Handprint Skeleton Craft for Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

Today’s handprint skeleton craft is inspired by the Mexican printmaker, José Guadalupe Posada.  Posada is most well-known for his use of skulls (known as calaveras) to make political and cultural statements in his artwork.

Posada was born in 1852 in Mexico.  He was taught drawing, reading and writing by his older brother, who was a country school teacher.  As a teenager, he worked in the workshop of Trinidad Pedroso who taught him lithography (printing from a stone or metal plate) and engraving (another method of printmaking by cutting a design into a hard, flat surface).

He later opened his own workshop and worked as a lithography teacher while continuing to create his own artwork.  Several newspapers employed Posada as a political cartoonist.  His artwork was appreciated for his sense of humor and portrayal of daily lifestyles and popular culture of his time.

His folk-art became more widely recognized after his death than while he was alive partially in thanks to Diego Rivera, who publicly appreciated his work.

Since his death, his artwork has become associated with the Mexican holiday, Día de Los Muertos (learn about the Day of the Dead here!).

The inspiration for this art project is La Calavera Catrina, one of Posada’s most famous works.

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Supplies needed for this handprint skeleton craft project are:

  • A black sheet of cardstock or construction paper.
  • Tempera paint – black & white.
  • White colored pencil.
  • Painting supplies – brush & palette.
  • Tissue paper squares – yellow & orange.
  • Glue stick.
  • Scissors.
  • Craft feathers.

First, fold the black piece of paper in half and cut into two pieces (cut in the middle of the long side).

One half of the paper will be used to create the skull painting and the other half will be used to create her hat.

To create a skull using a handprint, follow these easy steps:

  • Coat the palm of your hand with a nice even layer of white tempera paint.
  • Place your hand in the center of one of the black pieces of paper (push down firmly, but try not to slide or move the hand). Gently lift your hand from the paper.
  • Turn the painted handprint around so the fingers are pointing down.

Now it’s time to fingerpaint!

  • Apply white tempera paint with your fingers to connect the thumbprint to the rest of the handprint to create the side of the skull (fill in any open black spaces with more white paint).
  • Apply more white paint to connect the tips of each finger in the handprint to create the jaw of the skull.
  • Allow the skull painting to dry completely and trim around the edges.

To create the hat for the skull, trace an oval shape on the other half of the black paper as pictured and trim around the edges.

Cut a slit in the middle of the paper hat to allow the top portion of the skull to slide underneath.

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Insert the skull painting into the slit and secure on the back side with the glue stick.

Now it’s time to decorate your Calavera Catrina!

First, apply black tempera with your finger to create the face on the skull.  Simply paint two ovals for the eyes and paint an upside down “V” to create the nose.

Next, decorate the edge of the hat with fingerprints of white tempera paint.  Allow the paint to dry and secure the hat under the skull with the glue stick.

Embellish her hat with tissue paper flowers.

Apply a circle of glue to the top of the hat.  Wrap a small square of tissue paper on the end of the pencil and attach it to the glue.  Apply additional squares of tissue paper close together to create flowers on her hat.

Next, attach a couple of feathers around the flowers.  You can cover the end of the feather with glue and carefully slide it in between the tissue paper of the flowers.  Allow the glue to dry thoroughly.

To create a nice wall hanging, simply attach a piece of ribbon to the back of your artwork.



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About the author

Crystal has worked in the arts and taught drawing and painting for over 25 years in Los Angeles. She loves creating art, gardening, planning fun art projects, and enjoying creative adventures with her family. Find out more at fineartmom.com.

View all articles by Crystal Foth

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