Sand Painting

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Students can create their own sand paintings by following this lesson plan. Navajo people created sand paintings as a way of chasing away evil spirits.

By Andrea Mulder-Slater

The Navajo people still paint with sand
They make fine designs – they do it by hand.
As well as an art piece, the sand is a way,
To keep all the old evil spirits at bay.
Using sand from the beach and some paint and some spoons,
you can make sand art as bright as the moon.

Navajo sand painting Navajo sand painting






What You Need:

  • Empty jars or plastic yogurt containers
  • Powdered tempera paints in a variety of colors
  • Sand (from the beach or playground)
  • Paper, pencils, glue and popsicle sticks
  • Plastic spoons and a plastic or styrofoam tray

Sand painting.

What You Do:

  1. Draw out a picture on your paper and remember to keep it simple.
  2. Once the pencil sketch is complete, pour some sand into an empty container. Choose a color of powdered tempera and add just a little to dry sand. You will have to experiment when mixing the sand and the tempera to see how little or how much tempera you need. For more vibrant colors add more tempera.
  3. Once there are a few colors of sand mixed up, the “painting” can begin. Work at one small section at a time. First decide where the color is going, put an even layer of glue on the paper and pour some colored sand onto the glue using a plastic spoon.
  4. Repeat until the entire paper is covered.
  5. Let the sand painting dry and seal it using either artist’s fixative, hair spray, or spray it with a mixture of glue and water (80% glue, 20% water).

Add sand to the paper with spoons.

Sand painting with Nana.


One of the most effective images to create in sand is a landscape. Place a few wavy lines across the paper and fill in with different earth colors for a very compelling sand painting.

After each color has been applied, lift the paper up and shake lightly over a plastic or styrofoam tray to collect the excess sand to use again.