Sunset Silhouettes: An Art Lesson that will Wow!

Last week we had parent back-to-school night, and I knew I needed something on the wall that would WOW my parents.  So I decided to do one of my all time favorite art projects:

 Sunset Silhouettes


These are great because they are so easy to make, but they look like some hard work went into them!  I break the project into two days.  First start by gathering your materials:

Day 1

1.) Gather your materials: 
  • White Construction paper cut to 12″ by 9″ – You can play change this if you want
  • Pencils
  • Class set of Black Sharpies
  • Internet and Projector or Printed Silhouette Pictures

2.) Lead Discussion: Do a Google image search for sunsets and silhouettes.  Lead a discussion/lesson about what a silhouette is.  It is very important to point out that with silhouettes, you can not see anything by the outline of an object.  Discuss the colors that we often see in a sunset, and which colors you would see closer to the horizon. (Tip: This is also a great project to do in conjunction with a science lesson on the rotation of the earth and WHY we see sunsets! )

3.) Draw Silhouettes with pencil: Once students have a good grasp of what a silhouette is, brainstorm some places or animals that would make interesting silhouettes.  I told them to choose things with detailed outlines.  If they couldn’t think of anything I told them to pick an environment (like desert, jungle, etc) and draw what they might see there.  Remind students that they don’t have to draw/fill in any details because we will only see the outline.

4.) Fill in with Sharpies: Once the pictures are drawn, students use thick and thin sharpies to fill in all of the objects that would be in silhouette. (I have seen this project down by cutting the silhouette objects out of black paper and gluing them over the sunset, but I find that this really cuts down on the detail that the students are able to create/add to the silhouettes, and if they don’t glue it well, the edges peel up, so I definitely prefer the result of using sharpies.)

Day 2

1.) Gather your Materials:

  • Watercolors (Class set OR enough for a small group)
  • Large paintbrushes
  • bowls/cups to hold water for rinsing brushes and blending colors on paper
  • Black Paper cut an inch larger (length and width) than the white paper
  • Glue
  • White colored Pencil

2.) Paint Sunsets with Watercolors: I chose to do this in a small group with 4 kids at a time while the rest of the class was working on their September Early Finisher packets.  This way I could help them with their painting techniques and I didn’t need to round up as many watercolor sets and paintbrushes.  A couple tips for painting:

  • Use enough water to help the colors blend together, but not too much water or the paper will start to “peel” up
  • Use long brush strokes back and forth across the sky
  • Layer the colors slightly over each other to get a blended look, rather than a “lines or blocks of color” look
  • It is okay to paint right over the black sharpie marker, because you won’t be able to see it

3.) Let dry.  This will take a few hours.

4.) Glue finished pictures to black backgrounds, and use white colored pencil to write their names on the back, or front, if you wish.

I promise, you will have teachers and parents oohing and aahing over them!! This week, our Art Challenge teacher even stopped by to admire them, and inquire about adding a few of my students to his Art Enrichment class!


I hope you like them! If you use these with your class, give me a link to see the finished result!  I’d love to see how yours turn out!


  1. […] don’t have paint, you could even use large black sharpies to color it in, like I do with my Sunset Silhouette art […]

Speak Your Mind