Designing Negative Space

Products Used

Additional Products

  • Gel Pens

Project Details

Developed by: Phyllis Brown, retired art educator, art education blogger at (There’s a Dragon in my Art Room)

Lesson Plan Ideas

Learning Objectives for Grades: 2-6

Students will:

  • Design a page using repeated shapes of an ordinary household object.
  • Understand the use of repetition and movement to create an interesting composition.
  • Understand the use of overlapping to help vary their composition.
  • Focus on the negative space (background) through use of repeated pattern and design.
  • Use their imagination to creatively design the negative space.


  1. Select one object to be traced repeatedly. For this sample, a scissors was used.

  2. Using a gel pen (white was used for this sample), trace the object repeatedly on the page, extending to the edges, and overlapping as desired. Turn object in various directions to trace to create interesting movement and use of space on the paper. Fill paper with the traced shapes.

    Step 2


  3. Discuss how to create interesting patterns and designs using repetition. Look at objects with repeated patterns and designs (wallpaper, fabric/clothing, rugs, furniture, etc.). Also look at images of repeated designs in nature (fish scales, snake skins, flower petals, etc.).


  4. Using gel pens, fill each section of the negative space with repeated designs. Do not color inside the objects at all. Vary the designs from section to section, to create a lively and interesting composition.

    Step 4


  5. If desired, mount on colored construction paper to frame; suggested size 11”x14”. I selected a piece of Tru-Ray® Construction paper to display the finished sample.

    Step 5


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