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Watercolor Resist Art with Young Children

by Jean Van't Hul
March 3, 2017
Watercolor Resist Art with Young Children

Have you tried watercolor resist art with oil pastels and liquid watercolors? It’s a simple and lovely art technique for any age and one that we revisit over and over.

I did this art activity with my toddler art class and wanted to share the beautiful results here.

The 2- and 3-year-olds started out with oil pastel drawings on watercolor paper. Then they painted over their drawings.

Watercolor Resist Art with Oil Pastels and Liquid Watercolors

The oily oil pastels resist the watery liquid watercolor paint (oil and water don’t mix, remember?) so while the paint soaks into the paper, it just beads off the oil pastel lines, swirls, and scribbles.

It’s beautiful! I never get tired of seeing this kind of watercolor resist!

Watercolor Resist Art with Young Children - Finished Artworks

Here are the instructions, tips, a few notes about materials, and some variations to try.

Watercolor Resist Art with Oil Pastels & Liquid Watercolors

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Some Notes About Materials

*You can also use crayons for this project, too, but we especially like oil pastels because of how vibrant and smooth they go on without too much pressure. Twistables Slick Sticks are a version of oil pastels great for young kids.

**Any sturdy paper or card stock works fine. We often cut down a big sheet of poster board into smaller pieces to use for watercolor art when we run out of watercolor paper.

***If you don’t have liquid watercolors, you can use watered-down food coloring. Or just use a regular watercolor paint palette.


Watercolor Resist Art - Toddler Drawing with Oil Pastels First

1. Draw

Draw with the oil pastels on the watercolor paper.

Watercolor Resist Art - Adding Watercolors Over Oil Pastel Drawing

2. Paint

Paint over the oil pastel drawing with liquid watercolor paint. We gave the toddlers each a paintbrush and an individual cup of watered-down liquid watercolor paint to start with. And then invited them to swap or share colors after they explored the first color.

Watercolor Resist Art with a Toddler Art Class

As you can see, I taped sheets of watercolor paper to pieces of cardboard first for our toddler art class. I like to do this (when I have the extra time) for a few reasons:

  • The tape creates a nice, white border around the artwork (you remove it after letting the watercolor paint dry). I used artists’ tape (from the art supply store) here but have used masking tape, washi tape, and blue painter’s tape in the past.
  • The sturdy backing keeps the paper flat until the wet watercolor paint dries.
  • It holds the paper in place while the kids work. I often tape paper directly to the table or a plastic placemat with young kids, to hold the paper in place. The cardboard is simply a more portable way to do that, so better for group situations like this art class.
Watercolor Resist Art - Taping the Edges Onto Cardboard

3. Dry

Finally, let your artwork dry and hang it.

Watercolor Resist Art from Toddler Art Class Drying

For the toddler art class, we set the artworks (still attached to their cardboard backing) on the floor to one side of the room. The kids each took their own artworks home and, presumably, removed the tape once they were dry.

Watercolor Resist Art with Toddlers - Adding Watercolor Paint over Oil Pastel DRawing

How about you? Have you tried watercolor resist art with your kids?

6 Watercolor Resist Techniques to Try

Want more ideas for watercolor resist? Here are 6 Watercolor Resist Techniques to Try.

7 Simple Art Activities for Toddlers

Want more ideas for young children? Here are 7 Simple Art Activities for Toddlers and 11 Favorite Painting Activities for Preschoolers.

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Watercolor Resist Art with Young Children

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