Friday, September 21, 2012

Liquid Watercolor Love!

This school year I bought liquid watercolors for the first time ever.  I purchased them in my school order for my 3rd - 5th grades.  "Love Them!"  Since my district has a contract with School Specialty, I purchased the Sax brand.  I spent some time yesterday morning getting them prepped for my afternoon third grade classes.  Did I say;  "Some time?"  Okay, make that A LOT of time!  I had a class that went on a trip so luckily I was able to utilize the time to finish up!

I started by setting up my paint trays with eight of the plastic cups I use for paint.  I order them from Sax as well and made up six trays altogether (six tables, six trays).

Then I cut a hole in the middle of each of the plastic lids.  This way if the cups jiggle or tip a little, the paint won't come pouring out!  That's a trick I came up with when I was on a cart and had the students painting in their classrooms.

Okay, so cutting each one took me a bit of time since I realized that I had forgotten to bring them home with me the night before to cut while I was watching TV.  I use a really sharp pointy scissor to carefully poke a hole in the top and then use one of the student scissors to cut out the larger hole.  Notice the purple finger?  Some of the bottles didn't pour very well so I ended up wrapping a paper towel around the bottle to catch any drips! 

I ended up adding more of the concentrated watercolor to the cups.  After mixing one of the trays with water I found that the colors were too diluted.  I poured in enough watercolor to cover the bottom of the cup (more time).  See the drip of red in the yellow?  That's when I started wrapping the bottles with the paper towels.  No more drips in my colors after that!

These cups of red-orange are my "Oops!" cups.  As I was adding the extra color to each cup I soon realized that I had started to pour red into all the orange cups! (more time) I capped them to save for another project.

All the trays with lids, ready to fill with water and cap! (this photo is before I realized I needed to add more watercolor to the cups.

These are the final prepped trays.  After filling them with water and capping them, I realized that it was difficult to distinguish a few of the colors from each other!  I knew if I had trouble telling which one was which the third graders definitely would!  I grabbed a roll of masking tape, a Sharpie and my scissors and began to make little labels for each cup (more time).

I painted a color chart to hang up so the kids could see what each color looked like.  The color is more vibrant than it looks in the photo. 

This is the display I made to show the third grade students different design options for drawing out their Horizontal/Vertical designs.  They are inspired by this lesson from Fine Lines, and found the blog post from a pin on Pinterest last Spring.  I demonsrated how each design could be created and let the students choose which one they wanted to draw. Several Students even created their own versions of a Horizontal/Vertical design!  They used rulers to get the straight edges.  It was good ruler practice.  Some of them still have some difficulty holding the ruler in the right way so that it doesn't move on them while they are drawing with it.

Once the Horizontal/Vertical lines were drawn, the students designed each section using construction paper crayons.

The kids were so intrigued and excited when they saw the watercolors!  They're used to using the Crayola 16 color pan sets.  I think the liquid watercolor made them feel very grown up and professional! 

Here is a few of the finished ones together for a photo op!  They will still need one more class to finish painting all of them.  One of our classes was cut short because we went outside to see one of the Monarch butterflies that had emerged be released so it could migrate to Mexico!  Our Spanish teacher has a beautiful butterfly house in her classroom that is filled with Monarch butterflies in transition!  This one was the first to come out of it's chrysalis and needed to be set free!  These next few pictures are a sneak peak of the projects the fourth and fifth grades are working on.

These are sketches my fifth graders are working on.  The inspiration came from Shine Brite Zamorano.  The shading and shadowing of the crayon shapes is great practice for the still-life they will be doing next.  They loved the idea of the crayons drawing lines on their papers!

The fourth graders are working on leaf abstractions.  The inspiration for this lesson comes from Adventures of an Art Teacher.  We studied the vein patterns of real leaves and pictures with magnifications of leaf vein patterns from different plants.  I laminated the pictures into table posters so they could look at the pictures while working on their own leaf abstractions. The students also needed to blend at least two colors together in the sections.  The students really love blending and mixing the colors together in different combinations!

So, that's what we have been up to in third, fourth and fifth grade.  Next week I will post some Kindergarten, first and second grade pieces the students are finishing up.

I broke out the paints today for Kindergarten and first grade for the first time.  Second grade has been painting since the first class.  When my first grade class walked in this afternoon and saw the tables ready for painting they all started to squeal with excitement! Kindergarten and first grade did an excellent job following directions and are creating some beautiful pieces I can't wait to show!  I bought some tempera cakes for my K-2 classes to use this year and they are definitely an improvement on the ones I used to buy 15 years ago!  More on that in my next post!

Enjoy the first official weekend of Fall!


  1. I bought some for the first time, too, and I haven't opened them yet - a little freaked out about them! Thanks for this post, it makes me want to get them going...

  2. I was nervous at first too! They were a little expensive for my budget but after reading how so many other teachers loved them I really wanted to try them! I was worried that the colors would get mixed up too easy, spill, etc.. but so far the kids have been really careful with them. They really like them! I'm curious how long the bottles are going to last. Some other bloggers say they last all year... we'll see...I think it depends on how intense you mix the colors and how often you use them. I sense a mutiny when I bring out the pan sets! :)

  3. I inherited a whole lot of tube water color sets from so I've been premixing those so far, but they're starting to run out. Like you I've been reading about how much other bloggers seem to love the liquid colors, and am thinking of trying them. I can see my younger prep kids dipping dirty brushes in and muddying them up though - and as my classes are all multi-age (Prep to year 7) I can't reserve them for the older classes. Do you have that problem? Does a made up set of colors last more than one lesson?

  4. All my classes are by grade level and all the students are the same age. For example, Kindergarten is 5yrs, 1st grade is 5-6 years old,etc... I am only using the liquid watercolors with my 3d (8-9 years old), 4th (9-10 year old) and 5th (10-11 year old) I have 7 sections of third, 6 sections of fourth and 6 sections of fifth. The sets I made up the other day were used by 3 classes(apprx. 21-23 students per class) and they don't look like we used very much. But they also didn't have very big sections to paint in. I think we will go through them faster in 4th when we do our color wheel project.

  5. Thanks for the info - seems like they last a while :) I might have to give some thought to how I use them with the younger children - there's always a solution if you put your mind to it!! :)

  6. Some great tips here for using liquid watercolours- esp. the cut-open lids. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! All my thirds finished using the watercolors and the cups are still just about as full as they were when we started. The only color that has really changed is the yellow. Some groups were able to keep it pretty clean and true. A couple got it a little muddied but when its painted on the paper it still looks like yellow.