Shadow Painting


Parents, caregivers, and older siblings, this project if for you! Observe nature, and make art side-by-side with your little one as they work on (Insert name a link to shadow tracing project), or (if you can) enjoy a few relaxing minutes alone.

Skills We’re Practicing

  • The art of relaxation 
  • Creativity
  • Mapping 3 dimensions to 2 dimensions
  • Nature observation
  • Modeling for children how to enjoy the process, and not worry about the product (sounds sooo easy).


  • Watercolor Paper (is ideal, but use what you have!) 
  • Watercolor tray, cup of water, paintbrush 
  • A shadow

Optional Materials

  • Sunglasses (Sounds silly, but white paper in direct sun is really bright.)
  • Colored pencils, or a regular pencil, if you’d rather sketch than paint.

Shadow Painting Steps

1) Find a shadow that you’d like to paint.

The outline of this vine’s shadow was so simple, but the vine itself had grown in a loop and the leaves were sticking out at all angles. This project uses the shadow to map a complicated 3-dimensional object onto a 2-dimensional paper. Simply observing this transformation in detail as I painted was interesting.

2) Pick your colors and paint “under” the shadow.

I started with a light green for the leaves. I could barely see the paint beneath the shadow of the vine, and this freed me from a probable litany of self-criticisms related to an end product, like: “I’m not sure that was the right color choice. You missed a spot. That’s hideous.” I was painting in the semi-dark, so it was all about the process and was relaxing.


3) Take your paper away from the shadow and add details.

Remember that we’re making an experience, and not necessarily a product. Enjoy the details!

I added some little red flowers that weren’t on the plant and was prepared to call that painting experience done. Then a bird flew over, and it dropped something sticky on my paper, like it was eating hard candy and used my paper like a ol’ spittoon. Yay nature. I tried to cover up the bird goop with blue paint along a couple edges of my paper. You can see that bird goop soaked up more blue than the paper. That’s why there’s a more saturated spot right after the check mark on my paper. Thank you bird for the STEM observations.

Taking a Moment to Make Art

Parents, caregivers, and older siblings loved making art in Habitot’s Art Studio! We witnessed this every day we were open.

During the pandemic, when Habitot was closed, some of my happiest days, were when it was my turn to create the weekly Habitot-at-Home activity. Process art is really relaxing to make, and I’m forever surprised by how much I learn when making an art project for small children. Sometimes, my teenage kids would see me working on a Habitot art project and decide to join me. We’d make some toddler process art together, which was funny, wholesome, and an all around joy. I hope you too can find a moment to enjoy some process art, as though you were in the Habitot Art Studio—remember it’s all about discovery and the journey 🙂