COLOURFUL SELF-PORTRAIT – Colour, Space, Contrast

Students work with a partner to take photographs of each other against a light background, print a large version of their photo and draw a grid across it. They add drawings of things they like and use markers to create a colourful self-portrait.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 4 to Grade 6


Language Arts
Visual Arts


colour contrast detail space


Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 x 30.5 cm Crayola SuperTip Markers - 50 Count Rulers Pencils Erasers

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COLOURFUL SELF-PORTRAIT – Colour, Space, Contrast - Step One

Step One

  1. Work with a partner.
  2. Use your devices to take close up photographs of each other against a light background.
  3. Resize your photo to 21.6 cm x 27.9 cm (8.5" x 11") and convert it to greyscale.
  4. Make sure your picture is large enough to almost fill the page.
  5. Print a copy of the picture on drawing paper. 
  6. Draw a grid over the whole paper. 
  7. Draw your name and pictures of things that are important to you in the background.
COLOURFUL SELF-PORTRAIT – Colour, Space, Contrast - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Use Crayola SuperTips markers to colour the squares different colours.
  2. Use contrasting colours to make your face and details stand out.
  3. From time to time view your drawing from a distance to see it with fresh eyes.
COLOURFUL SELF-PORTRAIT – Colour, Space, Contrast - Step Three

Step Three

  1. View your self-portrait with fresh eyes.
  2. What do you like best about your picture? Why?
  3. What does this self-portrait tell the viewer about you?
  4. What do you see that makes you say that?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • use a photo editing program to convert a colour image of themselves to black and white;
  • draw a grid with 2.5 cm (1") squares on top of the photograph;
  • create a self-portrait drawing that communicates things that are important to them;
  • use contrasting colours to make important details stand out;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • use the lesson plan I See Myself available on this website to learn more about drawing the face;
  • share their work with others.



  1. Download and display the Colour and Contrast posters available on this website.
    - review or teach the principle of contrast – extreme differences
    - review or teach the element of colour - warm and cool colours, complementary colour schemes
  2. ​Teach/review how to use a photo editing software program such as Photoshop to convert to grayscale and resize an image. 
  3. Gather and make available picture books about identity, for example, The Boy & the Bindi, by Vivek Shraya, and Rajni Perera: Where Are You From?, by Yamile Saied Méndez, and Jaime Kim; The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family, by Ibtihaj Muhammad, and Hatem Aly.; and The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi.
  4. Conduct several read-alouds using a variety of books that focus on identity.
  5. Download images of portraits from the Internet, for example,
    Paul Trappen
    La Belle Otero
  6. Provide time for students to practice drawing straight lines with a ruler.


  1. View and discuss several images of portraits.
    Ask students to tell what the portraits tell them about the person, and what they see that makes them think that.
  2. Ask students to think of 5 words and 1 symbol that best describes them.
  3. Ask students to think about how they would communicate those ideas in a self-portrait, e.g.,
    - a specific pose
    - hat or special clothing
    - objects such as toys and trophies
    - facial expression
  4. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Use a photo editing program to resize and convert to grayscale an photo of yourself.
  2. Create a self-portrait drawing that communicates things that are important to you.
  3. Use contrast and symbols to communicate a message.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the artworks.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students. For example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - converted a photo of myself to greyscale and resized it
    - used a ruler effectively to draw a grid on the whole paper
    - created a self-portrait drawing
    - communicated things about myself that are important to me
    - communicated my ideas using symbols and colour
    - used contrasting colours to make details stand out
    - kept the artwork in good condition
  3. Discuss how the placement of objects can create areas of interest and emphasis that move the viewer's eye through the picture plane. 
  4. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  5. Observe students as they work. 
  6. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Display the self-portraits as a ‘body of work’.
  2. Ask students to gather in front of the display and look at the works thoughtfully.
  3. Ask them to find 3 things they find interesting about one of them.
  4. During the discussion include references to:
    - composition - placement of elements to create movement
    - use of colour and symbol - how they add to the overall effectiveness of the work
    - contrast - how contrast is used to move the viewer's eye through the composition and make things stand out
    - feelings the work evokes
    - communication - what the self-portrait tells the viewer about the artist
  5. Display the images in and around the classroom so students can view them as a body of work throughout the next few weeks.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their self-portraits – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the self-portrait, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads – ColourfulSelf-Portrait_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads – ColourfulSelf-Portrait_self-assessment.pdf)