Monochromatic Self Portraits

We wrapped up our chapter on color this week and our final projects might be some of my favorite that we’ve ever done!


During our unit on color my students had the chance to create their own color wheel’s and man oh man was that a learning experience. For about 75% of my students that was the first time they had EVER mixed two paint colors together to make a new color. That is just a mind blowing fact to me. It’s been a real shock to see what happens when elementary schools cut their art program and how little regular classroom teachers do to incorporate art into the curriculum. I mean, I get it, being a teacher is hard enough when you are focusing on the core subjects, but man, elementary school art was my favorite!  Sorry, needed to get that off my chest!

For this project my students were tasked with creating a monochromatic self portrait. The first thing we talked about was what the heck that big long “fancy” art word meant.  According to our text monochromatic is a color scheme that uses only one hue and the tints and shades of that hue for a unifying effect. To illustrate what this was going to look like I of course made an example for them, but because they are always complaining about how “good” mine are I scoured the internet for some student examples. I found another teacher who had done a similar projects and shared some of her student examples with them. That made them feel a whole lot better!

The project itself is super easy, it’s basically a fancy color by numbers (without the numbers), but the prep work took a little effort. The first thing I did was dig deep into my files and pull up the digital photos I took of each of them on the first day of school. Then, one at a time, I used PicMonkey to convert them to black and white, and then posterize them. I used the default settings for the posterizing, but you can definitely play with them if you are wanting to get more detailed!  I then saved the photo and printed it full sheet size on regular copy paper.


Once that was done (about 67845297 hours later) it was time to get busy painting. I am having my students create a series of these, with the hope that by the 3rd one they’ve worked out the kinks and have a really amazing finished projects. Here is a quick photo of the instructions I put up on the board for them to follow as they worked.

step by step monochromatic self portrait instructions

Because they were painting directly on top of the printed photo, they were able to focus on the mixing of tints and shades, which was the point of the lesson. Plus, it gave the ones who aren’t quite as confident about their skills a guide and the ones who are fairly comfortable with their ability a chance to focus on the details. As I walked around the room, I was blown away by their work!






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