Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Carbon paper transfer fun for tested-out zombie kids.

So, at one of my schools I found a huge pile of this stuff:

Carbon paper!  

This particular carbon paper was packed with purple ink and through some experimentation I found that this ink was extreeeemely reactive to water (it bled like crazy) as well as it STAINS really bad.  Purple sinks and counter tops.  Eep.

Anyway, my older elementary kids are in the middle of some standardized testing and I thought they could use a nice loose one-day project to unwind.

So - We read "Beautiful Oops" by Barney Saltzberg and talked about how in art (and life) if you make a mistake sometimes you can turn it around into something even better.  If you have not read this book - do.  If you do not own it - you should.  It's a real confidence booster and helps kids think of mistakes as opportunities rather than failures.

ANYWAY - I gave them 4"x6" watercolor paper, carbon paper, crayons and the option to either add water using a paintbrush or by dipping into a tub of water.  They were to create a "Beautiful Oops" by allowing themselves to simply draw on the carbon paper, not knowing exactly what their final drawing would look like (since the carbon paper covered the transfer as they drew).

On a side note:  This carbon paper sans water would be good for blind contour drawings as well...

Here are a couple pics of the results:

They remind me of Paul Klee!

That's it for now!  Thought I would share since it turned out to be a very fun project!


  1. Ha ha... you just reminded me of something funny that happened to me while teaching probably 20 years ago!
    To begin with, I think what you were using was NOT carbon paper, but was a "ditto master" (also called "Spirit Master" - note the name on the box). You are too young to remember the wonderful toxic-smelling copies made by running a ditto master through a machine to make copies.
    Anyhow, I used to have my 4th graders draw their homes, and then we would use carbon paper to transfer them to watercolor paper. Magic! And then of course we painted them.
    But one year I ran out of carbon paper and resorted to using the ditto masters, since they seemed to work OK. These pictures were BIG - 18x24". Anyhow, we started to paint and kaboom - an explosion of purple everywhere. Purple houses and lawns and roofs and trees and skies, purple hands, and purple arms, and time to get on the bus. It was one of those mistakes I never made again!
    Thanks for sending me down memory lane.

    And congrats on starting a blog!

  2. Yes, I knew it wasn't the carbon paper I know and love (in fact I originally WAS going to have them watercolor until I discovered it's true nature) but I wasn't sure what to call it haha!

    It turned out to be a (mostly) happy accident. I did get some flak for staining a counter at one of the schools I work at...eep!

  3. Great use of "retired" office supplies!I haven't seen a box of those in years! LOL