SHADOW ART – Colour, Shape, Pattern

Students use a small light to cast a shadow of an object they have chosen and turn the shadow into something interesting.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 4 to Grade 8


Visual Arts


cast shadow colour pattern repetition shape


Crayola Watercolour Pencils Crayola Fine Line Markers Crayola Painting Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Paint Brushes Small Clip-On Lights Pencils Erasers Water Containers Paper Towels Masking Tape

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SHADOW ART – Colour, Shape, Pattern - Step One

Step One

  1. Find an object that appeals to you.
  2. Place it at one edge of the paper. 
  3. Arrange the light so the object casts a shadow on the paper.
  4. Play with the angles to get a good shadow.
  5. Draw an outline of the shadow.
SHADOW ART – Colour, Shape, Pattern - Step Two

Step Two

  1. View the drawing from all directions.
  2. What do you see?
  3. What could it be?
  4. Choose the view you like the best.
SHADOW ART – Colour, Shape, Pattern - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Add details and erase areas you do not want.
  2. Choose how you want to add colour, e.g., watercolour pencils, markers, coloured pencils, crayons, etc.
SHADOW ART – Colour, Shape, Pattern - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Add details and patterns.
  2. Combine mediums, e.g., watercolour pencils and fine line markers.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • position a light to cast a shadow of an object they have chosen;
  • create something interesting with the shadow;
  • repeat shapes and lines to create a variety of patterns;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the works.


Have students:

  • explore ways to use shadows in an artwork, e.g., shadow box, shadow puppets, drawing shadows;
  • create How To instructions to accompany their work;
  • work in small groups to create a display of their work;
  • share their display with others.


  1. Download and display the Colour, Shape and Repetition posters available on this website.
    - review or teach the element of colour – analogous, complementary, monochromatic colours
    - review or teach the element of shape – geometric, organic
    - review or teach the principle of repetition – using similar elements over and over again
    - review or teach the principle of pattern – repeating motifs in a predictable way
  2. Gather a variety of objects.
  3. Gather enough clip-on lights for students to share in small groups.
  4. Test the lighting in your room to be sure the lights will cast a fairly strong shadow.
  5. View the video by Vincent Bal a Belgian shadow artist.
  6. Download images of shadows from the Internet.
    Hand Shadows
    Hand Shadows 2
    Holding Hands
    Rabbit Hand




  1. Cast some hand shadows and discuss how you can create new images with the way you manipulate the shadows.
  2. View and discuss the Vincent Bal video. 
  3. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Position a light to cast a shadow of an object you have chosen.
  2. Create something interesting with the shadow.
  3. Repeat shapes and lines to create a variety of patterns.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the works.

The Process

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - positioned a light to cast a shadow of an object
    - created something interesting with my shadow

    - used my own ideas
    - repeated lines to make patterns 
    - repeated shapes to make patterns

    - kept the paper in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work.
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Once all the pictures are complete display them for a group discussion. 
  2. Place all the objects on a table so everyone can see them.
    Look closely at the artworks.
    - Choose one that interests you for some reason.
    - Share thoughts about the work.
  3. Guide students by asking:
    - What object do you think was used to make this shadow drawing? – What do you see that makes you say that?
    - What do you notice about the way the work has been made?
    - What do you like the best about this work?



  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 - ShadowArt_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - ShadowArt_self-assessment.pdf)