Playing Card Designs Middle or High School Art Project: Unity & Balance Lesson

Playing Card Designs Middle or High School Art Project: Unity & Balance Lesson

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The Principles of Design and tying in cross-curricular material is something we all do as art teachers. But with the amount of time we have with our students, it can be hard to fit in anything else other than art-making. In this art project, students learn about the history of playing cards and use the Principles of Unity and Balance to create their own version of a face card.

Why students will love it:

Designing your own playing card is fun and students will love learning the artistic process, from thumbnails and pencil drawings to ink and color to create them. They'll probably want to do more than one!

Why teachers will love it:

This lesson will give your students fabulous results and we all know when they get good results they stay motivated to create more. Teachers will also love the connection to social studies and all of the worksheets that accompany this lesson that help students stay organized and on track.


  • 5 Page Lesson Plans with detailed process notes, National Visual Arts Standards, Big Ideas, Objectives, Essential Questions, Final outcomes, assessment, and more. Editable Word and PDF
  • 29 Page Editable PowerPoint Presentation with detailed student process examples and notes and PDF
  • Student Self-Evaluation as an editable Word document and PDF
  • Fully narrated video demonstration of the project.
  • Classroom Critique Worksheets specific to this lesson
  • Thumbnail Worksheets
  • Final Art Worksheets scaled for project
  • Student Project Checklist

Key Learning:

  • Learn a short history of playing cards
  • Learn the process illustrators go through to create a final piece of art
  • Create Unity in your design using:
  • Theme
  • Color Theory
  • Balance (Symmetry)


  • 3” x 4” Watercolor Paper, Bristol Board, or other thick paper
  • Ultra Thin Sharpies or other permanent markers
  • Watercolor Pencils (recommended) or Colored Pencils
  • Pencils/erasers
  • Lightbox or Window for tracing


Color: Light reflected off objects is color. Color has three main characteristics:

Complementary Colors: Colors across from each other on the color wheel. Red/Green, Yellow/Violet, Blue/Orange.

Primary Colors: The colors from which all other colors are created, in pigment they are Red, Yellow, and Blue.

Secondary Colors: Are the colors that are achieved by mixing the primary colors. Green, Orange, and Violet

Intermediate Colors: Are the colors that are achieved by mixing Secondary Colors.

Warm & Cool Colors: Warm colors are the colors of the sun, Yellow, Orange, and Red. Cool colors are the colors of water and grass, Blues and Greens.

Space: The area between or around objects. The space around objects is often called negative space; negative space has shape. Space can also refer to the feeling of depth. Real space is three-dimensional; in visual art when we can create the feeling or illusion of depth we call it space.


Creating a harmonious compositional balance involves arranging elements so that no single part of a work overpowers or seems heavier than any other part.


An area or object within the artwork that draws attention and becomes a focal point. Emphasis can be created through the use of contrast in value, color, shape or size and leading lines/movement.


Repeated use of a shape, color, or other art element or design in a work can help unify different parts into a whole.

Patterns are planned or random repetitions of elements which help to create rhythm and unity in a piece of art. Patterns can be created with almost any element of art and often include multiple elements.


The individual elements that work together to create harmony in a piece of art. When it is achieved the artwork feels and looks finished. Unity can be achieved through the use of any element of art.

National Visual Arts Anchor Standards:


  • Anchor Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #3. Refine and complete artistic work.


  • Anchor Standard #8. People gain insights into meanings of artworks by engaging in the process of art criticism.


  • Anchor Standard #11. People develop ideas and understandings of society, culture, and history through their interactions with and analysis of art.

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