Color Theory Gyotaku – Kindergarten

Warm and Cool Gyotaku

This lesson will build upon the concept of color, especially primary colors, by introducing the kindergarten students to warm and cool colors. It will also introduce these students to Gyotaku, a traditional Japanese form of fish printing or rubbing.



NAEA.VA.K-4.1 Content Standard: Understanding and applying media, techniques and processes.
NAEA.VA.K-4.4 Content Standard: Understanding the Visual Arts in relation to history and cultures.

Common Core

Speaking and Listening Standards K–5

1. Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

a. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others and taking turns speaking about the topics and texts under discussion).

b. Continue a conversation through multiple exchanges.

Illinois Visual Arts Standards

IL.26.A Standard: Understand processes, traditional tools and modern technologies used in the arts.

IL.27.A Standard: Analyze how the arts function in history, society and everyday life.

Colorado Visual Arts Standards

Standard: 1. Observe and Learn to Comprehend

– Concepts to Master- 1. Artists and viewers recognize characteristics and expressive features within works of art.

Standard: 2. Envision and Critique to Reflect

– Concepts to Master-  1. Identify that art represents and tells stories of people, places, and things.

Standard: 3. Invent and Discover to Create

– Concepts to Master- 1. Create art to communicate ideas, feelings, or emotions.

Standard: 4. Relate and Connect to Transfer

– Concepts to Master- 1. Artists and viewers contribute and connect to their communities.


Students will know (knowledge):

  1. The students will know warm (red, yellow & orange) from cool (blue, green and violet) colors.
  2. The students will know that specific colors can be used to communicate temperature.
  3. The students will know about the Gyotaku, the traditional form of fish printing/rubbing.

Students will be able to (define by audience, behavior, conditions):

1. The students will be able to list warm and cool colors.

2. The students will be able to create a fish print employing warm and/or
cool colors.

Essential Question:

Can a color make you feel warm or cold?

How and why do traditions change from generation to generation?


• Temperature activity using a hand warmer and ice. Two student volunteers are chosen to stand in front of the class. They are both asked to close their eyes and each are given an object. One student receives a hand warmer, the other a piece of ice (I’ve found that freezing a small water balloon is the cleanest way to approach this). The students are asked to share what they feel and the instructor will lead the discussion from hot and/or cold to seasons and their associated colors. The goal is to have the children help define and list three cool & three warm colors on the board.

• Group reading of Dr. Seuss’ ‘One Fish, Two Fish.’ Students should be asked about the primary and secondary colors that are referenced in the book. They can also be asked if they think the red and blue fish are warm or cool (see visual aid in photo gallery).

• Introduction to Gyotaku, traditional Japanese printmaking.


A printing station will be set up and it will include tempera paint, paintbrushes, paper and rubber Gyotaku fish molds (available from most art stores or the students can use real fish). The students will be called to the printing station in pairs and the teacher will ask the students if they want a warm or cool fish. The instructor will then apply paint and paper to the Gyotaku mold and the student will help the teacher with the rubbing transfer.

Paper, pencils, crayons and markers will be set out at the student tables. The children will be asked to use these materials to create an underwater scene (the instructor will lead a discussion, prior to printing, and the students will help create a list of things that make up an underwater scene, i.e. sand, shells, seaweed, other aquatic animals, etc.) while they are waiting to print.

The students will cut out their fish print, once they have dried, and they are free to add more color and detail using pencil, crayons and markers. Finally, the students will create a school of fish that incorporates all of their fish prints on a larger scale underwater backdrop (previously created by the instructor).


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