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How to Make a Starry Night by Painting with Clay

by Catalina Gutierrez
November 19, 2022

Catalina of Red Violet Studio shares how to make your own Starry Night scene by painting with clay. This is a fun and tactile kids activity using colored air dry clay.

Updated November 2022

I’m so excited to write about this delightful painting with clay project.  At the beginning of this project, I have to confess I wasn’t sure whether the kids would grasp the concept of what I had in mind.

But I knew even if they didn’t, they’d probably come up with something even better. They always surprise me in some way!

So you know how sometimes you have certain expectations with a particular situation (or activity in this case). And then it turns out in a completely unexpected way?

Well, I had a vision of this project and when I presented it to the children, they not only grasped it, but took it to another level of coolness and sophistication. And the end results were pure magic.

Child holding up clay project
Photo by Catalina Gutierrez

Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting

We opened up the conversation with a short book on Van Gogh’s life and after seeing some of his wonderful artwork, we ended up admiring and discussing one of my favorites: Starry Night

The kids made observations on the colors in the painting. We talked about the movement; was it the wind? Or maybe waves? They loved the intensity of the stars and the dark city visible in the background.

“Can we paint like Van Gogh, inspired by Starry Night without using paint?” I asked. They all looked at me like I was crazy. 

 I brought out small pieces of Air Dry Clay in different colors and passed them around for the children to feel the material.

colorful swirls of clay
Photo by Catalina Gutierrez

Then I showed them how to use their fingers to spread it out over a board whereby showing movement, just like Van Gogh! I also demonstrated how we could make little snakes or balls by rolling the clay. Or by pounding it with a full fist.

There are so many possibilities to explore painting with clay.  I hope you can give it a go!

Van Gogh Starry Night painting with clay for kids
Photo by Catalina Gutierrez

Painting with Clay


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  • 10×10 in wooden board (cardboard or foam board cut in a square works fine too)
  • Air Dry Clay in various colors
  • Pointy Pencils (just sharpened) or clay tools 


Time needed: 30 minutes

  1. Print out a picture of Starry Night for inspiration.

    Start by printing a picture of Starry Night and setting it in the middle of the table for inspiration.

  2. Break off small pieces of air dry clay.

    Make small pieces with the air dry clay (about a quarter size) and set them on a tray. Be sure you have many of these in different colors. 

    *The air dry clay we used dries up fast so you want to make sure that it is covered with plastic or in ziplock bags until it is ready to be used .

  3. Choose colors of clay.

    Now choose the colors you want to use to make your very own version of Starry Night.  You can mix colors and make your own too.

  4. Try painting with clay!

    Use your fingers to spread the clay over the board. Make sure to work on covering the board completely.  Kids can pound and squish the clay as well for different effects.

    Try rolling out u0022snakesu0022 or small balls and add them to the board for layering or texture. Explore the possibilities!

  5. Add texture.

    Now use your pointy pencils or clay tools to add texture to your “painting”. Whether it’s dots or short and long lines, just about any shape will work.

And that’s it! Take your time to enjoy this process, air dry clay is a fun material and pairing it with Van Gogh was truly mind blowing!

Child holding up colored air dry clay painting
Photo by Catalina Gutierrez

Last of all, don’t forget, you can add a string to the back to hang or display it over a table with a wall as support. 

More Easy Art Ideas for Kids

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How to Make Starry Night by Painting with Clay.

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