Acrylic paint is popular in the art room because of its opacity, its vibrancy, and its ability to deliver amazing results. To spark some new ideas for using this versatile medium, we asked art teachers around the country to tell us their favorite acrylic paint projects.
They responded with lessons that were inspired by famous artists, teach different art styles, make connections to self and others, and more. Keep reading to find 25 unique and engaging projects you’ll want try in your own classroom.
Lesson ideas for acrylic paint projects
1. My grades 4 and 5 students love to use acrylic for their papier-mâché sculptures! Last year we made oversize paint brushes and paint tubes inspired by Claes Oldenburg. They got to choose the color of their paint and then rename it to their liking. I had everything from Cheesy Boy Yellow to Goblin Gut Green. It made a great display! —Jennifer C.
2. My favorite acrylic project to do with students is 3D candy wrapper paintings inspired by Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures! —Hannah M.
3. My sixth, seventh, and eighth graders have created cubism-type paintings using their favorite animal. We draw the animals and then I have them break up the space by “fracturing.” Then they must choose a color group for the animal and a color group for the surrounding space. The pictures have turned out really well. —Eva Y.
4. I had my eighth graders paint self-portraits. They had to be extreme closeups of themselves eating something. They got really excited and formed their own little field trip to a local ice cream shop. Their paintings came out really nice, and I loved their engagement. —Hellow Y.
5. I love to do Chuck Close-inspired grid portraits. It is so fun to mix the acrylic colors in the squares and come out with a mosaic-looking portrait. Students love learning about Chuck Close and enjoy color mixing with acrylics! —Kristin P.
6. We created an installation for the hallway. An Impressionism living room. Students brought old, discarded pieces of furniture. Groups created each piece by painting it like some famous Impressionist piece. There was a small table, chair, lamp, and even a door. It was amazing! —TBorn
7. At the end of the year, I allow [my high school students] to paint small squares on the cabinets in my room. They can paint anything they want, but I say it should represent you as a person. The end product looks like a quilt of small paintings going across my cabinets, each tile representing a personality. It’s very rewarding to get to know my students all year long and then see their personality on permanent display in my room. —QM P.
8. I’ve enjoyed painting self-portraits using a monochrome palette with my middle schoolers; we paint at least two, each with a different color, sometimes even three self-portraits if there is time. Tints and shades, baby! They are always so taken with how different each one feels depending on the dominant color. —Shara S.
9. I love doing Dale Chihuly-inspired paintings — even the upper-grade boys enjoy it! Watered-down tempera wash for the background, then acrylics squeezed from condiment bottles with some scraping allowed. —Krista F.
10. This year we plan on creating a legacy project with our fifth grade students based on the glass art of Chihuly. We will use acrylic paints to color water bottles that have been melted and twisted, combining them all together into a hanging sculpture. —Leslie J.
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11. I like to have my students make their own sketchbooks, then create low reliefs on the cardboard cover and paint those with acrylic paints. —Anne N.
12. [My favorite is] a printmaking project inspired by the artist Victoria Crowe! We do an abstract textured monoprint with acrylic paint and then do a silhouette of bare trees or branches. —Heather T.
13. Our department does a collaborative show every year. Last year we did a show where students made portraits of staff in the building. It was such a great way to work on building relationships and going through the process of making a commissioned piece of art. —Sarah K.
14. I love to have students paint varied colored and textured papers that then are cut up and pasted into collage birds. The bright colors and textures are so much fun to work with. The results are stunning. —Roberta L.
15. My favorite acrylic lesson I do with my eighth graders every year: They pick an emoji to replicate using cardboard and papier mâché. Then they paint and add small details using bright acrylic colors. It is a big hit, and the kids love it each year. —Carly M.
16. I have my high school students create a pop culture mash-up painting, where they take a character from pop culture and insert it into the setting of a master artwork. The results are always so interesting, and the students love it! —Wendy S.
17. I love doing acrylic pours with my students. There are no mess ups. They are all unique and beautiful! —Diane R.
18. I love to use acrylics for my eighth-grade food sculptures. We study pop art, and they create a food item using toilet paper and paper towels. They love it! —Carey G.
19. This year my first graders and I are going to paint kindness rocks and make a garden in front of our school. We are going to ask local businesses to join us in creating kindness rock gardens throughout town. Acrylic paints are our go-to paint! —Sandra E.
20. I love to do mandalas on rocks with my students using acrylics. —Jeff H.
21. Each year my eighth graders wrap up the school year by painting skateboard decks. It is a favorite and very anticipated project! We love using bright colors and graffiti-style designs! —Lauren T.
22. My favorite is a classic painting in which students are asked to incorporate a local landmark, icon, or flavor for fun! —Laura B.
23. One of my favorite projects for multiple ages is a fall birch tree landscape in acrylics. We tape off the tree trunks, add fallen leaves with a sponging method, and add details once the tape is off! —Cheryl M.
24. I enjoy teaching my students the grid system of drawing and layout in preparation for an acrylic painting. They choose a photo that they like from a magazine. They lay out a grid on the photo and a corresponding grid on a canvas panel, make light pencil underdrawings, and then paint acrylic over it. Acrylic is opaque and forgiving, so it’s a great medium for the project. —Danellen D.
25. My Painting 1 students look at the bright color usage of Wayne Thiebaud and then choose a dessert to paint in a high key color scheme (8″ x 10″ canvas). It is fun and fairly quick! —Bibba M.