How to Make a Thumb Impression

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Getting messy is part of the fun when you and your children are making art or craft projects. A thumb impression or thumbprint serves as the starting point for an assortment of colorful kiddie creations, such as insects, faces or flowers. Adults may also find the thumb-impression painting method interesting, a means of creating complex layered artworks almost entirely by thumb.

How to Make a Thumb Impression
(Jens Lambert/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Newspaper
  • Disposable plates
  • Tempera paints
  • Ink pad in chosen color (optional)
  • Thick paper such as 20-pound office paper or construction paper
  • Paper towels
  • Hand soap
  • Colored markers
Step 1

Cover the work surface in newspaper. Set a disposable plate on the paper and squirt a small, shallow pool of each paint color on the plate, keeping the pools apart so the paints do not mix. Set an inkpad with an ink color of your choice atop the paper if you'd rather work with ink than paint.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media
Step 2

Place a sheet of thick paper atop the newspaper; plain white office paper or watercolor paper works well if you want a white background for your creation. Colorful construction papers are suitable for projects with young children.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media
Step 3

Dip a thumb into one of the paint pools or onto the ink pad, coating the pad of your thumb in the paint or ink. If working with a young child, guide her extended thumb into the paint. Press the paint-coated thumb straight down onto the paper in the desired location and lift it straight up to create a thumb-shaped impression. Allow the paint or ink to dry completely before touching it or embellishing it.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media
Step 4

Wipe your paint-coated thumb off immediately with a paper towel; then wash your hands with soap and water in the sink if you are not creating additional thumbprints. If creating multiple thumbprints, you may wait to wash your hands until after all the prints are created. Keep a few damp paper towels on hand to remove the bulk of the paint or ink from your thumb as you work.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media
Step 5

Decorate the thumbprint, if desired, by turning it into an insect, a face or the body of an animal, using colored markers to create the outlines and details of your creation.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media

Tips & Warnings

  • Choose a water-soluble ink or an ink that washes off easily, if using inkpads. Ink pads are a bit less messy than paints, as there is no chance of spilling them.
  • Create an entire scene based on thumb impressions by making a series of thumbprints all over the paper. Turn them into a series of ants, ladybugs and caterpillars in a garden, if desired, or zoo animals. For a more mature creation, use a series of overlapping thumb impressions to serve as layers of feathers, fur or plates of armor on a large painting or drawing.

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