All the Colors We Are: Self-Portraits


One of our favorite books is All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color by Katie Kissinger. It explains, in very simple terms, how our ancestors, the sun, and melanin determine our skin color. All the Colors We Are takes us into a world where we celebrate the many shades of our skin and help children build a positive self-identity. At the end of the book, there are even a few activity ideas including one on identifying your own shade of skin and mixing paint to create a self-portrait.

1. Start out by talking about self-portraits. Give your child a mirror and ask her to look carefully at her eyes, nose, and lips as well as the shape of her face, paying particular attention to the lines and details that she sees. Another helpful resource to use here is Mobility of Expression, which is a portfolio of self-portraits done by children in the schools of Reggio Emilia.

Black Line Drawing

2. Using a thin Sharpie marker, encourage your child to create a black line drawing of her face. Keep those mirrors handy so she can look back and forth between herself and her drawing!

Mixing Skins Colors

3. Next, begin the task of mixing paints to match the color of her skin. You can follow the suggestion in the book by combining brown, black, white, and/or red to get a shade of brown that matches your skin. But if you want to try and make brown from scratch, we found this recipe on the Internet and have had great success with it. Be sure to spend time talking about how no one is really black, brown, white, or red. Rather, we are all different shades of brown!

By the way, this is also a great lesson in color theory because this part of the project is a color-mixing extravaganza! We love doing this activity, because children get to create a self-portrait that includes their own special color that they’ve mixed all by themselves. And they’ll soon find out their special color won’t be the same as anyone else’s color.

4. Finish up the activity by naming that special color! At the end of All the Colors We Are, you will find a beautiful list of creative words to describe the color of our skin, and of course we encourage children to come up with their own unique color name. We love that by naming their own color, children are empowered to describe themselves in whatever way they choose!


More Books to Read:

Skin Like Mine 

Magnificent Homespun Brown

Black is a Rainbow Color 

The Blacker the Berry 

Shades of People 

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