Grade Level

9-10, 11-12


4-5 classes of 45-minute length (depends on how familiar students are with digital media)


A program that you work on layers and draw digitally, like Photoshop and a drawing tablet like the Wacom Intuos


Digital, Mixed media

Lesson Objectives

For the student to:
become familiar with digital media including resolution, layers, tracing, and file management.
For students to understand the element of art of line.
for the students to use their imaginations to create a new narrative from a simple photo.

Introductory Activity

Students are introduced to the concept of the project, drawing on top of a photo to create a new image and story by creating a line drawing on top of a found photo. I talk to the student through resolution and why they desire 300 dpi for the images they find. I have students create one mini example in class. For example, I may provide for the class a photo of the ocean floor to start with. I ask students to brainstorm, “what could be on the floor of the ocean?” In the brainstorming sessions, students might say a giant shell, a treasure chest from a shipwreck, a person snorkeling, etc. I encourage students to then find a good-quality photo of one of those objects to trace. Students learn how to save it to a file and then place it in Photoshop temporarily. Students draw using lines only (in black or white- whatever they feel will contrast best with the photo) with a Wacom tablet. There is a learning curve here- it takes students a varying amount of time to adjust to drawing on the Wacom pad and seeing it reflect on the computer screen.

Lesson Process

Students then look at examples of artwork similar to this project, I have provided a Pinterest page where I have some examples. I then introduce students to locations on the web they can find free quality copyright-free photographs, sites like Unsplash (also in the link resources below). For homework, students are to come up with an idea for their own project and spend time locating the background image and resource images as needed. With that introduction, they are off to create and develop their project. I usually walk them through opening the photo that will become the base to ensure they have found a photo of good resolution size.


Line, resolution, layers


Line drawings on top of photos
Artist Takes Photos of Clouds and Draws What He Sees on Top of Them

Author & Website/Blog

Supporting Images