How to Color

I think it is important to learn how to color. I remember, when I was around 6 years old I entered a coloring competition. In the 80’s they did that kind of thing… and there was always only one winner. Well, I entered and entered and even though I LOVED coloring and did it regularly, I was not what you would have considered the best “colorer!” One day I was expressing my disappointment as my mom and our neighbor were sipping their coffees. Our neighbor Aunt Debbie, told me to get the coloring sheet I entered in to the contest, one of my coloring books, markers, crayons, and coloring pencils. BOY, WAS I EXCITED!!

I gathered everything and met her at the kitchen table. I was about to learn the secrets of coloring! She told me that when we color there are some things that we needed to be concerned about. I could choose to color in different styles and she was going to show me a couple. Before I go on, I want to explain something…

I am all about the PROCESS OF ART unfolding itself. I think it is fine and well to let kids scribble, color a page with one crayon, and allow children to enjoy art. But I also believe in art instruction. Sometimes it is time for art instruction. This should always be done before a child starts to color not after they start. Once they start they are on their own, we do not stifle their choice or guide unless we are asked. During instruction, we instruct and on their own they practice and refine in their own way. It is all ok. Next, I am going to show how I was instructed and I hope it gives you ideas on how to help your child or students.

So, back to Aunt Debbie…

She told me to take a look at the whole picture first and imagine what I want it to look like when it was done. To think about the colors I have and how I want to combine them to reflect what I imagined in my head. She asked me what part of the picture I would like to color first. It was a tree and since I was a realist I wanted the trunk brown and the leaves green. So she gave me a brown marker and showed me to trace the inside of the line of the tree and the bark lines brown. Once I was done with the marker she had me choose the brown in crayons and go ahead and color in side the brown marker lines and make sure I color the bark  in the same direction the entire time. She showed me on a blank paper how going in one direction will ensure that there are no white spots and can show direction. I choose to color the bark in a vertical fashion since I wanted to show length.

Next, we moved onto the leaves, there were different leaf shapes on top of a large bush like tree top. I had different colored green markers so she showed me how I can get shadow to show depth in the tree. I outlined the bottom leaves with the darker green and the top with the lighter. Then she showed me that colored pencils have a great way of creating a gradient in the leaves. I continued with that style. I was learning so much.

When I was finally done with the picture, I had learned about line, shape, shadow and highlights, gradients, different ways to use markers, crayons and colored pencils and when I should choose which one to use. I learned art. I learned that I am in control of the process and I have a choice of how something should look like. More importantly I learned how to use the tools of art properly. It was basic art instruction and it has helped develop my aesthetic. Do not be afraid to instruct children in coloring. It is not going to stifle creativity, instead it will open a world of creative expression to them. They will see how art tools work and what can be done with them.

If you are looking for a resource that will help with this, please consider my fine motor scissor skills packet which will help with all of the skills I mentioned. Your students will get a chance to choose the colors they want, trace with marker, color with colored pencils or crayons based on the look they are trying to achieve. Best of all, you can print out the page they want to do as often as they want. Remember to use the sheets in this packet to teach 1) trace with marker of the same color, 2) choose colored pencils for gradients and shading, 3) choose crayons for large areas 4) remember to go in one direction, the lines can show shape and movement 5) cut out with scissors and finally 6) assemble by adding glue to your page then adding your shape (this prevents buckling). If your student is struggling with their grip – here is the blog post I wrote that instantly fixes your students grip – then it is just about practice!