often finger paint is not painted onto paper.  See option 1 below.     

There are two ways to finger paint:
1. Paint directly onto the laminated table top or plastic sheet.  When you have finished wash it all away.

2. Paint onto paper, trying not to paint too thickly.  See above.
Finger Paint School Paints

Cleaning Up:
Have a large dish of warm soapy water prepared and ready to clean paint soaked hands before you start.  When you are finished remove aprons and clean hands to avoid paint getting on to clothing.   

Let’s get started:
Spoon or pour the paint onto your paper or on the table top.  Spread paint with hands and fingers to mix the colours and enjoy the sensory experience.  Draw pictures and patterns with hands and fingers, moving them all over the surface.

Mixing colours too much can make colours muddy.

Older children can use paint scrapers and combs to make design patterns in the paint. Patterns can be made by scraping in straight long lines or sweeping swirling movements.

The key is to have fun mixing colours and making shapes.

Finger Paints:  Finger paint is one of the cheapest paints around as there is very little in the way of raw material in the formulation.  A good finger paint should be thick, flowing and with some sort of safety standard like CE, ASTM or ACMI.  Safety is important. This paint is going on children’s skin and maybe in their mouth.

Tempera Paint: Some quality tempera paint brands are thick enough for finger painting but if you need to thicken your tempera paints here is a recipe.

Paint Scraper Sets are ideal for finger painting and they are easy for children to hold on to.  See photo.

Mix the colours and experiment.

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How to thicken School Tempera Paint

thicken tempera paint school paints
Thick Paint
How to thicken School Tempera Paint
with school paints

Here is a quick recipe to thicken a water based school tempera poster paint.  This takes about 10 minutes to cook and has a great thick smooth texture that is ideal for finger painting.  Depending on the amount of paint you need - increase or decrease the quantities of this recipe.

Learn how easy it is to paint a butterfly with mirror painting.

What You Need:

4 x spoons of Corn-starch, 3 cups water, small sealable containers.

Recipe for thickening Temper Poster Paint:

1. Add 4 x level teaspoons of corn-starch with 3 x cups of water in a pot, mixing until all combined.

 2. Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring it until the corn-starch dissolves and is smooth and thick.

3. Allow the mixture to cool.

4. Add the thickener to your tempera in a slow pour, stirring the paint until you get the viscosity desired. Don't add too much at once, as you will have to add a much greater quantity of paint to get it back to a thinner consistency. If you add far too much, it is may be more economical to discard the paint and start again.

5. You can keep the remaining thickener in a sealed jar. Stir it well before using it again.  If paint is too thick, add small amounts of water and mix thoroughly, until you get the desired consistency.
How to thicken School Tempera Paint

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Gesso Primer and Sealer

What is a Gesso?
with school paints

Gesso school paints
White Gesso
Gesso is a primer, sealer or an undercoat. Artists’sometimes apply it to a surface before painting on it. The word Gesso is Italian for "chalk" or from the Latin ‘gypsum’.

It is normally a white paint mixture consisting of a binder mixed with chalk, gypsum, pigment, or any combination of these. In short it looks a lot like paint but dries to a chalky finish.

The most popular formulation is water based and this is suitable to use as a primer and undercoat for both acrylic and oil based paints. Gesso is the most used medium in all art studios.
Don't use under waterbased tempera poster paint.

Why use a Gesso?
It is used as an undercoat to intensify colours and extend the lasting durability of your work.

Gesso seals absorbent surfaces and it offers the surface a little more texture (tooth), so the paint sticks better. It also helps to prevent uneven appearance and excessive fast drying, resulting from paint penetration. Much like a primer is used under exterior house paint.
But Gesso differs from normal paint primers by making the surface a little stiffer. This is important when painting on a very large canvas that will move about or flap in the wind. Paint sits on top of a surface and if that paint surface is not ridged and secure the paint will crack.

It is used in artwork as a preparation for any number of substrates such as wood panels, canvas and sculpture as a base for paint and other materials that are applied over it.

How to use Gesso:
As with all paintings, surface preparation is everything.
How to use Gesso school paints
Paint thin layers
The lasting quality of your finished painting is only as good as the preparation of the surface and undercoating that you apply underneath the paint.

Even if you have a pre-primed canvas, it is recommended that you still gesso a layer or two.
Stir before use. Gesso can be applied directly from the bottle/jar.

Try to paint thinner rather than thicker. Two or three thin layers are better that one thick coating. Try to work quickly, if you do go back over an area streaks may develop.

Dampening your brush with water before you begin this will help prevent air bubbles forming on the surface.
Keep a ‘wet’ working edge moving as you move across your surface. Try to paint with short even strokes. Normally two to three coats are enough but some artists’ looking for a denser white finish can paint up to six thin layers.

It is important to allow the Gesso to completely dry between layers.

Gesso sanding school paints
Light Sanding between layers
A very light sand with a light grade sand paper between coats may offer better tooth and last ability.

TIP: Try tinting your Gesso. If you are planning to paint a sunset try tinting a white Gesso with a red acrylic to give your painting a ‘pink sunset mood tone’ even before you start to paint. Same thing for a cool feeling to your painting, tint your Gesso with a blue for a cold mood.

Buying Gesso:
Look for a good quality brand as it is better not to take any shortcuts when undercoating for a lasting finish.

Originally, gesso only came in white. Today, gesso comes in many colours. White is still the most popular, but black and other colours are also widely used for folk-art and other art.

Avoid made in China or anything that looks low grade. A good Gesso does not cost much more than the cheap ones and if gives your artwork extra years, then it’s worth it.

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Sponge Painting

Sponge Painting with school paints:

LEVEL: Preschool and Early Primary

Children love sponge painting.  Sometimes they have more fun making the sponges than painting.  It teaches children about shapes, colour and how paint gets absorbed into the sponges. It also offers a quick and simple way to make colourful artworks.
Sponge Painting school paintng
Try to only use one colour per sponge
You will need:
: Small pieces of sponges or a sponge brush. Kitchen, bath or craft sponges are ideal.: School tempera poster paint in a small bowls or paint trays.
: Scissors
: Plates or trays
: Paper
: Clothes Pegs
: Permanent marker or crayons
: Apron and a cover sheet or newspapers
: Paper towels – for clean-up.

sponge painting with school paints
Children love sponge painting
Let’s get started:
  1. Put on the apron and laydown your cover sheet or newspapers.
  2. Draw shapes with a marker or crayon like hearts, stars or a flower on the sponge to cut-out.  Cut the different shapes with scissors so you have a good range of interesting shapes. 
  3. Hold Sponge pieces with a clothes peg to make a handle.  If you have coloured plastic pegs try matching them to the coloured paint trays.
  4. Try to only use one colour per sponge.  This will give the picture clear and bright colours.
  5. Dip the sponge into the paint making sure that the bottom is evenly coated with paint. Use it to brush out or dab the paint onto the paper making pictures and patterns as you go.
School painting project sponge painting

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Sponge brushes school paints
Sponge brushes are ideal

Sponge brushes are ideal for this as they have a good handle for little hands.  See photo
Use clean bright colours.

The small bits of waste sponge you cut off are great to making interesting details like leaves and grass.
Squares, triangles and diamonds are popular shapes for sponge painting.

Popular ideas are to paint a yellow circle and stamp on the flower peddles or it could be a sun and stamp on the sunrays.  Also you can use the sponge in a stamping action to make a wallpaper effect.

Tony Parker
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Sponge Painting School Paints
Try this Wallpaper Effect

What is an Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic art paints have been around since the late 1940’s.

They are an alternative to the traditional oil paints. At the time of being introduced acrylics turned the artist paint industry upside down.  By making the impossible now totally possible.  Similar to what the iPod and iTunes did to music.

What is an Acrylic school Paint?
What is an Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic’s dry fast, can be thinned, washed and cleaned up with water but more importantly for use in schools they are non-smelly and are so much safer.

But that’s not all; an acrylic medium can be added to an acrylic paint to turn it into almost anything you can think of from a fabric paint to a block printing ink.  You can even thicken acrylics, slow down the drying time or just water it down and use as a watercolour.   
Acrylics School Paints red

All this was not possible before acrylics came along.  An Oil Paint could take months for just one colour alone to dry.  An Acrylic can take just 20 minutes. 

How they work:

Acrylic paint is fast drying paint containing pigment suspension in acrylic polymer emulsion.  They can be diluted with water, but this does adjust the last ability of the paint.  Care is needed when adding mediums or thinning with water if you still want a durable lasting finish (we will go into this in another blog post). 

Acrylics School Paints:

Acrylics tend to be permanent and will stain.  Acrylics are best suited for Intermediate and Secondary Schools and are not suitable for Pre-School or Early-Entry Primary Schools. 

A good quality acrylic is made to last for years by being waterproof and non-fading, much like an exterior paint on a house.  

The big difference between high end artist and school acrylics is mostly the quality of the pigment.

Artist Acrylic:  Highest pigment levels - Varied price range - Widest choice of colour - Limited colour shift.

School Acrylic: Less paint coverage – Lower grade acrylic pigments, More affordable price range - Greater colour shift - Good for large scale painting and under-painting
impasto artist acrylic paint

Acrylic Safety
Acrylics are normally non-toxic and non-smelly.  There are a number of standards and safety seals around for manufactures to conform to from CE, ASTM to ACMI (in the US).  This means the raw materials have been checked and regulated for toxicity.
See Here for more information.

Just saying non-toxic on the label is not enough.
CE, ASTM to ACMI seals
Just saying non-toxic on the label is not enough
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Environmentally Green:
Some brands carry official environmentally aware mark or seals. These normally mean the paint and raw materials are not harmful to the environment.  But some Enviro marks are just to say the company that makes the paint is ‘green’ but maybe not the ‘products’ they make. Again

Just saying ‘environmentally safe’ on the label is not enough.

Environmentally Green educational paints
Some know environmentally safe seals from around the world

Things to look for when purchasing a school acrylic:
There is a lot of very low grade product out in the market. Even some of the most well-known brand names get product made in China that is low grade. This is a very price driven market. Don’t be fooled by the big brand names for quality.  

Also watch out for cheaper in-house self-branded acrylics. You wouldn’t buy a self-branded car, computer, TV or iPhone.  A quality acrylic is no different.  

You want a paint that will last for years and give good colour and flow.  Why would you even consider for a few dollars less buying acrylic paint that will fade, have less pigmented colour or wash-off when it gets wet?

It really does not cost much more to buy lasting quality….sometimes it is even cheaper.

Things to look for: 
Waterproof:  Where is it made? Brand name?  Do other schools buy it?  Safety Seals: See above.  Does it feature in most school supply catalogues and web sites?

Lightfast (non-fading) – This is a sign of quality.  If it is not mentioned on the label it is a sign of a lower grade of acrylic.

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Window Painting with school paints

LEVEL: Preschool Early Primary
Window Painting with school paints
Surprise the kids and let them paint on the windows
It is fun painting on a see-through surface and it’s something kids don’t get to do every day. Painting on windows makes an attractive and striking surface to work on.  It is important to protect the window frames before you begin.  Just follow the instructions and read the tips below before you start. Enjoy.

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You will need:
: Paint brushes
: A big window low enough for the little artists’ to reach.
: School Tempera Paint in a small bowls or paint pots. See tips on paints below.
: Adhesive tape
: Bowls of water and an old rag.
: Apron and a cover sheet or newspapers
: Paper towels – this might get messy.

Let’s get started:
Window Painting

Put on the apron and lay down your cover sheet or newspapers.

It is important to protect your window frame, ledges or floor edges with adhesive tape and maybe taped together newspapers.

Paint on the inside of the window as the paints are water-soluble so they will come alive again in the rain or if they get wet.   Paintings can be left for days or even weeks.

It is a good idea to paint some dark frames for the children to paint inside.  This allows room for everyone plus children will tend to paint into the next painting.

You can set a theme like paint the day you see outside or put a soft toy outside for the children to copy. Painting holiday scenes or designs or using holiday colours to paint any designs is fun. 

Finally the cleaning up: Wash off the paintings with a sponge and warm soapy water.  The tempera poster paint will not permanently mark the window in any way.  But the longer you leave the paint on the window the harder it will be to wash off.  If the window gets a lot of sun the paint will seem to get baked on.  But it will still come off with just a little bit more work.

TIPS:   Using a tempera poster paint or a powder paint that is water-soluble is important.  Do not use an acrylic paint they tend to be more permanent.  Paste- and starch-based paint is harder to wash off windows.

Have paper towels or a damp rag ready for any paint the might get on walls or floors.  The sooner you wipe up the better the result.

Cleaning Paint Off: It can help by wetting the paint first and leaving it soaking before you try to wash it all off.  Soaking is the key.
You could try to cover the window with a large sheet of cellophane and paint on the cellophane instead of the window

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Marble Painting

Marble Painting with school paints:

Kids’ love this.  What can be more fun than rolling marbles around in paint!  If you haven’t tried this one out you should give it a go.  It is always a popular art activity.

LEVEL: Preschool Early Primary
Marble Painting school paints
Marble Painting

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You will need:
: Marbles
: School Tempera Paint in a small bowls or paint pots
: Sheets of paper
: A large cardboard box – with low sides for easy access.
: A spoon
: Bowls of water
: Apron and a cover sheet or newspaper
: Paper towels – this might get messy.

Let’s get started:
Put on the apron and prepare your work area by laying down newspaper or your cover sheet.

Pour a small amount of paint into your bowl or paint pot using one bowl for each colour.  Now place the marbles in your paint bowl

Place your paper inside the bottom of your box. You may need to cut the paper to fit.  For best results leave a gap around the edge for the marble to roll to and from.   

Using a spoon pick up and marble out of the bowl of paint and place it in the box.  Trying not to drip paint over the clean sheet of paper.

Pick up your box and slowly move it from side to side so the marble rolls over the paper leaving a trail of colour.   When the marble runs out of paint try to roll it to a corner and pick it up with the spoon again without marking the art work.

Repeat this with different colours.

When you're finished, check out your artwork. The marbles made spectacular abstract prints on paper!

Take the painting out of the box and leave to dry.

Make sure the marbles are thoroughly coated with paint.
Using one colour and one marble at a time works best.

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Blot Painting – mirror art

Blot painting is a lot of colourful fun for kids, plus this project is easy to set up.

It is like looking in the mirror, whatever you paint on the left side of the paper is reflected on the right side.  Try making bugs and butterflies and finish them off with a felt pen for the details.
School Paints Blot painting
Try making bugs and butterflies

mirror art
Use Plenty of colour

You will need:
:A sheet of light card – A3 is better than A4
:Tempera waterbased poster paint
:Paint Brush or a Spoon
:Felt pens or crayons
:Newspapers or protective cover sheet.


1.  Prepare your work area.  Lay out newspapers or a cover sheet

2.  Fold the paper in half to make a light crease. Open it out.  You may find some very young children will need to have the paper folded for them.

3.  Brush or spoon the paint out in drops onto one side of the card.  Try to get some colour along the central fold line.   Use bright colours. 

4.  Re-fold the card. Rub the card with the palm of your hand trying to work the paint from the centre to the outer edge.

5.  Allow to dry. Thick painting may take longer than normal artworks.

6.  Add the final extras.  Eyes, feet, legs, dots or a nose with felt pens or crayons.

7.  It is optional to cut out your bug out and hang it on the wall. 
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mirror art


Try not to paint too thick – it will take too long to dry and will flake off the card within a few days.

Try not to get too much paint on one side of your paper or you'll end up with one colour all over the page.

You can try other painting techniques to make symmetrical pictures.

You can use paper but light card is better.  Painting this way can be too thick for paper causing it it to pull apart.

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