MyPaint to teach the basics of drawing to children

Ok, here is a description of one part of my work, teaching things I am still learning ! In this case, digital drawing (or painting if you prefer, and I think you learn about it all your life).

The objective of this post is to give some ideas to people wishing to introduce school children to digital painting but who are a little scared or don’t know where to start !


My “students” are from 6 to 11 years old, and I am using MyPaint and some Wacom Bamboo in order to teach how to draw on a computer and… Simply how to draw.

Digital painting is quite different of what they are used to. For them being in front of a computer with a “magic” stylus is quite exciting, but as soon as we start to sketch something they realize that the tool is not making the artist… and they are deeply disappointed…

So the objective is to bring some projects which will progressively introduce the basics, both from the traditional skill and the digital one.

Here is my first example with 10 years old children : they watched with the school the movie “Le Roi et l’Oiseau” from Paul Grimault, which has nice castle architecture, with some great perspectives.

So the idea was to use this event to introduce them to those concepts :

  • Perspective in composition and line thickness
  • Volumes (cylinder, cube, cone)
  • Light and shadow

And in the digital way with MyPaint :

  • Pressure sensitivity for line thickness and shift+clic for drawing straight lines
  • Undo / Redo
  • Brush selection (limited to 4 brushes we put in favoris) and switching to eraser
  • Color selection with HSV triangle (how to get darker color from one already used)
  • Layers (one layer for perspective grid, another for outline, one more for color and shadows, another one for sky and background clouds and one last for foreground clouds if any)

At the beginning I am just asking them to draw a castle as big as the one from the movie, and they are drawing something like this :

castle01Not really impressive, but at least the man is giving the scale.

So I project on the whiteboard the movie poster with some perspective lines in order to show what I am expecting during the project :

le_roi_et_l_oiseauThen I gave them a template for MyPaint, which include 2 layers, one locked containing the perspective lines, and another one called outline. I have also drawn a small tower in the bottom to help them start from one point, even if children are not as afraid as we are of the white empty sheet of paper…

Here is an animation showing the different steps during those 8 sessions of 45 min, with a day version and a quick and dirty night one (click for animation) :


During this process, I am continuously explaining and repeating why the shadows are on this side of the buildings, why the towers are made of ellipses,  etc… And I am drawing some towers of different sizes so that it helps those who are shy and create some emulation between the “adventurers”.

One thing which is nice is to write the shortcuts on the whiteboard of the classroom if you use them, but with most of the needed tools present as icons you can avoid most of them.

That’s it, MyPaint is fast, intuitive, with a simple UI so it’s the perfect software for this kind of activity. And more, it’s free as in freedom, so children can download the software at home (or I can give it to them on a USB key) and show to their family what they learned at school !

Here is another one, faster to do. A teacher showed me this video (sorry for the advertisement at the beginning) :

Here is my version and two from my “students” :


I like the simplification of the middle one. It’s not ultra accurate, but they will redo it (proudly) and it will get better with repetition…

Some others on the theme of circus :


It’s always simple (the last one is mostly big strokes, playing with pressure sensitivity for the size of circles, rather recreational) and I always tend to bring some old things we have viewed during past sessions to give them some confidence, but there is always one new thing to teach.

Once they are more used to the tablet, color selection and color blending, you can go further with different styles :


So if you want to introduce digital painting to your school children, MyPaint is a tool of choice, the most difficult part is to get new ideas and having the good pedagogy, but hopefully this post will help.

If you have some ideas too, or want to share something don’t hesitate, and I hope this post will give you the wish to draw or to introduce someone to digital painting.

If you want more about colors, shading, etc, you can watch this great resource from David Revoy (It all started with this for me !)

I take the opportunity to thanks all the MyPaint developers for this incredible piece of software !

PS : If you see some mistakes in translation, please contact me.

This post is also available in french.

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