How to Make an African Sand Art Painting

Written by mackenzie wright
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How to Make an African Sand Art Painting
"Sand Dunes" Abstract (McKenna71)

African sand art painting is an old and popular art form in many parts of Africa, particularly the Congo. It is strikingly beautiful and has a natural charm. Instead of painting the images with paint, the rich sands of the African plains are used as the medium. Sand art can be a bit tricky at first, but with a little practice you can get the hang of it.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Heavy art paper
  • White craft glue
  • Small craft paint brushes
  • Sand

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  1. 1

    Decide on the image you want to create, whether it will be a nature scene, a human figure or an abstract. Sketch this image out on a piece of heavy art paper. The image should contain easily recognisable shapes (unless abstract) and not contain too many small details. For example, if doing the human figure, don't make features for the face--make a human figure at a distance.

  2. 2

    Obtain several bags of different-coloured sand. The most common colours used in African sand paintings are white, black and various shades of brown. Of course, you can use colours as well, such as reds and yellows for sunsets, blue for water or green for tree leaves. You can lighten or darken any colour sand by adding white or black sand to it and mixing it to create different shades. Separate the colours you are using into small cups or bowls.

  3. 3

    Separate the coloured sand you are using into small cups or bowls. If you are going to mix colours for varying shades, you can do it now, or leave some empty containers by you to do it as you go along.

  4. 4

    Work with one colour at a time. Paint some glue on to one area of your sketch, just as you would if you were going to paint that particular image or section a specific colour. Make sure to stay inside the lines, and make the edges clean and crisp by making the glue evenly spread to the edge.

  5. 5

    Take some sand of the colour you want in a teaspoon, or for more control, pinch it between your two fingers. Sprinkle it on the area with the wet glue. Get a heavy coating of sand. If there are any areas where it is not taking to the glue, you can add a bit more glue to the spot and recover it with the sand.

  6. 6

    Cover several areas of the same colour like this. Allow the glue to dry for about 30 minutes. Carefully tilt your paper, or turn it over, to allow the excess loose sand to run off. If you like, you can preserve this sand for mixing colours.

  7. 7

    Move on to working with another colour. Always work with one colour at a time so you can remove the loose sand without it getting mixed up with another colour. Cover the area with glue and then sprinkle it with sand. Allow it to dry, and shake off excess sand. Continue doing this until you have filled in all the elements of your images.

Tips and warnings

  • Look at some African sand paintings so that you can look at some authentic African sand paintings (see link in Resources). This will inspire you and give you some great ideas.
  • For really sharp lines and perfect images, draw your images on a sheet of card stock. Use an Exacto-knife to cut out the image. Hold the image over your art paper to use it as a template. Spread the glue in the template, sprinkle on the sand, then lift the card stock straight up. Allow the glue to dry before shaking off the excess sand.

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