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Snowmen Surprise: An Early Elementary Art Lesson on Value, Tints, and Shades

Updated on February 5, 2019
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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 8.

Snowman Art Lesson for Early Elementary to teach value, tints, and shades
Snowman Art Lesson for Early Elementary to teach value, tints, and shades

This project made my kindergarten students squeal with delight as they revealed hidden snowmen. This is part of a series of 30 hands-on art lessons for Kindergarten and 1st grade. Snowmen paintings introduce the concepts of color theory: value, tints, and shades. I used this plan while teaching a weekly 45 minute art class for children in Kindergarten, 1st, & 2nd grades. Each lesson includes an art concept and a variety of art techniques to make each lesson engaging & memorable. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, homeschool, after-school program, or co-op!

Drawing a snowman
Drawing a snowman

Draw a snowman

1. Lead the students in drawing a snowman. I model it as we go through the steps and assist students as needed.

  • Fold a sheet of paper into 1/3.
  • Draw a snowman outline on one of the thirds. Draw a big circle on the bottom and a middle-sized circle on top. It should overlap the big circle. For the head, draw a smaller (but not too small) circle for the top.
  • You can add a top hat with a thick brim (not a single line). You can also add a bow or a crown.

You will need per student:

  • a sheet of paper (such as printer paper)
  • something to write with

Cutting out the snowmen
Cutting out the snowmen

Cut out the snowman

2. Lead students in cutting out the snowman by folding the paper into thirds and then cutting it out along the lines. This will result in 3 snowmen. If someone accidentally cuts off a part, just help them tape it together. (I did assist a few younger students in cutting out their snowmen.)

You will need per student:

  • scissors


I am using tan paper in these photos simply for contrast. We used white paper on white paper.
I am using tan paper in these photos simply for contrast. We used white paper on white paper.

Pass out snow on the ground

*Note: I am using a tan sheet of cardstock in the photos so you can see the contrast. We used white cardstock for the activity.*

3. Pass out paper with snow on the ground. This will help separate the sky for the land. What line do we call that? (horizon line)

  • Ahead of time, tape a strip of white paper to the bottom 1/4 of a sheet of sturdy white paper.
  • I actually had my students do this in class, but that didn't leave us with enough time for the students to fully decorate their snowmen. The next time we do this activity, I'll do this step ahead of time for them.
  • Also, I used scotch tape simply because I was out of washi tape. It worked, but washi tape would be preferable.

You will need per student:

  • sturdy white paper (such as cardstock) with about 1/4 of the sheet covered by a sheet of paper that has been taped to it


Taping the snowmen to the snow
Taping the snowmen to the snow

Tape the snowmen to the snow

4. Tape the snowmen.

  • Pass out 3 pieces of tape to each student (pre-cut is easiest) and have them tape the snowmen to the snow. Two of the snowmen should cover the tape already on the paper.
  • Then have them add a piece of tape to the top of each snowman's top hat. Try to make it straight and only stick a little bit onto the paper. (If students did a crown or bow, I gave them a rolled piece of tape to place under the head.)
  • I helped students who needed assistance and allowed students to help each other as well.

You will need per student:

  • 6 pieces of tape (Washi tape is preferable, but scotch tape will work.)

Review value, tints, and shades

5. Quickly review what value, tints, and shades are. (We introduced those concepts in an earlier lesson, Tints and Shades & Pierre-Auguste Renoir.)

  • What is value? (how light or dark a color is)
  • How do we make a shade of a color? For example, how would we make this blue paint lighter? (add white)
  • How do we make a shade of a color? For example, how would we make this blue paint darker? (add black)

Painting tints and shades of blue using tempera paint (not watercolor paints)
Painting tints and shades of blue using tempera paint (not watercolor paints)

Paint the sky tints and shades of blue

6. Lead students in painting tints and shades of blue in the sky. I modeled each step for them as we did it together.

  • Pass out a "palate" of blue and white paint to each student. Have them paint a white circle in the sky of their paper. This will be your full moon. Do NOT paint over that white circle moon. What did I just say? (Have the students repeat that because almost every single one of my kindergarten students painted over the white circle moon.)
  • Drag a little bit of the blue paint over to your white paint and make a small puddle of a very light blue tint. Do NOT mix all your blue paint into this small puddle.
  • Draw a circle around your white circle moon. It should touch your moon but not fill it in.
  • Now drag some more of your blue paint over and mix it with some more white paint. Draw a circle around your light blue circle with your your slightly darker blue tint.
  • You will paint over your snowmen and snow. That's okay. We'll have a surprise at the end. You can also paint on the table cover if you need to draw your complete circle. That's okay too!
  • Continue making concentric circles with progressively darker blue tints until they are sold blue.
  • Now we're going to make a few circles using shades of blue. What do we need to add to the blue? Yes, black paint.
  • Pass out more blue paint and black paint. Have the students gradually mix the two together and then draw circles until there is no more white showing on the entire page.
  • If students finish early, have them paint on a blank sheet of paper with their remaining paint.

You will need per student:

  • a "palate" (I use disposable carton lids)
  • large paintbrush (larger than what comes in the watercolor paint sets)
  • blue, white, and black tempera paint
  • extra white paper (optional)

Reveal your snowmen and decorate them
Reveal your snowmen and decorate them

7. Reveal the snowmen and decorate them. (I modeled how to color the snowmen but students were free to color them however they wished.)

  • After most of the students have finished their skies, have students carefully peel off their snowmen and snow along with any remaining tape. (The kindergarten students gasped with delight when they saw they had white snowmen under their pictures.)
  • Use markers to draw in eyes, noses, mouths, buttons, hats, and/or scarves on the snowmen. If the paint is mostly dry, add arms, snowflakes, or anything else to the picture.

You will need:

  • markers

8. Take photos of students with their masterpieces.

Looking for All My Lessons?

(I'll be posting a new lesson each week.)

© 2019 Shannon

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