How Your Kids Can Make Impressionist Art: Monet Photo Project

Do you enjoy observing nature with your kids?

Have you noticed how the light at different times of day changes the way we see colors?

Make your kids’ “impressions” of the outdoors come to life with a fun and easy art project.

In this article I’ll show you how to transform nature photos into Impressionistic works of art with a simple photo transfer technique. Head outside with your kids and take some pictures, Monet-style.

Want a simple art project that shows beauty, nature and light? Get a camera. The Monet photo project is a fun way to turn outdoor photos into impressionist art.

Why Make Impressionistic Photo Transfers?

Impressionism is a movement in painting that originated in France in the late 1800s. Most Impressionist painters focused on capturing the “impressions” of light and color outdoors.

This project includes the essence of what an Impressionist observes so you can create a fun and easy photo project with your kids, Monet-style.

To make your own Impressionistic art, you and your kids get to spend time outdoors at different times of day to observe nature in the light and take pictures of it.

It’s a great way to nurture their creativity, look at the world in a whole new way and bring out their inner artists (and yours, too!).

Impressionistic paintings are beautiful, but time-consuming, especially since outdoor lighting changes quickly. They are usually created by the artist using strong bold colors and short brushstrokes.

impressionist collage

Here are some examples of Impressionist paintings. Claude Monet—Haystack, 1865. Camille Pissarro—Orchard in Blossom, Louveciennes, 1872. Mary Cassatt—Lilacs in a Window, 1880. Image source: WikiPaintings.

This way is much easier! I’ll show you how to turn your outdoor photos into “impressions” that you can transfer onto paper, like this:

close up of roses

Here’s a close-up example of a photo transfer.

The original inspiration for this photo transfer technique can be found here.

Fun Facts About Claude Monet

Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840.

He is one of the most famous painters in the history of art and a leading painter of the Impressionist movement.

claude monet

Oscar-Claude Monet was a founder of French Impressionist painting. Image source: Wikipedia.

Monet is most known for his series of paintings depicting the same subject matter during different times of day and in different weather. Monet painted many everyday subjects like haystacks, water lilies, buildings and churches.

Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise was described as “impressionistic.” This term was adopted by other artists of the time who painted with a similar technique.

impression sunrise

Claude Monet—Impression, Sunrise, 1873. Image source: WikiPaintings.

Here is an excerpt from Monet’s biography on Biography.com:

“Sometimes Monet traveled to find other sources of inspiration. In the early 1890s, he rented a room across from the Rouen Cathedral, in northwestern France, and painted a series of works focused on the structure. Different paintings showed the building in morning light, midday, gray weather and more; this repetition was a result of Monet’s deep fascination with the effects of light.”


This series of paintings is beautifully captured in this video.

Can you imagine standing on the banks of the river and watching the sunrise?

Do you notice the short brushstrokes and small dabs of brightly colored paint Monet used?

How will you use Monet’s style to inspire your artwork?

You Will Need

Preparation Time

10 minutes to gather supplies, not including time to go out and purchase transparency sheets (this is a not a typical item found in most homes)

Activity Time

Outside:

15+ minutes outside over one or two days at different times of day (Plan this project for a day when you’ll be around your house so you can take photos throughout the day.)

Inside:

  • 30 minutes on a computer to create a collage of photos
  • 30 minutes to print and transfer photos to paper

Locations

  • Outdoors for photos, ideally your front- or backyard
  • Inside with a computer and printer to complete the project

Before you embark on your own Monet photo project, spend some time in your local library and read about Impressionism in art books. Or do research with your kids online.

Take a look at the vast collection of Impressionistic artwork on the art movement: Impressionism page of WikiPaintings.

#1: Get Inspired!

Share the Monet video with your family and talk about the differences among each of his paintings on the same subject. Notice how the colors of the subject changed depending on the time of day and the weather when he painted them.

Can you guess what time of day Monet may have painted these views of the same scene by looking at these paintings?

monet rouen

Here is a snapshot of Google image search results for “Monet Rouen.”

Ask your kids what they think they’ll observe when you go outside. Explain the difference between seeing things and observing them.

  • Will the light be bright?
  • Is the sun still up?
  • What might you find?

You’ll go outside several times to take pictures, so vary the questions each time.

Are you ready to observe your surroundings and see the outdoors like an Impressionist?

#2: Head Outdoors to Take Photos

Grab your camera and go outside. Observe the light and colors around you.

Talk about the things you notice. If you have more than one child, be sure to take turns sharing your observations. Parents, take a turn too.

  • How is the light? Is it bright? Is it soft?
  • Do the colors you see appear bold and bright or are they soft and less bright?
  • What’s the first thing that catches your attention when you get outside?

Have everyone find something to photograph for this project.

You can all take a picture of the same thing or choose different subjects. If you use the same camera (or camera phone), it’ll be easier to keep track if everyone takes pics of something different.

taking picture of rose

Choose something that catches your eye to photograph. My daughter chose her favorites—roses—as her subject matter.

Explain that you will take several photos throughout the day to capture different “impressions of the same subject in different light.

Take several photos of your subject each time, so that you have plenty of choices later.

#3: Head Outside Again and Take More Photos

Wait several hours until the light has changed. This might be a fun time to do another art project, if your kids are up for it.

Then, head outside again and take another photo of your subject. Do this several times throughout the day to record your subject in different lighting.

Ideally, take photos at least three or four different times of day. If you don’t get enough photos the first day, you can always take a few more the next day at a different time.

Notice how the lighting changes the colors throughout the day. Spend this time with your kids observing the beauty that’s right outside your door!

3 rose pictures

Take photos over one or two days. We took photos over two days so that we could capture the different light during each time of day. We caught our rosebud opening too.

Grab a pen and paper and note each time you go out. That way, you can track the time you take each photo.

#4: Make a Digital Photo Collage

Once you’re satisfied that you have enough photos, make a photo collage.

Download your photos so they are easily accessible on your computer. Then decide which ones you want to use.

picmonkey collage

We used PicMonkey to make our photo collage.

One of the easiest ways to quickly edit or collage photos is to use PicMonkey.com. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to use PicMonkey to create your photo collage.

How to Use PicMonkey

Go to PicMonkey.com to start your collage.

Note: You don’t need to create an account to use this website.

click on collage

Go to PicMonkey.com and click on Collage.

Click on Collage, and you’ll be prompted to select the photos from your computer that you would like to collage.

choose collage

Choose the Collage button you see by the yellow arrow.

Next, you’ll be prompted to choose the composition you would like for your photos.

Set your resolution at the bottom of the screen to 3000 x 2400 for an 8″ x 10″ photo presentation. Find all print size information here.

square deal

Choose the composition for your project. We chose “Square Deal.” Then select print size.

Place your photos in the composition.

place your photos

Place your photos in your composition.

Once you’re happy with the order, click Edit on the top menu bar. This will open your photo in the image editor.

To transfer the photo how you see it, we need to print its mirror image. Click on the icon of crop marks and you can select Rotate.

reverse your image

Reverse your image and SAVE!

I’ve indicated the mirror image icon with the yellow arrow. Once you rotate the image, click Save.

name and save your file

Name your file and save to your computer.

Once you save the reversed image, you can move on to the next step.

#5: Print Your Collage

Print your collage on a transparency sheet using your inkjet printer.

The transparency sheet will NOT absorb the ink* and the sheet will be very WET when it’s finished printing.

*Please note this is reason you need copier transparency sheets and not inkjet transparency sheets.

printer tray and supplies

Load the transparency sheet into the printer tray. Have your art paper ready for the next step.

Check your printer settings. I found that it works best to use the Normal setting for plain paper. You may need to try different settings for your printer to find the best results.

Since the inkjet printer shoots tiny droplets of ink onto the transparency sheet, this will mimic the small dabs of paint like an impressionist. Sound good?

Now, print your photo!

transparency print

The print will be VERY WET!

Note: Adult supervision is REQUIRED to handle the transparency print to avoid smears and smudges.

Carefully retrieve the transparency from the printer. Handle the print very carefully as the wet ink can smudge easily.

#6: Transfer Your Print to Paper

Carefully place your transparency with the wet ink side down onto your white paper.

transparency on top of paper

Carefully lay the transparency on top of the paper.

Carefully hold or tape the transparency sheet down to the sheet of paper. Use your hand to smooth the transparency sheet on the paper to begin the ink transfer. Do not move or wiggle the transparency sheet.

Take the back of a spoon and gently rub the transparency to transfer as much ink as possible. Move the spoon over the image in several different directions with smooth firm pressure to help the ink transfer evenly.

transfer ink to paper

Carefully transfer the ink to the paper by rubbing the transparency with the flat side of a spoon.

When you think it’s done, carefully lift one corner of your transparency to see if the ink has transferred enough. Remember, the ink will not transfer completely. The goal is that you have an “impression” of your photo on the paper, not a perfect photo transfer.

When you have transferred as much ink as possible, lift your transparency sheet from the paper.

finished photo transfer

Your finished photo transfer.

Voilà! You’ve captured your “impressions” on paper!

Take a moment to observe the print and discuss what you see.

See how the tiny droplets of ink have transferred to the paper? These tiny droplets up close might look blurry and messy. However, when you step away and look from a little distance, you can see your subject emerge from your impressions!

What do you notice?

Can you see how different the colors are in each photo of the same subject?

What time of day do you see the brightest colors?

What time of day are the colors less bright?

Which photo does your child like the best? Why?

Which one do you like the best?

All artists should sign and date their prints. That way, everyone will remember the wonderful time you created this one-of-a-kind piece of art!

Some Final Thoughts

Bringing photos to life in a Monet-inspired style is an excellent way to make an impression! Hopefully you’ll view nature in a different way. You may even want to try this project again, perhaps in a different season.

Time with your kids enjoying nature and appreciating the beauty around you is always time well-spent. When you make the extra effort to capture that beauty with a piece of art, you create a reminder of a memory that will last a lifetime.

What do you think? Did you enjoy this mini art history lesson on Impressionism? Will you look at things differently next time you go outside? I’d love to hear your thoughts and see the artwork from your Monet photo project. Please share it below.

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About the Author, Crystal Foth

Crystal Foth is a mom and artist based in Los Angeles, CA. She manages 19 Southern California art studios and spends her free time enjoying creative adventures with her daughter. Other posts by »


  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, Crystal! What a great way to hone kids’ observation skills–have them compare how something looks at different times of day. Thanks for the art lesson!

  • http://www.fineartmom.com/ Crystal Foth

    Thanks Jennifer – Monet is one of our favorite artists! I love taking our observations and making artful memories. We had a great time making them!

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ KJ Ammerman

    Love your article, Crystal! I love that you’re sharing how to do photo transfers and learning about classic art at the same time! -Kristin

  • http://www.fineartmom.com/ Crystal Foth

    Thanks KJ! I loved taking the classical approach behind choosing our subject matter and making creative observations and then “painting” with our inkjet printer! Old world meets new world! :)

  • http://www.fineartmom.com/ Crystal Foth

    @jenniferballard:disqus @KJAmmerman:disqus Check out this print I made using this technique with two of my favorite landscape photos I took at different times of day!

  • http://impossiblyfun.wordpress.com/ Lola Reed

    Such a great idea- and a great way to introduce your kids to Impresssionist Art. We’ll be doing this project and then going to see Monet in London- can’t wait to see what Hamish will make of it having had a chance to do it himself. Here’s a photo from our garden that I’m going to ‘Impressionize’

  • http://www.fineartmom.com/ Crystal Foth

    Hi Lola! I love following this project up with a museum trip to see a real Monet! I can’t wait to see the results. This was such a fun project. Be sure to post your print so we can see it! Thank you for comment! :)

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Gorgeous! Love it!!!

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