Lesson 15

Clay—Cartoons in 3 dimensions

Art Projects for Primary School Students by Raquel Redmond

Chroma Art supplies, chromaonline.com

Chroma2 paint, from Chroma  Australia has been used in this painting tutorial.

Art Technique

Drawing and clay modelling

Age Group

Appropriate for students 5–12 years of age


A practical experience to draw cartoons and then create a clay character made out of clay.


4 sessions—drawing cartoons; modelling clay; painting and drawing with crayons

Room arrangement

Prepare all the art materials in advance. Cut the clay into lumps; prepare and source all the necessary equipment listed in the materials column on this page.


First session: Drawing with black pens

  • 4 or more A4 pieces of paper per student
  • 1 black medium point felt pen per student
  • 12 B/W A4 photocopies of faces from newspapers, books or magazines per group of 5–6 students.

Second session: Clay modelling

  • 2 x 10kg slabs of student quality clay, to be divided up in a class of 25
  • 1 metre of flexible wire or strong string to cut the clay
  • 2 paddle pop sticks per student
  • 2 containers of water per group of 5–6 students
  • 1 A4 sized piece of thick fabric, or plastic material per student for the clay work to be placed on the desks
  • 1 x 1 litre ice cream container tub per student to place clay works in when painting and and for transporting the clay works
  • Small newspapers to cover desks
  • 1 roll of masking tape to secure the newspaper
  • 1 x 9 litre bucket (standard household bucket) of water for clean up
  • Several rags or cut up old towels for clean up
  • 1 old extra large t-shirt to wear over uniforms or an art smock.

Third session: Painting

  • 1 x 2 litre Chroma2 paint in the following colours: warm and cool red, warm and cool blue, warm and cool yellow, black and white.
  • This set of paint should be sufficient quantity to supply a class of 25 students for one year and can be used across a variety of different art techniques. The primary colours will also mix all secondary colours and many more.
  • 1 medium sized paint brush per student
  • 1 small sized paint brush per student1 small rag per student for cleaning of hands and work area
  • 1 container of water per group of 5–6 students
  • 2 ice cube trays or small plastic containers with lids per group to contain paint. Refer to the video ‘Art in the Classroom’ to get ideas how to dispense paint to the class.
    small newspapers to cover desks roll of masking tape to secure the newspaper to the desks
  • 1 old extra large t-shirt to wear over uniforms or an art smock.

Drawing with Oil Pastels

  • 1 A3 size cartridge paper sheet per student
  • 2 boxes of oil crayons per group of 5–6 students

NOTE: Recyclable materials such as old t-shirts – newspapers – old towels – old rags – ice cream containers – ice cube trays etc, are resources that students can bring from home. Please refer to our PDF list of recyclable materials. Then tick the boxes of what you require for each tutorial and give to the student to take home as a reference for the materials they then
have to source.

This project has been designed to suit normal classroom conditions and illustrates how the classroom can be adapted to create working space required.

Paint notes

Paint spilt on garments will come off when washed by hand. Rinse the garment in cold running water and rub the area where the paint has dried. Soak for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight in a laundry tub or a bucket, add 2 table spoons of laundry detergent and enough water to cover the garment. After soaking, rub off the remaining paint in the sudsy water and hey presto... a clean shirt!

Clay—Cartoons in 3 dimension deals with facial expressions and a sense of humour. It is a fun project that young students love, as using clay is one of the most popular art techniques. This art project can be approached in two ways. The first being adopting a cartoon style and the second is creating a clay model based on members of the community such as politicians, sport heroes, your teacher or even a favourite movie or rock star. The approach you take will depend on the age group that you are teaching.


This project offers the students the opportunity to create a character in 3 dimension; to learn about exaggerating the features on the human face and modelling clay by hand. Students will initially draw several cartoons with exaggerated features using black pens, prior to making their clay caricature.

Visual references

Source references of people from magazines, newspapers, cartoons or books and photocopy them as required. If possible, also refer to artists such as Paul Klee and his puppets; the caricatures of artist Honoré Daumier, and paintings and drawings by artist Jean Dubuffet.

Room set up and Preparation

Prepare all the art materials in advance. Cut the clay into lumps; prepare and source all the necessary equipment listed in the materials column on this page.

Before presenting the project to the class, teachers should photocopy their references of people at A4 size, to have sufficient quantities available for each of the students participating in the activity. Each group of four–six students should have a bank of photocopies to share and refer to.

First Session

Show visual references and discuss the various features of the face. If you have access to a supply of small plastic mirrors, allocate a mirror to each of the students so they can see their faces closely and they can experiment with ‘making faces’.

As an introduction to the 3D Cartoon project, students will draw faces with medium thickness black pens onto sheets of A4 white paper referring to the black and white photocopies and will then transform the faces using exaggerated features and expressions such as a pointed nose, eyes that ‘pop’, big ears, large teeth, raised eyebrows and funny hair.

NOTE: it is better for students to draw and experiment in black pen on paper first. Drawing with black pens will help them to create characters in a spontaneous and direct way. If students use pencils for this exercise, they will be tempted to erase their drawings many times and as a result, their line work will be hesitant rather than spontaneous and fluid.

The whole first session should be dedicated to experimentation and developing their cartoon drawing. A number of drawings can be completed until they have enough of an idea as to how they wish to create their clay character. At the end of the session each student should have a picture of the character they would like to mould
and form out of clay.

NOTE: Some very young children might not refer to their drawings but rather create their characters as they work with the clay. This shouldn’t matter as they will enjoy both of the experiences—that of drawing cartoons with black pens and then manipulating and working with the clay.

Second Session

The room set up will be the same as the first session and all the clay and equipment would have already been dispensed on the tables ready to go.

Each of the students will have two lumps of clay about the size of a large orange. One will be used to create the head and the other will be for the shoulders and features. They also will have a piece of thick fabric or plastic where to place the clay so that it doesn’t stick to the newspaper. If working with young children, prepare the clay by shaping it into two balls and make sure that the clay is moist and soft. It is helpful to engage two or three parents to assist when working with students from years one to year three. Show students how to make the lumps into balls by rolling the clay on the mat using a circular motion. It is better that the two parts are joined together before starting to work on the features. Keep one ball rounded and flatten one end of the other ball by pressing gently on the table to allow the shoulders and head to stand up right, then join the two pieces. Insert a paddle pop stick in the middle of this piece of clay and then place the second ball of clay onto it. It is a good idea to provide the students with ice cream containers to place their clay work in for easy manoeuvring, storage and transporting the clay characters back to the shelves for storage.

When the head and the shoulders are joined students will then commence to add the exaggerated features. If the school doesn’t have access to a kiln, it is recommended to paint the clay character all over with PVA glue to make it stronger. Please allow the clay to then air dry over few days prior to painting.

Third Session Painting

At this stage, the clay heads will be ready for painting. Place the paint and equipment in the middle of the grouped desks and give the students their air dried characters.

Students will place the clay on top of newspaper or on top of an upside down ice cream tub and will start to paint the big areas with medium sized paint brushes and then add the detail, such as the eyes, mouth, hair, and clothing with the smaller paint brush.

At the end of painting session, students can carry their wet clay safely back to the shelves, inside the ice cream containers.

NOTE: After the clay character has been painted and has thoroughly dried apply a coat of acrylic varnish for
a glossy finish.

Fourth Session

Drawing with oil crayons

When making 3 dimensional objects there also presents an opportunity for another drawing and observation session.

It is good practice to encourage the students to approach the same theme in different ways as in this case, 2D and 3D representations.

In the last session, students will group their characters in the centre of the table and then refer to this ‘grouped still life’ to create a line drawing using one of the coloured crayons. They will then draw the grouped clay characters from side to side and then change perspective, and view from top to bottom onto an A3 sheet of paper. After the line drawing has been completed, it will be time for them to apply colour and have even more fun.

1. Exaggerated facial features being worked into the clay.
2. Student rolling pieces of clay to use as lengths of hair on the character
3. Clay character covered with a layer of PVA glue.
4. The clay character is much stronger after the PVA glue has been applied.
5. Painted clay character.
6. Coloured drawings depicting the grouped clay characters