Day of the Dead Color-Diffusing Calavera

Day of the Dead Color-Diffusing Calavera Artwork

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Bonus Post! Get ready to party for Dia de los Muertos with these color diffusing paper Calaveras!

Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is November 2nd. This Mexican holiday is celebrated throughout Mexico and in the United States, and it focuses on remembering  and celebrating friends and family members who have passed away. Traditions include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring those who have passed using calaverasaztec marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts.

You can celebrate the Day of the Dead in your classroom by creating bright color-diffusing paper versions of the traditional Calavera! A calavera is a representation of a human skull. The most well-known version of this are decorated spun-sugar skulls. These skulls are either given as gifts to children, or as gifts laid at the graves of those who have died. When calaveras are given as gifts to the deceased, the name of the deceased is typically written on the skull’s forehead.

Our calaveras are just as artistic as spun-sugar skulls, if somewhat less edible!

Age: 4+

Duration: 15 minutes (plus drying time)

Learning Outcomes: Explore Mexican culture and celebrate the lives of family members who are no longer with students. Exercise fine motor skills by tracing and drawing. Explore color mixing and liquid diffusion!

You’ll need:


Start by downloading and printing out the Calavera template.

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Cut out the shape of the skull, the eyes, nose and mouth.

step 2

Lay the template on a sheet of color diffusing paper and trace the skull outline, eyes, nose and mouth with crayon. Make sure your crayon lines are very heavy, they will need to be heavy to resist the liquid watercolor paint we will add later.

Now it’s time to add some decorations to your calavera! Swirly lines, flowers, and geometric shapes are all great ways to decorate your calavera. If your calavera will be an offering, carefully write the person’s name on the skull’s forehead.

step 5

Next, lay your sheet of color diffusing paper on a tray, and using pipettes, carefully cover the sheet in liquid watercolor paint. Allow the paint to dry.

Once your calavera is dry, trim off the excess paper. Mount your calavera on construction paper or colored card stock for a professional-looking finish!

You have lots of options for crayon colors when designing your clavavera. Our example uses just black crayon, but using just white crayon creates a beautiful calavera too. Using all the colors in your crayon box is also a great option:

the end

Suspend these bright calaveras from your classroom ceiling with string! Alternatively, string them together like paper lanterns to create a calavera garland.

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