SETTING THE SCENE – Mixed Media, Contrast, Texture

Students use paint, oil pastels, handprinted papers and a variety of materials to design an imaginary scene.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 1 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Visual Arts
Media Literacy


balance colour contrast mixed media texture variety


Crayola Oil Pastels Crayola Washable Paint Crayola Construction Paper Crayola Washable Glue Crayola Scissors Crayola Paint Brushes Crayola Markers Crayola Washable Glue Sticks Bamboo Skewers Variety of Embellishments Stamp Shapes Water Containers Paper Towels Palettes (Paper Plates)

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SETTING THE SCENE – Mixed Media, Contrast, Texture - Step One

Step One

  1. Think of the important details in your story.
  2. How will you show them in your illustration to set the scene for the story? 
  3. Make several thumbnail sketches and then a rough plan drawing.
  4. Use this plan to guide you as you create your mixed media scene.
SETTING THE SCENE – Mixed Media, Contrast, Texture - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Use paint and the foam shapes, and any other objects to print interesting patterns on several pieces of construction paper. 
  2. Fill the paper with patterns and contrasting colours.
SETTING THE SCENE – Mixed Media, Contrast, Texture - Step Three

Step Three


  1. Make some construction paper beads to add texture to your scene.
  2. Start by cutting small rectangles.
  3. Cut the rectangles into isoceles triangles.
  4. Put glue on the thin part of the triangle.
  5. Make sure it goes right to the tip.
  6. Make sure you do NOT put glue near the base of the triangle.
SETTING THE SCENE – Mixed Media, Contrast, Texture - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Place a bamboo skewer along the base of the triangle.
  2. Gently roll the paper around the skewer.
  3. Remove the paper bead from the skewer.
SETTING THE SCENE – Mixed Media, Contrast, Texture - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Make lots of paper beads to add to your collection of printed papers.
SETTING THE SCENE – Mixed Media, Contrast, Texture - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Cut shapes out of your printed papers.
  2. Add painted details to your composition.
  3. Use line, colour and lots of different materials to add texture and interest to your work.
  4. When you are almost finished place the scene where you can see it from a bit of a distance.
  5. Check to see if there is enough contrast to make the important shapes stand out.
  6. Check to see if there is anything else you need to do?
  7. Keep working until you are satisfied with the final piece.
  8. Look at it from a distance to see it with fresh eyes.
  9. This is the setting for a story.
    - What can you tell about the story by looking at this setting?
    - What do you see that makes you say that?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create a mixed media scene that is the setting for a story;
  • use different textures to add variety to their work;
  • use contrast to create areas of emphasis;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment; 
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the works.


Have students:

  • work with a partner;
  • each person write a clear description of the scene without letting their partner see it;
  • take turns reading their description while the partner draws what they hear;
  • once the drawing is complete reveal the drawing;
  • compare the artwork with the drawing;
  • talk about how well the description guided the drawing.


  1. Prior to this lesson have students write an imaginary story based on a theme you are studying.
  2. Gather and make available a variety of picture books, for example, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak; The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg; Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans; and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff.
  3. Download and display the Colour, Balance and Contrast posters available on this website,
  4. Gather plastic placemats one for each student.
  5. Gather the required art materials and place them in baskets for easy distribution.
  6. Place students into small groups so they can share materials.


  1. Show students a variety of media, for example construction paper, oil pastels, crayons, paints, glitter glue.
  2. Ask what these things have in common. 
  3. Encourage students to share ideas about how the media are used and talk about how some artists use more than one medium in a single artwork. Ask them to consider why they would do this.
  4. Examine several of the illustrations in the picture books and discuss how the pictures contribute to the story.
  5. Notice the use of contrast, texture and detail.
  6. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a mixed media scene that is the setting for a story.
  2. Use different textures to add variety to your work.
  3. Use contrast to create areas of emphasis.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment.
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the artwork.

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:
    - created a mixed media scene that is the setting for a story
    - added details that contribute to the story
    - used several different media
    - used texture to add variety
    - used contrast to create emphasis
    - kept the artwork in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work.
  5. Encourage them to share and expand on each others' ideas as they explore the materials.  
  6. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Place students into small groups. 
  2. Ask them to: 
    - Compare their work and describe to each other what they did to get certain effects.
    - Tell each other how their picture sets the scene for their story.
    - Talk about what was difficult and what was easy for them.
  3. Share ideas with the whole class. 
  4. Ask them to tell how they felt about doing this project.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their artworks – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the artwork, 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 - Mixed_Media_tracking.sheet.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - MIXED_MEDIA_self-assessment.pdf or MIXED_MEDIA_PRIMARY.pdf)