Media & Techniques

5 Ways to Use Notebook Paper to Create Art

Notebook paper and pens

Art Education and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

When it comes to teaching art online, it’s often difficult to know what materials our students have access to at home. Some of our students might have an entire studio of supplies, while others have minimal, more basic materials. Planning for both ends of the spectrum can be difficult. However, it’s important to know what our students have available to them and provide activities and lessons that require simple materials.

Notebook paper and pens

One material that might be readily available to students is notebook paper. Although we don’t typically think of notebook paper as a fine art material, it can be a perfect medium to use when it’s all students have access to. Whether it be for sculptural exploration or drawing, traditional lined notebook paper holds a lot of versatility. Alternately, the ideas provided below can be done with any paper.

5 Ways to Use Notebook Paper to Create Art

1. Create a 3-D Shoe

Shoe made from notebook paper

Although notebook paper might seem a little thin and flimsy, this makes it a versatile material to bend and fold. If you’re looking to give your students some 3-D activities, try creating a shoe. To do this, you will only need paper, scissors, and tape or glue. First, start by creating a 2-D blueprint for whatever style of shoe you’d like to create. For this part, you will want to make sure to have a sole, two sides, a toe cap, and a piece for the heel. Depending on the style of shoe being built, more or fewer pieces might be needed. If you want to add color to your shoe, this should be done before cutting the blueprint out. When you’re ready, cut out the pieces and tape or glue them together to create a 3-D shoe. Take a look at this video for a more in-depth guide to making 3-D paper shoes.

2. Origami

Did you know there are several benefits to the origami practice? Not only does origami increase student focus and mindfulness, but it also helps improve spacial-visualization skills.  It can be a mood booster and help foster skills in other academic areas. The great thing about origami is that it is accessible, and there are so many different ways to try it. There are advanced and beginner folding techniques, making it appropriate for all ages. Better yet, you can create origami with a simple sheet of notebook paper! Here are three simple origami ideas to get your students started.

3. Create 3-D Pop-Ups

Umbrella pop-up artwork

To continue the idea of paper folding, creating cards with a pop-up element is always a fun surprise. Although this process is typically done with a heavier weight of paper with the right bending and folding, the same can be done with notebook paper. Students might choose to keep the blank integrity of the notebook paper or add color with a material like markers. Check out these different ways students can start creating different pop-up elements.

4. Optical Illusion Lined Paper Drawing

artwork drawn on notebook paper

Typically, we aren’t thrilled to find beautiful drawings created by our students on notebook paper because the lines often impede the drawing. However, sometimes the lines of the paper can be used to our students’ advantage. Challenge your students to create an optical illusion within the lines of the paper. Using the lines as a visual element will not only make for a creative drawing but can teach your students the importance of space and overlapping.

5. Pixel Art

Cupcake image drawn on paper

Sometimes the notebooks your students have might contain grid paper commonly used for graphing in math classes. If students don’t have graph paper, they can easily turn their notebook paper into a grid as they already have half of the lines there! With the simple use of a ruler, your students will be able to finish off the grid in no time. While the grid lines created might be too small for traditional grid drawing, it’s an excellent opportunity to challenge your students to create some pixel art. Pixel art takes a different approach to drawing, and it can improve drawing skills. It encourages a “less is more” approach forcing the artist to focus and isolate what is most important in an image and use only that.

Join us for the NOW Conference to learn more. 

While notebook paper might not seem like the most exciting material, it can provide students with limited art supplies a way to create. The next time you find yourself needing to come up with a few activities requiring minimal supplies, try out one of the ideas above.

How else could notebook paper be used to create art?
What is your favorite basic material to create with that most students have at home?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Abby Schukei

Abby Schukei, a middle school art educator and AOEU’s Social Media Manager, is a former AOEU Writer. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

More from Abby