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Self Portrait Body Tracing Art

by Jean Van't Hul
September 18, 2017

Body tracing art is a childhood tradition and a great way for kids to work big and make self portraits. Children can be as whimsical or literal as they like!

Self Portrait Body Tracing Art with Kids

A big thanks to Kwik Stix paint sticks for sponsoring this post! As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

We made body tracing art the other day—something we’ve done many times over the years as the kids have grown. This time Daphne was about to turn 8 and a birthday seemed like a perfect time to do a new body tracing self portrait.

She and her friend Emily traced each others’ bodies (they both traced mine) and then proceeded to make the most literal self portraits I’ve ever seen them do.

Self Portrait Body Tracing Art with Kids - Adding details

Whereas before much of our body tracing art has been whimsical, adding fantastic colors, clothes, accessories, and embellishments, this time they stuck to just the facts, ma’am. Except for high heels.

They drew and painted black leggings since that’s what they were both wearing. They got out the mirror to make sure they drew facial features accurately and tested numerous colors and materials on separate paper to make sure they got the hair color just right.

Self Portrait Body Tracing Art Using Paint Sticks

I went over the top with whimsy and color, partly because it was how I was feeling at the time and I think, partly to compensate for all the literalness in the room. They kept commenting on my red pants, my jewelry, my hair, my skin color, and I kept saying I was just having fun. Trying to keep things lighthearted around here…

Working Big with Paint Sticks

Another difference from our body tracing art of the past is that we used tempera paint sticks this time instead of liquid tempera paint. They worked great!

Using Kwik Stix Paint Sticks for Body Tracing Art

We used Kwik Stix paint sticks, an art material we’ve been using and loving for almost two years now.

Kwik Stix Paint Stix

Kwik Stix Paint Stix

They are perfect for working big and bold and also for any group art situation, such as Daphne’s playdate.

  • There was no mess
  • The kids could quickly fill in large areas of their artworks
  • The paint sticks are bright and colorful
  • We could add other materials on top right away rather than waiting for paint to dry first
  • The paper stays flat rather than buckling from wet paint
  • The artwork is take-home ready! No wet paint in the car

I highly recommend Kwik Stix! They are great for all kinds of art, but definitely awesome for working big and bold and for working with groups.

Here are the instructions for the body tracing art activity…

Self Portrait Body Tracing Art with Kids


  • Large paper
  • Washable marker, for tracing
  • Kwik Stix paint sticks*
  • (Optional) Other art materials, such as markers and liquid watercolor paints

*You can find Kwik Stix at Walgreens, at Michaels (both in stores and online)online at Target, and online on Amazon.


Body Tracing Art - Trace the child's body

Step 1: Trace your child’s body

Lay a large piece of paper on the floor (tape the corners if you need to keep it flat or in place), have your child lay down on the paper and assume any pose he or she would like, and trace around the body using a washable marker.

We used a large roll of white craft paper, but you can also use brown contractor’s paper (inexpensive in the paint section of the hardware store) or two lengths of easel paper taped side by side.

Body Tracing Art - Paint the artwork

Step 2: Paint the body tracing art

We used the Kwik Stix to “paint” large sections of the self portraits quickly and easily.

Adding liquid watercolor paint over paint stick paint

The paint stick paint dries almost immediately (within 90 seconds!) so I was able to add liquid watercolor paint to mine right away.

Self Portrait Body Tracing Art - Adding Facial Details

Step 3: Add details and decorate

Both kids drew in their facial features and a few other details with markers and pencils, looking in a small hand mirror to make sure they got things just right.

Body tracing art is a childhood tradition and a great way for kids to work big & make self portraits. Children can be as whimsical or literal as they like!

Step 4: Display your body tracing art

They were both happy with their finished self portraits! Maia coordinated this photo of Emily and Daphne holding them up, having the younger kids stand on top of step stools, moving them and their artwork around just so.

Daphne just turned 8! And isn’t a birthday a great time to make a new body tracing self portrait?

A post shared by Jean Van’t Hul (@jeanvanthul) on

Later Daphne added butterflies, a sun, and grass to her body tracing art and I taped it to her bedroom door. (Her Happy Birthday 8 was made with Kwik Stix, too, by the way, with a wash of pink watercolor over the top.)

More Body Tracing Art Ideas

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Self Portrait Body Tracing Art for Kids Using Paint Sticks

Thanks again to Kwik Stix for sponsoring this post and for sending us paint sticks to use and review! As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

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