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How to Add Color to Your School with Window Painting

As art teachers, we have a special blessing (and sometimes a curse) to constantly notice the areas of our schools that “need something.” Though our brains never seem to quite turn off, this artful eye is what makes us special.

Have you ever thought of having an “art takeover” on the windows of your school?

Windows painted with rainbows in a classroom

Benefits of window painting with your students:

  • It gives students ownership and pride over their school. It is especially poignant at the beginning of the school year to welcome new and returning artists!
  • A great tie-in for cross-curricular connections or art advocacy. If you are trying to make deeper connections for students, use a large-scale window painting project as a large “canvas” to demonstrate what your students have learned.
  • It is unique, satisfying, and memorable. Painting on glass doesn’t happen every day. The smooth surface is very rewarding and also requires students to think more closely about brushstroke directions.
  • It is a big statement piece that can easily be changed. With a little water and elbow grease, painted windows can be changed quickly and easily! It’s the perfect solution to add non-permanent, meaningful, and bold displays.

Rainbows painted on windows

Of course, before you start covering every surface of your school in paint, you’ll want to check with the administration to make sure you can move forward with your vision.

 FAQ’s to expect from the administration:

  • How does the paint come off the windows?
    Easily! When it’s time to clean up the window, all you need is a damp sponge and a messy towel to dry the window. Using tempera paint is the way to go. 
  • How will you protect the surrounding areas?
    Use painter’s tape to protect the edges of the window frames and cover the floor in paper or dropcloth. Tempera paint will easily wipe off most surfaces with a little water if it gets outside the desired space.
  • Who is going to paint the windows?
    Either the art teacher or trustworthy students, such as an art club or a group of selected artists.
  • Is this going to be expensive to do?
    Not particularly, many of the materials we will need are already in the art room. Non-consumables like paintbrushes and water cups are ready to use. The only consumable material is the tempera paint.

Once you’ve gotten approval to move forward with window painting, you’ll need to gather supplies and start planning. If your students are going to paint the windows, make sure you have chosen a big window that is low enough for little artists’ to reach. Remember to think about which side of the windows your students will paint. If possible, have students paint on the side with less foot traffic to avoid paint being scratched off by little fingers.

What you will need:

  • Paintbrushes
  • Tempera Paint
  • Cups for paint
  • Painter’s tape to protect window frame edges
  • Water cups
  • Old messy towel
  • Apron
  • Dropcloth or newspapers
  • Paper towels for quick mess cleaning

You will also want to think about a plan; perhaps your window painting design is related to a yearly theme. What is the best set of windows to use? Are there windows in the main office of your school that could help set a welcoming tone for your school? You can also use your window painting project as the perfect extension of what you would like artists to focus on during their school year.

You can even paint in the style of a particular artist, like this window inspired by Lucy Tiffney, known for her beautifully complex floral designs. Check out this timelapse video of Tiffney working on her own amazing mural.

Floral pattern painted on classroom windows

Do you know the magic of “art towels?” Keep old bath towels under the sink in your art room. When an entire cup of paint water spills or a student makes a lake at a table in an attempt to sponge off the tables, whip out your giant “art towels!” These giant messy towels are great for spills and emergencies but also great for cleaning painted windows. After sponging down the tempera paint design, simply wipe clean with a big “art towel.”

floral pattern on window in classroom

Next time you take a stroll around your school, take a closer look at the windows, and think of those spaces that “need something.” Window painting can be the perfect temporary solution to brighten up a space, showcase student work, and welcome new and returning artists. Just remember, there are so many surfaces where you or your students can add color and create meaningful large-scale projects!

What would you have your students paint on windows?
What age group do you think would be best for window painting?
Have you ever painted windows at your school?

Sarah Krajewski is an elementary art educator in Wisconsin. Her teaching philosophy is mirrored in her classroom mantra: "I am positive. I am creative. I am mindful. I am amazing. I am an artist.”

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