Rainbow Monoprints (September 2013)

In the past I have used plastic sheeting or perspex plates for monoprinting, but this year I had new idea – to use opened-up laminating pouches instead! My old perspex plates are rather scratched and are a pain to clean afterwards, so I liked the idea of being able to throw away the pouches after use! I also hoped that, by sandwiching the paper between the two layers of shiny plastic, I could avoid the problem of the paper slipping and smudging the print when rubbed too vigorously. I was pleased with the results in both respects, and the laminating pouch also proved to be a lovely smooth painting surface.

JC crop

This project was done with my youngest group, some of whom are still under three, and it was quite challenging for them. I would recommend working one-on-one with this age-group (2-3 year olds) for this particular project, rather than one teacher to seven children as I did! The most challenging aspect for my very young students was following my instructions, when all they really wanted to do was to daub the paint on!

Before the class, I drew a simple outline of a rainbow and made A4 copies for each child. I opened up the laminating pouches and placed a rainbow outline under each one, before taping each pouch to the table top with masking tape. The children were also given brushes, water jars and paint palettes containing the primary colours.

wow bookI introduced the project by reading the storybook, WOW! Said the Owl, by Tim Hopgood, whose own blog can be viewed by clicking here

Young children love the colourful illustrations and the simple yet engaging story, in which a curious little owl stays up all day and experiences all the colours of the rainbow.

Then the children painted their own rainbows, painting and mixing each colour in turn, starting with red and ending with purple (standing in for indigo/violet!). They had to concentrate hard and listen carefully to know which colour to paint next, and how to mix the secondary colours in their palettes.

One reason I used the monoprinting technique for this project was in anticipation of the children getting carried away with their paintbrushes (which all of them did, at least once!) Because they were painting onto shiny plastic, I was able to wipe off any big mistakes.

DSCF6593 crop

At this age children mostly just want to paint without thinking about it too much, so it was expecting a lot that they would wait to find out the next colour in the sequence. By the end though, they were all focusing well and the process got easier!

Once everyone had painted their rainbows, a piece of paper was placed on top of the painted surface. The top layer of the laminating pouch was folded back over the top, and the the children pressed down all over. The children were excited to open it up again and peel up their paper to discover a rainbow magically printed on the reverse!

With this age-group the whole process took a while, and the red paint had already started to dry, meaning that the top of the rainbows didn’t print so well – another reason why this project might work better with slightly older students…

Despite this, I still love the results, and the children were delighted with their ‘magic’ rainbows!


  1. Well, it has happened. Finally. I am embarking on the adventure of opening my own art studio complete with classes for kids and parties for adults. I am super excited and super nervous. I am not an art teacher and so I must hire them. However, I do have a degree in early childhood/elementary education.
    Any advice, suggestions, ideas, assistance you could offer me since you have been this route and are obviously good at it, I would be honored to hear from you!

  2. Hello, mate! Six colours are actually correct in terms of the visible spectrum. Newton was somewhat obsessed with the number seven so named the colours that he observed with prisms accordingly. What he called ‘blue, indigo and violet’ corresponds to the colours of the visible spectrum that we now call cyan (Newton’s blue) and blue (Newton’s indigo and violet). So your children’s beautiful rainbows are fairly scientifically accurate. I love your blog, it’s amazing! Looking forward to trying your ideas with Edward.

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