Art Therapy: Painting Your Body In Emotion

art-therapy-01Painting emotions is a great way to learn more about where and how a person experiences their feelings. I learned this activity from a colleague, and I wish I knew the original source so I could credit them here. This is a fairly popular activity among therapists, which is a testament to how effective it is. It’s great for all ages, but I have used it only with children and teens so far.

You don’t have to be a therapist to use this though. This is a wonderful tool for parents to use when talking with their kids about feelings. Whether you want to have a general discussion, or if you want them to express feelings they may have over a certain event or problem (such as changing schools or divorce), this activity is appropriate.

I’m going to share some pictures of this activity that were done in previous sessions. No identifying information about the painters, such as gender, age, or names, will be shared in order to protect confidentiality.

What You Need:

  • Large construction paper
  • Cut-out of body (or draw one — I show examples of both)
  • Paint (at least four colors)
  • Paintbrushes (finger painting would work too)
  • Glue or glue stick
  • Pen or marker

1. Glue the body onto the construction paper.

Choose the feelings you want represented (happy, sad, angry, worried, fearful, nervous, etc.) and paint the part of the body that feeling is most often expressed. Talk about a time when you felt that feeling as well. Here are some examples to help with the explanation. Notice how the key to the colors is written on the side to reference later.


This child indicated their happy feeling was in their heart. They painted the face blue because they cry when they are sad. Notice they painted their legs red (anger) and explained this was because they want to kick things when they are angry. Purple is for nervous because their hands get sweaty.


The pre-teen painting this body has symptoms of ADHD and struggles with attention. They requested to include “distracted” as a feeling and painted their face “distracted” because they claimed to have trouble keeping their mind focused. They painted their hands red because they want to hit things when angry.


This child painted red for angry and covered their head, one hand (for hitting), and heart. Needless to say this is a child with a lot of anger. Black represented scared and blue represented sad.

Like other therapeutic activities, a lot of the value is in the discussion, as well as the activity itself. I always tell them that they can paint a feeling, and if they choose not to share more about why they painted that feeling where they did, they don’t have to. This allows them the opportunity to express feelings within themselves, even if they are not comfortable sharing more.

Have you tried this activity? If so, what was your experience?

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Originally posted 2012-04-16 17:14:31.

  • Einas

    i love it, i gonna try it with my daughter . thanks a lot

    • Einas

      i did try this one today but i dont think it was successful . i may need to try it again.

      • Elinas, thank you for the comment! If you can shed some light on how it went, maybe I can offer some suggestions. Also, I have done this activity with some clients and found it was not as helpful as I hoped, yet with other clients it was a great success! In fact, this is the case with all my activities. Not every activity works with every client…. I wish I could find it! Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you soon!

  • Kayla Kier

    Kim, thank you for this post. Although I am not a mother yet, I am pursuing an education in Early Childhood Education to become an art teacher. I am doing a research project on how art education affects children at an early age and I hope you don’t mind if I use you as a reference in my Annotated Bibliography. Great post and thanks again!

  • Kayla, I would be honored to be used and I’m so happy you have found useful information! I would love to hear the results of you research project when you’re done!
    Thank you for reading! 🙂