make your own paint Impressionist art project for kids

Art Project for Kids: Making Paint Like Impressionists

Did you know that the Impressionist painters had to make their own paint? Not mix paint. No, they actually had to make their own paint. They couldn’t just buy it in tubes from a store!

Museum of Fine Arts impressionists, how impressionists made their paints and canvasesSee those small vials of powers? That’s what they used to mix colors to make paint! Their paint didn’t come in tubes!

How Impressionists Made Paint

See those pots of colors? Inside are ground up pigments made of all different kind of materials found in nature to make paint.

Canvases too had to be made by each artist! They couldn’t buy a canvas from an art store. Instead, they bought fabric, used wood to create a frame, nailed the canvas to a the wooden frame and then prepared the canvas with a substance called gesso. It’s made of gypsum and can be painted onto the canvas to “prime” it.


My girls and I enjoyed learning about how the Impressionists created their art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston surrounded by their paintings.

Claude Monet, Rouen Cathedrale

Rouen Cathédrale Façade and Tour d’Albane (Morning Effect), 1894. Oil on canvas. Claude Monet

What’s interesting about this painting is that the light on the church is completely made up! Monet is not painting what he saw, instead combining light on the church at different times of the day over a period of months.


Make Your Own Paint Project with Kids

Using the DIY Impressionists as inspiration, our art project is to paint like the Impressionists using paint we mix ourselves. We are going to make our own sidewalk chalk paint. Next, we will use one of their paintings as inspiration to create our own masterpiece. You can use this paint outside on the sidewalk if you are enjoying nice weather. We are in the dead of winter so we will paint on small postcard size pieces of paper.

Warning: This paint is temporary. When it dries, it flakes off. If you want to save your image, be sure to take a photo of it when it is still wet. When it dries, the painting crumbles and flakes off.

DIY Sidewalk chalk paint for Kids


1:1 ratio of cornstarch to water. Do you know what a ratio is? Quick math lesson! A ratio is a proportion. Use any measuring spoon. What this means is that you use 1 of cornstarch to 1 of water. So…

1 tablespoons of cornstarch to 1 tablespoon of water


1 teaspoons of cornstarch to1 teaspoons of water

We ended up using 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water and about 3 drops of food coloring per color.

art project for kids, make sidewalk chalk paint, paint like impressionist art project for kids

What can we use to COLOR our homemade sidewalk chalk paint? In modern times, we’d use food coloring, but back in Monet’s time, they would use:

  • Red Earth
  • Yellow Earth
  • Carbon Black from the fire

or extracts from plants or berries

  • Indigo
  • Madder

or semi-precious gems

  • Cinnabar
  • Lapis Lazuli

Using our sidewalk chalk paint colored with food coloring (or chalk pastel or sidewalk chalk), let’s paint on paper or outside on the sidewalk in the style of Impressionists.

Here are some famous paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston as inspiration. You can paint whatever you want! Make it up or copy one of these paintings or combine the two. Anything goes!

French impressionist at Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Antibes, The Pink Cloud by Paul Signac (1863-1935) at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

French impressionist at Museum of Fine Arts Boston

French impressionist at Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Houses at Auvers, 1890, Vincent Van Gough, French impressionist at Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Houses at Auvers, 1890, Vincent Van Gogh.

French impressionist at Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Water Lilies, 1907, Claude Monet.

Children on the Seashore, Guernsey about 1883, Pierre-Auguste Renoir.


Impressionist Art Project for Kids Making Your Own Paint

This is what we painted using our sidewalk chalk paint in the style of an Impresssionist.

art project for kids, make sidewalk chalk paint, paint like impressionist art project for kids

PickyKidPix tried to emulate the texture in Van Gogh’s paintings. I think that worked really well!

art project for kids, make sidewalk chalk paint, paint like impressionist art project for kids

Grasshopper and Sensei painted this lovely piece inspired by Monet’s Water Lilies.

art project for kids, make sidewalk chalk paint, paint like impressionist art project for kids

My painting was inspired by Signac’s The Pink Cloud.


Impressionist Books for Kids

If you want to read books about Impressionist artists, here are a few lovely picture books.

Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork

This wonderful picture book is practically like a visit to Claude Monet’s garden and does a great job explaining what Impressionism is in a fun and accessible way for kids.

Katie Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew

This charming time travel picture kit gives Katie and the reader a lesson in Impressionist Art when Katie is transported into a Claude Monet painting.

  Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musee d’Orsay Coloring Book

Kids can color, punch out and display 22 Impressionist works from the Musee d’Orsay and turn them into their own art masterpieces.


Thank you to Critters and Crayons for this great book recommendation!

Babar’s Museum of Art by Laurent de Brunhoff

Click on image of book to examine at Amazon or here to see at Barnes and Noble. 

make your own paint Impressionist art project for kids

Follow PragmaticMom’s board Art with Kids on Pinterest.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Hi Mia! you are my first 2013 CC blog 🙂 I’ve just ‘liked’ your page on FB and bought my own pigment for the first time this last year (real pro stuff from a mill in the Netherlands), still don’t know quite what to do with it. But this is a great post….I so take paint for granted…my tubes and pans of watercolor and acrylic. It makes me appreciate the 21st C. 🙂 will share your post on my blog.
    Kirsten Carlson recently posted…discoverynews:

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    • Thanks so much Kirsten for everything: your kind comment, liking my Facebook, and sharing my post. It was fun to make paint though ours was a temporary kind of paint that flakes off when it dries. But now I am yearning for a better recipe and higher quality pigments just to try again. It would be fun to make your paint that is artist quality! Thanks for coming by and I am excited to check out your blog!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Art Project for Kids: Making Paint Like ImpressionistsMy Profile

  2. I really love this post! I’ve made paint this way, but never thought of using it to imitate impressionists – fantastic idea!!! Pinned this to my kid art pinterest board.

    I’m also a big fan of “Katie Meets the Impressionists” – such a cute book for kids!
    maryanne recently posted…Raising Globally Aware Kids: Getting StartedMy Profile

  3. Oh how wonderful! I love the idea of exploring how to make paint yourself. I know my son will be fascinated. Great project.

    Thanks for joining in with Kids Get Arty.

    maggy, red ted art recently posted…Kids Get Arty: Andy Warhol ArtMy Profile

  4. Wow! How had I not realized that impressionist painters made their own paint. Now I am going to be even more in awe of their work!
    Stacey recently posted…A Growing VocabularyMy Profile

    • Hi Stacey,
      I didn’t realize either that they had to make their own paint AND stretch their own canvases and then prepare it before they could actually sit down to paint. It’s a wonder they were able to paint at all! Our paint making was much easier than their process and it was fun to make paint and then try to paint like the Impressionists.
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  5. What a fantastic site this is, Mia! I enjoyed exploring and will most definitely be back. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog!
    Kristen Schwartz recently posted…Riding the Train and Doing "Nothing"My Profile

  6. Catherine

    Hi Mia, what a brilliant subject. I love Impressionism! I’ll definitely try this with my kids and thanks for all the fascinating facts too!
    Catherine recently posted…Perfect Picture Book Friday – WishesMy Profile

  7. Ann

    I love the Linnea books! And this paint project looks like lots of fun! I have never made paint before but I have stretched a bunch of canvases. Ones you make are way nicer than ones you can buy!
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    • Hi Ann,
      I loved the Linnea books too! Wow, sounds like stretching and preparing a canvas is a lot of work! I didn’t realize artists like you still do that! It takes days to prepare, with all those layers of gesso? I didn’t realize that they turned out nicer as well! You are motivating me to try!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Picture Book of the Day: Waking DragonsMy Profile

  8. What fabulous ideas! I’ll share this post with some of my teacher friends.

  9. tricia

    This post is just brilliant! I love the options you give for us to make our paint with the kids- and the history lesson! I had no idea- And the concept is gorgeous. If we try this (when we try this), I will be sure to let you know! A cute and funny book about art that we have is Babar’s Museum of Art….the authors/illustrators recreated masterpieces using the Babar elephants. Super cute book-
    tricia recently posted…I Quilled SupermanMy Profile

    • Hi Tricia,
      I’m so glad you liked my art project idea. I will try to find a better, more permanent make-your-own paint recipe as well. The sidewalk chalk paint is fun to make and use but it crumbles to bits when it is dry.

      I loved Babar as a child but never had the pleasure of reading Babar’s Museum of Art. Can’t wait to read it. Thank you so much for the book recommendation. I’m adding it to the post!
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  10. I love this post, and I love how you used these techniques to create art inspired by the impressionists.
    Carolyn recently posted…Service Ideas for ToddlersMy Profile

  11. Liz

    I know someone who mixes her own egg tempera! She paints traditional Eastern Orthodox icons, with gold leaf and everything.

  12. My kids have had a blast at the MFA during school vacation weeks. Such great projects and such nice teachers too!

    • Hi Cathy,
      I try to take my kids at least 2x a year to the MFA on school vacation weeks. They do such a nice job getting kids interested. My mom friend Loren said her son had a great time in Ancient Egypt relating MFA artifacts to Rick Riordan books. I’ll be posting on that topic soon. We are lucky to have such a great museum nearby!
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