KS3 Art Project: Painting Patterns

After teaching a dry media pattern design project previously, I altered this pattern design scheme of work to focus more on colour theory and develop students’ painting skills. This is the first year I have taught the project this way, and I am so chuffed with the results!

KS3 Pattern Design Painting Colour Theory Project

Get this full pattern painting project on TES here or TPT here – enjoy!

I really love the paintings from this project 😍 As each lesson came along students would tell me they were finished and I just kept pushing them to refine their work more and more – I’m really glad I did (though they will probably say otherwise 😆 ). Towards the end of the project I started to introduce new materials (paint pens, felt tips, biros) to help students neaten up their work and complete their paintings to a really high standard.


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Artist Inspiration

I started the project by recapping some colour theory and building on what students had learnt in Y7 (I taught this project to Y8) then I introduced the work of William Morris as inspiration. Students started artist research pages in their sketchbooks for one lesson, then completed it for homework. We had discussions about his use of symmetry, reflected patterns and his various inspirations (all of the keywords we discussed are included on the handout slide in the presentation).

I chose to introduce William Morris but you could easily change this to another, similar artist – these are all good options I think: Lindsay Phillip Butterfield, Walter Crane, Lewis Foreman Day, John Henry Dearle, Arthur Heygate Mackmurdo, Sidney Mawson, Allan Francis Vigers or Charles Voysey.

William Morris Art Pattern Design art lessons

Creating Abstract Designs

Students then started to create their abstract designs, working on A5 or A6 tracing paper. To create their designs, they looked for interesting sections in their sketchbooks and drew the shapes they liked onto the tracing paper. The focus was on the use of line, their composition and creating a balance of detailed and more simple areas on their tracing paper.

The process was differentiated through the size of the tracing paper, or by students actually tracing directly from their sketchbooks. Most students were able to draw freehand and work confidently to create unusual, abstract designs. Of course, your students don’t need to take abstractions from their sketchbooks – you can easily hand out resources for them to trace from – but I just like to show students how they can use previous work and turn it into something completely different.

I spent a couple of lessons on this as it took some students a while to get their tracing paper designs exactly how they wanted them. If any students had finished early or before the others, they were to create a different design on a new piece of tracing paper so they had a choice of which to use in their final piece.

The lessons in the presentation include entry tasks looking at student’s designs and evaluating how they could be improved. There is also a plenary asking students to problem-solve how they might turn their tracing paper design into a reflected pattern:

Tracing paper pattern design - graphite transfer process

Get this full pattern painting project on TES here or TPT here – enjoy!

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Introducing The Graphite Transfer Process

Students needed to transfer their designs from the tracing paper onto a bigger piece of paper. I had most students work on A4, but some chose to do A3 as a challenge.

The graphite transfer process is a simple way to transfer a drawing from tracing paper onto another piece of paper; students flip and turn their tracing paper to create a reflected repeating pattern.

Some students did this twice, for a basic reflection, and some students did it four times for a more complicated reflected, rotated pattern design. Even at this stage, their designs were looking fantastic! These could easily be photocopied and used as the basis for another type of project – print maybe?

If you aren’t sure how the graphite transfer process works, there are a lot of videos on YouTube that can help – this one is quite good (a few minutes in).

Next, as a ‘Do Now’ activity, I gave students a short problem-solving task to understand different types of pattern repeats. This is also available to print out from the presentation:

Lesson resources ks3 pattern design

I had planned for students to create two different reflected designs (with the same piece of tracing paper) and choose their favourite to paint, but due to time I had to cut this down to one design each (aside from a couple of students who had finished early)- there are extra slides in the presentation explaining this if you wish to use them.

Throughout the project there are opportunities for assessment and various AFL techniques and strategies (see my Fun Art Assessment Ideas for more inspiration), students particularly enjoyed this Nando’s inspired peer assessment activity!

Nando's spice level peer assessment pattern design project
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Different Types of Colour Schemes
Once students had completed their pattern designs, they could start to think about colour. Since my students already had an understanding of some basic colour schemes:

  • Warm
  • Cool
  • Harmonious
  • Accent colours

I introduced some new types of colour schemes for students to consider in their work:

  • Complementary
  • Analogous
  • Monochromatic

I did this as a lesson entry task so students had to work out which colour scheme was which, then went back to recap at the end of the lesson. Each week, I went back to these colour schemes and asked students to think about what their classmates had chosen to use in their work.

Types of colour schemes worksheet art lessons
Analogous colour scheme art lesson - types of colour schemes
complementary colour scheme art lesson - types of colour schemes
monochromatic colour scheme art lesson - types of colour schemes

Get this full pattern painting project on TES here or TPT here – enjoy!

Now (finally!) I felt that students were ready to start painting their pattern designs. In terms of lessons, I used various entry tasks / plenaries to keep them engaged and motivated. I spent quite a few lessons on their paintings as I really wanted students to understand the importance of persistence and perseverance. There were plenty of times when students ‘gave up’ – these were Y8 classes after all 😆 – or told me they had finished and couldn’t do any more…

I used a series of strategies as I taught the painting lessons – adding challenges for students to meet, introducing new materials and having students really consider all aspects of their artworks.

Painting Pattern project lessons
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At all stages of this painting project I have tried to use student artwork on the slides in order to inspire the rest of the class and show them how great their progress was:

I used a range of activities for the entry tasks / plenaries (all included in the presentation) – most of which are taken from my Fun Art Assessment Ideas presentation! These emoji stickers are a favourite…


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Students worked really well each lesson – I teach KS3 for one hour per week – and made great progress on their artwork. Towards the end of the project students were independent enough to tell me what they needed to be doing on their painting that lesson, without me having to prompt or remind them.

Here are some of their wonderful final painted designs which are also included on the presentation. What do you think of their artwork? Let me know in the comments!

Get this full pattern painting project on TES here or TPT here – enjoy!

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