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Art Lessons for Kids: Animal Silhouettes and Patterns

I'm an artist from NYC living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I've been making art since 1994, and I've taught art to kids and adults for 8 years.

Teach your kids about silhouettes!

Teach your kids about silhouettes!

Animal Silhouette Art for Kids: Play With Patterns and Texture

I love animals. Don't you?

If you're looking for a fun, animal-inspired project to do with your kids, look no further. Teach your kids to recognize the patterns, textures, and silhouettes of animals. A pattern refers to the repeating image that happens again and again (for example, stripes on a zebra or spots on a leopard). A texture refers to what the fur or skin would feel like (for example, a giraffe that looks fuzzy, but the hair also looks kind of stiff, or a squid has suckers that look bumpy and a little slimy too). A silhouette, finally, is an outline of something that is filled in with a solid color. In this case, your animal will be a black silhouette. Before photography was invented, it was very popular for people to pay to have their profiles cut out into silhouettes by artists.

This is an easy project that only gets cooler looking the more that you do! If you work with a large group of kids, try to make each piece of artwork a different animal.

Giraffe silhouette

Giraffe silhouette


  • Black paper (I suggest 8.5" x 11" or larger)
  • Pencil
  • A sheet of white paper (I suggest 8.5" x 11" or larger)
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Color pencil or oil pastel

Tip: For more advanced kids, you could use tempera or acrylic paint.


  1. Start by choosing your favorite animal and think about what pattern its skin or fur has and the texture of its skin or fur.
  2. Using your black paper and a pencil, trace the outline of your animal carefully, including any specific parts of its body that help identify it.
  3. Cut the outline of your animal out of the black paper and put it to the side.
  4. Using your white paper, lightly draw the pattern of your animal's skin or fur all across the page.
  5. Using your colored pencils or oil pastels, fill in the colors inside your pattern. As you do this, consider what the texture might feel like and how you can convey that in your line quality. If your texture is fuzzy, use short soft strokes. If your texture is spiky, use long specific strokes. Or, if it's bumpy, like our octopus example, we left white areas around the suckers to show the suckers being raised above the skin.
  6. When your background is complete (and dry if you use wet mediums), glue your animal silhouette using a glue stick. Make sure you glue all the way to the edges. Hint: When applying pressure to glue your black paper down, press smoothly and evenly from the center out, taking care to press down all the way to the toes, fingers, hooves, and tails.

Tip: This is a GREAT project to do after going to the zoo. I take my students to the zoo and have them make sketches from the live animals before doing this project.


  • After your masterpieces are complete, wash paintbrushes immediately so they'll last for many more paintings. Make sure to clean up any leftover glue, paint, or oil pastels on your tables with a damp rag. If you are using a nice table to work on, cover it first with plastic or newspaper. Hands can be cleaned with mild soap and water.

And, remember: Art, like any other skill, is a practice that gets better each time you do it!


Ann on April 23, 2017:

How do you have your students trace their chosen animals?

I'm thinking about doing this with my 4th graders, but wondering how they'd be able to draw their animals' silhouettes...

Daphne on February 27, 2016:

Which grade do you recommend this lesson for?

Laura Spector (author) from Chiang Mai, Thailand on July 30, 2009:

Thanks! Please pop in and use as many as you can. The color theory one with the handprint is really fun for kids - its like a color puzzle. Hope to hear how all of it went. After 6 weeks in the UK, I imagine you'll be missing Thailand! Have fun.

Marianne Kellow from SE Thailand on July 28, 2009:

And another brilliant idea for a summer with the Grand-children. I hope I can read all of your Hubs on the topic before I go back to the UK for their summer hols! thank you so much, it's delightful and informative.