The Colors of Us: Self-Portraits

self-portraitsOne of our favorite books lately is The Colors of Us by Karen Katz. It is a story about a mother and daughter who explore the wonderful nuances of people’s skin color. The Colors of Us takes us out of a black and white world and into a celebration of the multiplicity of skin tones. After reading the book, the girls asked if they could paint portraits just like the main character of the story did…

self-reflection1. We started our endeavor by talking about self-portraits.  I gave the girls mirrors and asked them to look at their eyes, nose, lips and shape of their faces; paying particular attention to the lines and details that they see.  I also showed them Mobility of Expression, which is a portfolio of self-portraits done by children in the schools of Reggio Emilia.

Black Line Drawing2. Using thin Sharpie markers, the girls drew black line drawings of their faces.  They continued to use the mirrors in order to pay close attention to details.

Mixing Skins Colors3. Next, we took on the task of mixing paints to match the color of their skin.  At first, we tried to follow the suggestion in the book The Colors of Us, but all we came up with was a gray color.  After doing some research on the internet we followed this recipe and had great success.  The second half of our project was a color mixing extravaganza!  Their entire self-portraits were created with colors they mixed themselves simply using the primary colors and white paint.


With over 10 years of EDU experience and a growing family, Mariah started Playful Learning in 2008 as a resource for parents and teachers. In 2010 Playful Learning received the Parent’s Choice Gold Medal, and in August of 2011, Shambhala Publications released her first book, Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder. Mariah has an M.S. Ed in Elementary Education and was that girl sitting in the back of class thinking about what she would do differently if she was the teacher. Now she is happily working with a team of gifted educators to bring life-changing lessons to children, families, and schools around the world. In her free time she can be found taking long walks, enjoying a cup of tea, or swimming in the Atlantic with her husband and two daughters.



Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Did you make those printed portrait sheets yourself, or did you find that resource somewhere? I’d love to get a copy to use with my students if possible!

Sign up for Our Newsletter!