Art With Kids: Elevate Kid Painting With Bold Outline

Art, Decor, Kids, Projects

Has your young kiddo ever completed a painting and, although lovely, the subject is completely unrecognizable? Adding a bold outline transforms a preschooler’s abstract painting into a more identifiable work of art. The outline provides structure, depth, and detail to what otherwise looks like color blobs and streaks.

Starting with a simple pencil outline as a guide, my 5-year old makes a solid effort at staying close to the lines, while my 3-year old completely covers the lines. After the paint dries, we use a thick marker to re-draw the original outline (or close to it) over the paint.

Now 5, my daughter enjoys drawing the bold marker outline. Sometimes she traces the pencil line where visible, in other spots she creates new lines. We’ve used various markers for the bold outline. Washable markers work if they are fresh and full of color. For a strong, bold line, use Sharpies or my favorite – Pentel Arts Color Pens. When using permanent markers, protect the kiddo’s clothes with a smock and accept that some marks will live for a while on their hands.

These beauties from my then 2- and 3-year olds highlight how a bold outline elevates a youngster’s painting.

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Elevate Kid Painting With Bold Outline – Supplies

Supplies for adding bold outline to kid's painting

How to Elevate Kid Painting With Bold Outline

1. Draw Image and Take a Reference Picture

Kid drawing flower outlines with pencil

Use pencil to draw the outline of an image on the canvas. We use all sorts of resources for the initial drawing: books, internet images, coloring books, and pure imagination. For example, if my daughter wants to paint a poppy, we search online for a photo or simple drawing of a poppy to use as a guide for our pencil drawing.

Kid drawing flowers with pencil on canvas

Place a book under the canvas (inside the wood frame) to form a hard drawing surface. Otherwise, the pressure of the pencil may stretch the canvas.

Draw image on canvas with pencil

For the pencil drawing, capture the basic shapes aiming for preschooler’s coloring book level detail (so basically none). Draw a basic outline to give the child reference points on what and where to paint.

After completing the drawing, take a photo for reference.

We usually take a break from the project after the pencil drawing; it all depends on the kids’ energy and interest levels.

2. Break Out The Paint

Prepare the art space with essentials to minimize mess: smock, oilcloth tablecloth, paint palette, washcloths, and washable paints.

Kid painting pencil drawing of flowers on canvas

Ask the child to pick the paint colors. Either use paint straight from the bottle or make custom colors by putting two colors in one spot on the palette and letting the child mix with a toothpick or the back of the paintbrush. Mixing colors is both fun and a great learning opportunity.

Let the creativity fly! Depending on age and personality, kids may try to follow the outline or ignore it all together. Either approach is great. Encourage kids to finish the painting, but no worries if they lose interest. They can always pick it up another time.

3. Add Bold Outline With Marker and Display

Kid drawing bold outline of flowers on painting

Once the painting is dry, recreate the initial drawing with a bold marker. Trace the outline if visible under the paint. If not, make a rough guess based on the pre-painting reference photo. Avoid sketching; solid confident lines look best.

Kid adding bold outline to painting

If necessary, mistakes can be corrected by painting over the line and re-drawing with marker after the paint dries. However, we try to accept the “mistakes” as part of the creative process.

Bold outline on kid's painting on display

We like to ask the kids if the art has a title; we love hearing what they come up with. Write the title, date, and child’s name on the back (or have the child write), then hang and enjoy!

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