How to Decorate a Wau Kite

Decorating With Wau Kites is a Kick!

Wau Kites just look happy. I first saw them decorating the walls, when I went out to eat at a Malaysian restaurant. I immediately incorporated variations on the shapes I saw, in my oil paintings.

My kite decorating classes have fully engaged participants of all ages. Artists will want to use art materials, including heavy specialty papers, but may incorporate some of the same techniques of stamping.

For kids especially, this is a fun project that can be returned to again and again.

photo credit: this is my photo. All Rights Reserved. No Use Permitted.

What's a Wau Kite?

The name wau kite comes from the shape of the kite. They originated in traditionally muslim countries, like this one, from Malaysia.

The Arabic letter wau (pronounced like its English alphabet cousin, the w, has a shape that would fit into one half of a vertically divided wau kite.

It's shape most closely resembled an English number 9, as in Comic Sans font. So, two nines, set back-to-back, with the tails at the bottom, resemble two wau's in the same positions.

Although ancient kites were used as tools, for fishing, or to make geometric measurements, these wau kites are strictly decorative.

In Malaysia one commonly sees such kites adorning both private homes and shops and public buildings.

Picture These Decorative Wau Kites

Photo Credit: My photo. All Rights Reserved. No Use Permitted.
Photo Credit: My photo. All Rights Reserved. No Use Permitted.

Gorgeous Kites in Malay Kite Shop

Easy decorative project for adults and kids. I've taught this project to college students as well as to elementary school kids. Enthusiasm always runs rampant!

Sled Kite Kits

I used the sled kite shape for a class I taught on making wau kites. I simply drew the wau shape and the students were free to paint the outer borders as they liked. So they were wau kites on sled kite shapes.

Wau Kite in My Oil Painting

Soon after I first saw a Wau Kite, I added the image to my artwork. I continue to include some variation on this shape to my artwork. This painting is named White Heart.

Wau Kite Making Directions

How to Decorate a Wau Kite

1. Assemble materials:

  • Butcher paper or Tyvek, markers, crayons
  • Tempera or acrylic paint, and liquid soap
  • Stencils and foam stencil daubers
  • Design stamps
  • Cereal box or foam craft sheet

2. Tape butcher paper or Tyvek sheet to table

3. Trace kite outline with marker

4. Add couple drops soap to small dish of paint

  • Gently mix w/popsicle stick

5. Dip stamp into paint in dish

  • Stamp design onto kite
  • Repeat or redip stamp into paint or wipe stamp clean with a wet rag

6. Tape stencil over desired area of kite

  • Touch dauber into dish of paint.
  • Daub over stencil designRepeat with same or different color paint

7. Dip wide paintbrush in paint

  • Stroke paint onto kite
  • Once paint dries it can be painted over w/contrasting color, or stamps

8. Dip damp sponge shape into paint

  • Stamp design onto kite, using gentle pressure
  • Redip sponge into paint, continue stamping
  • Rinse sponge shape in bucket of water

9. Layer design shapes over entire kite shape

  • Cut out! Cut cardboard piece the same size as kite body.
  • Use double stick tape to attach decorated kite sheet to the front of optional backing sheet. Alternatively, if you use paper, rather than Tyvek, to make the kite, you may glue the backing sheet to the paper kite.
  • Cut and tie tail decorations from ribbon, yarn, or plastic bags.
  • Hang on wall with poster putty!
  • A second option is to use a think shish-ka-bob stick to stiffen the back of the kite, prior to hanging.

Kite Shape on Green


This is my take on one of many variations on the wau kite shape. Feel free to vary your own kite profile.

I made the triangle spot at the top to mimic the typical fringy flag or tassel that often adorns the top of the kite. Matching tassels also stream from the outside points of the top section.

Did you know that tails and tassels actually play a role in stabilizing kites!

Optional Stabilizer for Back of Kite



  • Use shish-ka-bob skewer, taped to kite back, to stabilize the kite
  • Use packing tape for permanency. Using this method makes hanging easy
  • Loop thread or fishing line under the skewer, near the top. Hang the kite by placing the loop over a small nail or picture hanger
  • Hang the kite by placing the loop over a small nail or picture hanger

Styles of Wau Kites

Kites With a Variation on Wau Kites

The kids showed off their kites prior to cutting them to shape.

© 2012 lesliesinclair

What Do You Like About Kites? 23 comments

LiteraryMind profile image

LiteraryMind 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

These are beautiful. I never heard of a wau kite before.

aesta1 profile image

aesta1 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

So colourful. Great for kids room.

WriterJanis2 profile image

WriterJanis2 3 years ago

This is the first time I've seen these kind of kites. Very cool!

takkhisa profile image

takkhisa 3 years ago

I have never seen kites like these before and yes I know a traditional style of making kites :)

Pat Goltz profile image

Pat Goltz 3 years ago

They're pretty. Thanks for telling me about this design.

LoriBeninger profile image

LoriBeninger 3 years ago

I had never heard of (or seen) these types of kites before -- they are beautiful. Thank you for the introduction.

lesliesinclair profile image

lesliesinclair 3 years ago Author

@LiteraryMind: Sadly, the one and only place I've personally seen the kites, a local Malaysian restaurant, has closed and took their kites with them.

lesliesinclair profile image

lesliesinclair 3 years ago Author

@aesta1: They do have such a playful look, at least my version of these kites. I think they could help kids learn about the Asian cutulre, and how kites played roles other than fun and exercise, too.

lesliesinclair profile image

lesliesinclair 3 years ago Author

@WriterJanis2: The story that most piqued my interest was the one of lifting a baby across a river by kite.

lesliesinclair profile image

lesliesinclair 3 years ago Author

@takkhisa: Knowing a little more about kites makes me want to see the kite racing in Afghanistan.

lesliesinclair profile image

lesliesinclair 3 years ago Author

@Pat Goltz: They really are a friendly style, aren't they.

lesliesinclair profile image

lesliesinclair 3 years ago Author

@LoriBeninger: So glad you like them.

EpicEra profile image

EpicEra 3 years ago

Beautiful kites of all shapes and sizes! Lovely artwork. The colors are gorgeous. One can almost feel the kites taking flight from this page.

lesliesinclair profile image

lesliesinclair 3 years ago Author

@EpicEra: Thanks. The thing that piqued my interest, after noticing their shapes, was that they were even used in fishing.

JennAshton profile image

JennAshton 3 years ago from Canada

These are beautiful!!

Jogalog profile image

Jogalog 3 years ago

These are lovely. I'd never heard of wau kites before but I would love now to have a go at making one. The kite making workshops must be great fun.

lesliesinclair profile image

lesliesinclair 3 years ago Author

@Jogalog: You're right, the workshops are fun. I think it has something to do with the curvy shape.

Marja79 profile image

Marja79 3 years ago

I had never heard about Wau kites either. At first the word kite did not say anything to me, even though I sure know what kite is. I chose to read this lens based on the fact I had no idea what this is about :D I loved this lens. Those Wau kites are gorgeous.

lesliesinclair profile image

lesliesinclair 3 years ago Author

@Marja79: I know just what you mean. If someone had tried to tell me about the type of kits I would have pictured "wow" since that's what wau sounds like. Luckily for me, I saw them at the restaurant and immediately liked the shapes. Thanks for the compliments.

Ben Reed profile image

Ben Reed 3 years ago

These kites are fabulous.

smine27 profile image

smine27 2 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

Those kites in the Malay store is just stunning.

randomthings lm profile image

randomthings lm 2 years ago

These are so pretty! Thanks for sharing.

lesliesinclair profile image

lesliesinclair 2 years ago Author

@randomthings lm: Thanks, they're fun to make too - just a bit of paint and some stamps and brushes.

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