As mentioned here my kiddos are doing different learning tasks and art projects with me this summer. This week I wanted to have the boys learn 3D sidewalk painting. Honestly, I wanted to learn too!

I actually have quite a history with sidewalk painting. I was raised in the south and because of my early interest in art I always represented my school in area sidewalk painting festivals. In my professional career I've been the director of these events in my community. I've spent many pretty days splashing around in homemade sidewalk paint (equal parts cornstarch and water with food coloring added) with my toddlers. The U.S. Map and other designs on the kids playground are also my work. Even with all this time working on pavement I've never attempted the popular 3D method. So it seemed the perfect time to try.

The professionals use computers and design programs to force perspective then recreate the work on site using a grid. That's great but I'm looking for ways to simplify projects to keep the kids engaged. So I created a shortcut:

  • First we measured my surface which happened to be divisible by 4. My yard stick was also 4 inches wide so that made laying out the grid super easy.
  • We marked the grid using a color similar to the sidewalk. Since I'm doing this to educate kids I wasn't too worried about the grid showing up on the finished product.
  • We decided on the optimal viewing angle. There's lots of kids in my neighborhood so I didn't want to do it from my height. I figured a seated height was more universal.
  • I sat in that location, held the camera so the lens was at my eye height, and took a picture. 
  • I printed the picture and we drew directly on the print out.
  • Then we followed the grid to trace out the image.
  • Because we're using the actual grid on the pavement as our guide, it doesn't really matter how perfect the grid is. If you were doing this like the pros by transferring your computer generated image then the grid on the pavement would have to be precise just like the computers.
  • We started by rendering with a light blue chalk since it'd be different than the grid color but still similar to the sidewalk color.
  • Close one eye when you're checking out your progress. Your depth perception will mess you up.

And there you go that's how you transfer your image into 3D without any special software or complicated math.

 A couple tips when drawing on pavement:

  • As mentioned above, start with a light color similar to the surface to sketch out your design.
  • Use dry pastels (instead of chalk) to make colors really pop and use water on a brush to work the color into the surface of the pavement.
  • Start with mid tones and then add lights and darks.
  • Charcoal is awesome for any black lines. Work it into the pavement with some water and it could stay there for as long as a few weeks.
  • When working 3D remember your perspective drawing rules (e.g. thick dark lines come forward and light thin ones go back).

Clearly we aren't as good as the pros...yet! But when you compare the above picture with the one's below you can really see the impact of the distortion.