Symmetry and Colorful Art

This simple project is easy to do and creates impressive symmetrical designs. You can use it to create hearts, butterflies, flowers or creatures. Each student will see their own ideas in the colors created by mirroring one side of the paper.

Preparing the Students:

Discuss what symmetry is. Have students name an example in nature, an example in the human form or an example in math. Show your own examples of creative, colorful designs from pictures on the internet.

Bring in examples of reflection symmetry or radial symmetry such as a seashell in nature. A fun interactive website to create symmetry in art is found at:

At this website, symmetry and math are combined in a fun way. Students learn how to create a design along the x-axis, y-axis and along diagonal lines. There is choice of color, size and style of the line. Both reflection symmetry and rotational symmetry are choices given.

Valentine's Colors
Trace a heart on the design
Cut out heart shape


This simple project requires few materials:

  • Acrylic paint
  • Manilla tag or finger paint paper
  • Sharpie marker

First fold a piece of bristle board or manilla tag paper in half. Open it up again.

Pour blobs of paint somewhere near the crease of the paper. Reds, yellows, and purples look good together. Some lighter colors such as white or yellow make a nice contrast in the look.

Fold the paper and press the paint out to edges of the paper. Quickly open the paper again to reveal a psychedelic design.

When the paint is dry, use a black sharpie marker to define eyes, or other things needed to bring out the image you see in the design. Some people see faces, some see flowers, others see strange, or even evil creatures. Try to add the same details to both sides of the paper.

To add interest in upper grades, add 2 dimensional objects to the creation such as a pair of earrings, pipe cleaner, glasses, or wire antennae on the creature. What about goggled eyes, eyelashes, mustaches or other textured elements?

A bee?
Ice Cream Cone?
Blue Iris?

Hints and Tips

Tips for doing this project:

  • Allow the students to choose the colors they would like on their paper unless you would like to control the colors used to show the variations that this project can create.
  • To control the paint from squishing on to the table, press the paper lightly together.
  • Open paper shortly after closing, do not leave closed to dry.
  • Write names on the back of the paper before beginning as names will disappear on the painted side and if it has to be left to dry, students cannot remember which one is theirs. Cut out any shapes from the paper, such as a heart shape, once the paper is dry.
  • Use this lesson to create butterflies in spring. A related art project is the Bright Butterfly Art Project for Special Needs Students
  • Use this lesson to teach symmetry. Discuss how snowflakes can be made using line symmetry and radial symmetry. Preschool teachers can also teach the concept. Try Preschool Monarch Butterfly Craft and Lesson on Symmetry.
  • Other art lessons involving symmetry: use half of a human face or magazine picture and have the student draws the missing half.

symmetrical snowflake
symmetrical snowflake
mirror image?
mirror image

Colorful Creature Display

Students will love squishing the paint between two pieces of paper to produce a mixture of colorful paints. The design can be used for creating creatures, hearts, butterflies and flowers. Each student will see something different in their art. This colorful art projects leads well into discussions of types of symmetry and where symmetry is found. Older students can create mirror images using added materials such as earrings on their creature, or white snowflake cutouts over top of their colored backgrounds.

Display the creatures together so that all the different creatures created from the same procedure or same paint combinations can be shown. Use a title such as "Similar Symmetry" or "Mirrored Monsters". Use "Symmetree" as a title if you make all the creations as leaves on a large tree. Display all the art in a symmetrical arrangement on a bulletin board.

Photo Credits: Lila Kallstrom