SELF-PORTRAIT COLLAGE – Portfolio, Shape, Detail

Students use construction paper to create a self-portrait collage on a folded piece of Bristol board to be used as a personal portfolio.

Required Time

160 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 1 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Visual Arts


collage colour contrast detail negative space positive space proportion self-portrait shape symmetrical


Crayola Construction Paper Crayola Scissors Crayola Glue Sticks Bristol Board - Assorted Colours Hole Punches Yarn Small Mirrors - 1 per student

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SELF-PORTRAIT COLLAGE – Portfolio, Shape, Detail - Step One

Step One

  1. Check in a mirror to view the shape and details of your face.
  2. Choose the face shape tracer that matches the shape of your face (oval, round, oblong, square).
  3. Use the tracer to draw the shape on a piece of coloured construction paper.
SELF-PORTRAIT COLLAGE – Portfolio, Shape, Detail - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Cut out the face shape.
SELF-PORTRAIT COLLAGE – Portfolio, Shape, Detail - Step Three

Step Three

  1. To make the shoulders and neck fold a piece of coloured paper in half short end to short end.
  2. Start cutting at the outside edge opposite the fold.
  3. Cut up, curve across for the shoulders and then go straight up for the neck.
SELF-PORTRAIT COLLAGE – Portfolio, Shape, Detail - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Open it up to see what you have.
  2. It’s a symmetrical shape.
  3. Make sure the neck is not too thin.
SELF-PORTRAIT COLLAGE – Portfolio, Shape, Detail - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Start adding details to complete the portrait.
  2. Remember to draw with scissors not a pencil.
SELF-PORTRAIT COLLAGE – Portfolio, Shape, Detail - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Choose a contrasting colour for the letters of your name. 
  2. Cut out enough rectangles to make each letter of your name.
  3. Check to see if the rectangles will fit in your space.
  4. Cut out the letters with the least number of cuts possible.
  5. Try to visualize the shape of the letter and imagine how you could fold the paper before cutting.
  6. You’ll be cutting away the negative shapes.
SELF-PORTRAIT COLLAGE – Portfolio, Shape, Detail - Step Seven

Step Seven

  1. Place your letter on a piece of scrap paper before applying the glue.
  2. Place the letter in the correct spot.
  3. Place a clean scrap paper on top of your letter and rub the surface of the paper to stick the letter in place.
  4. Continue until all letters have been glued in place.
SELF-PORTRAIT COLLAGE – Portfolio, Shape, Detail - Step Eight

Step Eight

  1. Use a hole punch to make holes along one short end of the folded Bristol board.
  2. Use yarn or ribbon to sew the Bristol board together.
SELF-PORTRAIT COLLAGE – Portfolio, Shape, Detail - Step Nine

Step Nine

  1. Use the portfolio to store your works in progress and finished artworks.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • use paper collage technique to create a recognizable self-portrait;
  • recognize and use contrast in a composition;
  • visualize positive and negative shapes;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • store works-in-progress and completed artworks in their portfolio;
  • review their portfolio work at the end of each term;
  • decide which pieces demonstrate their growth over time of technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • explain their choices.


  1. Gather enough portrait images for each student to have one.
    You may want to download images from the Internet and print them in postcard size, e.g.,
    Henry VIII
    Persian King
    Cardinal Richelieu
    Van Gogh
    Apache Man
  2. Create an exemplar of your own portrait collage to share with students.
  3. Cut out tracers for a variety of face shapes. (Downloads - FaceShapeTracers.pdf)
  4. You may want to download Proportions of the Face and How to Cut Out Letters worksheets available on this website.
  5. Organize materials for easy access.


  1. Have the students work in small groups.
  2. Spread out a selection of portrait art cards on the table in the middle of each group.
  3. Ask students to select a card that appeals to them for some reason, and to:
    Think of five words that come to mind when you look at the art card.
    Do this without speaking to anyone.
    Share with a partner.
    Share with your group.
  4. Notice any 'art words' the students use, put these on a chart paper for future reference.
  5. During the discussion talk about how the details and treatment of the subject reveal something about the person being portrayed.
  6. Ask students to consider portraits.
    What are they for?
    Why do people make portraits?
    What kind of portraits are the students familiar with?
  7. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a self-portrait using collage technique.
  2. Show enough detail so anyone will be able to recognize who it is without being told.
  3. Draw all details with scissors.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.

The Process

  1. Brainstorm details found in the face, e.g., eyes – pupil, iris, white, lashes, brows
  2. Demonstrate the thinking process by ‘thinking out loud’ as the shape of face is determined and colours for hair, eyes and so on are chosen.
  3. Discuss proportions of face.
  4. Demonstrate how to ‘draw with scissors’.
    - Cut paper without drawing with a pencil first.
    - Envision the shape then start cutting.
  5. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I have been successful when I have:
    - carefully composed my design
    - paid attention to detail
    - carefully glued everything down so it is smooth and flat
    - used the elements of design effectively
    - used collage techniques effectively  
    - made shapes by drawing with scissors
    - kept the paper is in good condition
    - a self-portrait that people know it is me without being told
  6. Remind students not to glue anything down until they are sure of the placement.
  7. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  8. Observe students as they work. 
  9. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Have students work with a partner taking turns to discuss the completed portfolios.
    Ask them to find:
    3 things that interest them about how the work was made
    what the artist found challenging
    what the artist thought was easy
    how the artist felt about making this portfolio and why
  2. Once everyone has had a chance to share, ask some students to tell what they learned about their partner’s work/process with the whole class.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their portfolios – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the portfolio, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - SelfPortraitCollage_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students in grade 1 use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - SelfPortraitCollage_self-assessment.pdf)