This is supposed to be a resource for ideas when it comes to materials and techniques for decorating kite sails. It's pretty complete, I think you'll find!
So, what kind of kites do these materials and techniques suit? Here's a summary...
- Plastic kites. Our MBK Skewer kites fall into this category. A sail is cut from a
colored plain plastic bag, before bamboo skewer spars are taped on.
Hard-wood dowels can also be used, to make much bigger kites. We
use garden tidy bags for sail material since they are light, large and
cheap. These kites fly very well in light winds, and can fly hundreds of
feet above the ground if made properly. See that orange Rokkaku kite on the e-book cover.
- Mini kites. Made from any old reasonable quality paper, such
as writing or pad paper. Photo-copy paper too. This type of kite tends
to be not much bigger than your hand, and often rely upon a single
horizontal spar such as a bamboo skewer or drinking straw. They fly ok
in moderate breezes, or when towed enthusiastically!
- Tissue kites. These require a little more care and
kite-making skill, but fly superbly. A good example is an Indian fighter
kite, which by the way requires a measure of flying skill as well!
However, a simple Diamond with strong thread strung around the outline
of the kite can have a tissue sail and long tissue streamer tail added.
Of course, these won't like coming into contact with wet grass or spilt
I'll refer to these types of kites, in the following sections
on various kite crafts techniques. What about nylon and other types of
cloth sails? I'm going to ignore them since that usually involves sewing
and a range of kite-making accessories that are beyond the scope of
kite crafts for kids.
When the weather's good and you have the time, it's great to get out with a kite or 3. But what about on bad weather days? Then it's time to pull out...
"Kites Up!" - my downloadable kite-flying board game! Apart from towing indoor kites, doing a spot of imaginary flying is the next best thing :-)
This category is a biggie, with many options for creating art
work on sails. Hence I'll split it up into a few sub-categories. Pick
which seems to apply best for your situation. There's no hard and fast
rule for whether to draw first then make the kite, or the other way
round. It depends on the kite and the decoration idea really. One
approach or the other will just seem to make more sense, after a bit of
Drawing onto a plain paper sail
There are a million ways to make marks on paper for mini-kites, but some require a fixative
to prevent smudging. Spraying stuff onto a kite sail just adds weight,
so I'm tossing all those methods out! When it comes to kite crafts, the
lighter the better, believe me.
Colored pencils of any kind can be used on plain paper
mini-kites to turn a child's drawing into a flight of fancy :-) Not much
weight added there.
Crayons can be used for coloring or drawing. However,
coloring could put too much of the composition wax onto the paper, thus
making it heavy. Stick with a few bold strokes to add zest to that
Pastels, are chalk-like crayons made from ground pigment
and a binding material. Pastels produce more brilliant colors than
crayons, and yet don't have the drying time of paint. Hardness varies.
The softer the pastel the brighter the color, but the softest pastels
are prone to smearing. Again, avoid coloring in large areas of paper,
since this will add weight.
Ballpoint pens with colored ink can be handy for adding line-drawings to paper kites.
Tracing paper is pretty handy for convincing onlookers
that you are an incredible artist. Just take a sheet of this see-through
paper and trace some impressive outlines from a picture or book
illustrations, using pens or pencils. Then use the paper itself in a
Drawing onto a plain plastic sail
A marker or 'marking pen' often has a felt tip, which is
ideal for drawing on plastic. Hence you might also look for 'felt-tipped
pens'. These don't have a huge capacity so avoid coloring in large
areas. However, some quite wide-tipped pens are out there, which are
good for thick bold line art. Most markers are Black, but this can still
be effective for doing a face or a large pair of cartoon eyes or
Transfer paper is something I've never tried with kite
crafts, to be honest, but it might be worth a shot on a plastic sail.
This kind of paper is coated on one side with gray, black, white, blue,
or red material that lets you transfer a design to a surface. The idea
is to place a sheet of this stuff, color-side down, onto the surface.
The desired design is placed on top of the transfer paper, and a stylus
or pen is used to trace the design so it transfers onto the surface.
Using pre-marked paper
Newsprint, despite its low quality, can be used for making sizable kites. That is, if you aren't too
concerned about an exceptionally long life for the kite! At least it
looks interesting, if you source it from the local newspaper. There's
probably no point in decorating it much, since the print itself is the
decoration. However, some nice thick black lines highlighting the
boundaries of the sail could enhance the look.
Quadrille paper, much loved by mathematics teachers, is
sometimes known as graph paper. This paper is printed with fine lines
making up a grid. It is great for not only making patterns and design
layouts, but also for drawing colorful, geometric shapes. Naturally,
these eye-catching works of art can be used in kite crafts!
Collage is the art of arranging cut-out shapes or pictures onto a
flat surface, where they are glued in place. The resulting art-work is
also called a 'collage'. The appropriate light-weight technique is to
use minimal glue, and even then, just around the edges of the shapes or
pictures. Even the number of shapes or pictures should be kept down, to
avoid excessive weight on the kite.
The mini-kites are a little small for this kite crafts technique, so consider this for plastic kites and tissue kites.
Scissors will be needed of course. They are available in a
wide variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. Most of the smaller models
would be suitable for kite collage. However, dull-edged, rounded-tip
scissors are particularly suitable for young children for safety
Collage on plastic kites
Colored plastic is the obvious choices for sticking
cut-out shapes onto a plastic sail. I suspect most plastic cements would
do horrible things to thin plastic! Hence, small squares of clear
sticky tape are more appropriate here than glue. For example, a rabbit
silhouette could be taped down with 5 or so small squares of sticky
tape, onto the plastic sail. Obviously, serious kite-makers would not
use this method but hey, for a bit of fun with your kite-mad toddler...
Cellophane is a little heavier than thin plastic sheet.
However, it comes in richer colors, so use it sparingly for some extra
Collage on tissue kites
Tissue paper comes in many colors, luckily for us
kite-makers! Sometimes it is named 'wrapping tissue' on the shelves.
This stuff is particularly suitable for collage on kites.
Magazine pictures could be cut out and stuck on too. Avoid
using too many glossy magazine pics or graphics, due to the weight of
the high-quality paper.
School glue is a quick-drying, versatile adhesive. Since
it is non-toxic, easy-to-clean, and cheap it is a great kite crafts
choice for even the youngest kids. It's also known as white glue.
A stencil is a template made by cutting a design into a piece of
stiff paper, plastic or cardboard.
Traditionally, this method of decoration involves brushing ink or paint
through the cut out areas of the template so that the pattern will be
reproduced on the surface placed below.
However, for kite decoration, we have to put our thinking caps on
to keep the weight down! The key is to apply color sparingly. Just
enough to show up the stenciled shape or shapes. Colored pencils,
crayons or pastels could be used. Not many people would have the gear on
hand, but this would be an ideal chance to get out an air-brush! Same deal though, don't put too much paint on.
Now, back to creating the stencils themselves... Utility knives
come in different shapes and sizes but one thing they have in common is a
sharp, razor-blade edge. Obviously, when using this tool for kite
crafts, it's only for adults to use. The utility knife is also known as a
craft knife, x-acto knife or razor knife.
Kids love rubber stamping. My Aren certainly does, and at this
writing he has just turned 3 1/2 years old. In this craft, ink made of
dye or pigment is applied to an image or pattern that has been carved,
molded, or vulcanized onto a sheet of rubber. The rubber is usually
mounted onto something more manageable such as a block of wood or
acrylic. The ink coated rubber stamp can then be pressed onto just about
any type of surface to transfer the design to the surface. For kite
crafts this means paper, tissue or plastic.
Since most stamps are quite small, this is probably best for just the mini-kites. However, if the design was simple and bold enough, and was applied enough times, I can see it working on larger kites!
As mentioned earlier, there's another alternative to towing indoor kites if it's just not possible to fly outdoors...
"Kites Up!" is my downloadable board game. It's a PDF file which has all the documentation for the game plus images for all the components. Tokens, cards, the board itself and so on. Anyway, just click that link to see more info :-)