Printed Houses

By Jan Miller

In this post children use found materials as printing blocks to create colourful patterned papers. The papers are then used to construct 3-dimensional paper houses.  The houses are assembled collaboratively to create a village like display and are then photographed; giving the opportunity for the children to develop their photography and computer editing skills.

Notes for Teachers


photographing outside


Week 1:  Sponging colours onto A3 cartridge paper.

Colours are mixed and shared. Off-cuts of old cleaning sponges or damp upholstery sponges were used to wash the paint quickly across the A3 paper. This ensures less paint was used and the paper would dry quickly if printing in the same session. You don’t have to worry about streaks as the printing will cover it. Using poster colours and white household emulsion gave a nice chalky quality. (Avoid too much paint as it may crack when folding and constructing).

Jan Miller Printed Houses - using poster paint mixed with household emulsion

Making printing blocks

Printing blocks were made using repeated architectural patterns. We looked out of the window and used photographs of surrounding buildings for inspiration. Roof tiles, bricks, pavements, shapes of doorways and patterns of windows were closely examined. Press-print (quick-print) is the easiest method and the blocks can be small as they will be repeated. They can be used on both sides or from old off-cuts. Even used patterned printing blocks from other projects (press print or lino) can be used. If time, the patterns can be drawn and recorded in sketchbooks.

Making printing blocks

WEEK 2:  Printing the blocks onto coloured paper

Printing can be an unaided and a quick process in this project – overlapping, not enough ink and too much can all give unexpected and effective unplanned results. Even if the blocks break – you can still use them. You can print full sheets or section off with different patterns.

Using a roller to repeat pattern print

printing shapes

brick print block printing

Printed a repeated pattern using block printing

Print your own block or work collaboratively.

The printed papers can be used alongside ones that are simply coloured textures or patterns. Even unwanted pieces of artwork can be used or printed over to create a layered print. Printing can be an unaided and quick process in this activity – overlapping, not enough ink and too much can all give unexpected and effective unplanned results.

collection of printed papers

Layered printed papers

Even unwanted pieces of artwork or printing blocks can be used to layer printing.

layering printing using art work

Paper stencils for doors and windows were placed on the painted paper before the print was made and removed to leave gaps in the pattern. These were used on other houses.

paper stencil for door

WEEK 3:  Cutting stencils and constructing houses

A template of a simple house shape was made with folds and just one join with a tab end (2 gable ends and 2 rectangles fit along the A3 paper). Just a dot of glue with secure the end. Then the roof was slotted on to the chimney tabs. Variations in shapes and sizes were encouraged as was the personalised addition of doors and windows cut from other patterned papers. Even opening doors and windows advanced them to new levels.

Creating a basic template

attaching a paper roof

placing roof over house frame

Assembled house

WEEK 4: Photographing and Editing

Clusters of houses were photographed together, looking through gave an understanding of perspective and focal point. They photographed them on mirrors to create reflections and symmetry. Pupils took their houses around school to photograph them in everyday settings; the variation in scale adding interest. They used Microsoft Photo Editor – easy to use software – when viewing their images to control and manipulate editing facilities such as crop and enhancing the colour, saturation, and light.

Aranging the houses to be photographed

Houses grouped together

Painted houses grouped together

Editing – enhancing the colour after photographing on a mirror base.

Photographing on mirror base

mirror base ready for photographing

Getting out and about photographing the houses around school.


house outside


Full circle creativity: some pupils were keen to subsequently work from their photographs, creating a piece of  2D art using inks and oil pastel resist.

Some pupils made 3D versions in clay using a rolled out pieces of clay. Found materials such as lego pieces, pegs, wood, pastry cutters, marbles, and pencils were used to add pattern and texture, then when leather hard, the edges were scored and brushed with water to build.

for making clay textures

With thanks to Jan Miller for contributing this resource. You can find more of Jan’s resources here.

This is a sample of a resource created by UK Charity AccessArt. We have over 1500 resources to help develop and inspire your creative thinking, practice and teaching.

AccessArt welcomes artists, educators, teachers and parents both in the UK and overseas.

We believe everyone has the right to be creative and by working together and sharing ideas we can enable everyone to reach their creative potential.