Eric Carle style Painted Paper Book Covers Part 2

Eric Carle style Painted Paper Book Covers Part 2

I began this journey in my last post about creating painted paper for this first grade art project, if you missed that- you can find it here.  Check it out because I have great tips on how to make the painted paper process easier for you!

Sharing the work of Eric Carle

I like to begin this project with information about Eric Carle. At the start of the first class I generally share his technique and show off a few illustrations from his books. I particularly like sharing this Klutz book, You Can Make a Collage, because of the tissue paper samples it provides.

Now the second class provides more time for background on the artist, which I like to share through his official website.  It has some nice slideshows, a few short videos and pictures from his childhood, which the kids really enjoy!  

The objective here is for students to create illustrated covers for the pattern books they are writing in their classrooms. The pattern books are modeled after Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? By Bill Martin Jr.  Illustrations are by Eric Carle and so Carle is the inspiration for students’ work.

Starting the Illustrations

At this time the students have already started or sometimes finished the interior of their pattern books. Their teacher provides me with a list of each student’s first animal.  I begin class by reminding the student which animal they will be illustrating.  Sometimes this is tricky when they’ve chosen a crazy animal- check out this rainbow buffalo!

I talk to the students about using shapes to create their illustrations.  This is a technique they’re already familiar with from past projects in kindergarten and first, but I always, always, always review as if it was the first time.  I like to have some pre-cut shapes to demonstrate with and still another blank paper on which I can demonstrate drawing a head & body shape and cutting it out.

  1. Draw the head and body together and cut them out as one piece.
  2. Folding the paper can give you two or four legs at once!
  3. Small details will be added later with marker.
  4. If you don’t have the color paper you need, anyone can use paper from the communal painted paper scrap box
  5. Backgrounds are the setting for your animal.  Where does this animal live in nature?


My other tip here is to use a glue sponge for painted paper collage.  Glue sponges are the best thing ever for collages.  It is essentially a sponge soaked in white glue.  The students just press their paper on the top of the sponge and stick it to their paper. In my experience, glue sticks do not have enough ‘stick’ to work well for multi-layered collage and first graders are still learning the right amount of white glue to squeeze out, so glue sponges are awesome!

Some years, I’ve had the students make absolutely everything with paper, but other times I allow the students to finish off their works with markers.  I actually like the mixed media look of the marker finishes and I have to say, it makes life a little easier.  This is especially true for students who are playing catch up from an absence.


The student work product is fantastic and the children are really proud of what they’ve made.  I always get a lot of compliments on their display and it is a fantastic multi-disciplinary work for the end of the year art display.  

How You Can Modify This Project:  Adaptive Art/Special Needs

Eric Carle is a very popular subject for children’s art! In the past I’ve done many variations on this project because I love the painted paper so much.  It’s a great opportunity to bring language arts into the classroom as well.  When I do this project with a  class that needs modifications, I might do it simply as a butterfly or caterpillar collage. In that case I would provide choice, but within a smaller frame.

For a special needs class, I’d recommend narrowing it to just butterflies. In fact, for an adaptive art class, it is worthwhile to note that straight lines are easier to cut than curves, so I would introduce the project as a butterfly with triangle shapes wings.  Students can then cut little pieces off of a strip to decorate the wings. I love the glue sponges for my adaptive art classes! It is so good for them to practice pressure, but not as hard as the white glue bottles.

As always, I recommend a visual directions sheet as a modification. It is also always useful to have step by step examples prepared.  So you might have the triangles traced, then a sample of the triangles cut, then a sample of the triangles glued, then a sample of the body added, etc.

Please leave a comment if you like this project or if you have any questions or comments! If you like lessons that have a language arts connection, check out this past post of mine about using storybooks as the prompt for my pre-k classes.  They are also good project ideas for any special needs class. Click here to see it!

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