Joint Compound in Art Lessons

Updated: Jan 2

Are you looking for a material to add a sculptural element to your art projects? A material that's economical for the art room is joint compound! I have been using joint compound in my art room for ten+ years and have been experimenting with the many purposes of this All Purpose material.

Joint compound is not a traditional art supply. It's found at the hardware store. The product is normally used to fill in the cracks between two pieces of drywall when new walls are built or old ones are repaired. Usually you will find joint compound close to the paint section It’s sold in several sizes

1.75 PT for $3.00

3.5 QTs for $8.00

4.5 GALs for $15.00






So far, the translations I have found for joint compound are: Drywall joint compound in the United States (people in the construction industry call it “mud”); Drywall filler in Canada; Joint filler in the UK; Fugenspachtel in Germany; Joint finish in Australia; Voegenmiddel in The Netherlands, but I've also heard the correct translation of joint compound in Dutch is gipsplaatvuller. In India I believe it’s called wall putty; In Guatemala joint compound is known as Pasta de Tablayesero. In Portugal, joint compound is known as Massa de Juntas. Em Portugal é massa de juntas, a massa que é utilizada para unir placas de Pladur. Vende-se/sells at Leroy Merlin and AKI.

The primary ingredient in joint compound (in the US) is calcium carbonate. Pure calcium carbonate in dry powder form is sold in art stores as “powdered marble.” Powered Marble is used to make molds and life casts. Powered Marble in the powder form costs $7.34 per pound. If you are curious about Powered Marble, you can find it for sale at DickBlick Art Supplies.

IS JOINT COMPOUND SAFE?Joint compound is non-toxic. I have been using it for years. Joint compound has been used for decades in the faux painting industry to create decorative textures in the walls of homes and businesses. So, even if you don't have faux finishes in your home, you are most likely living with joint compound inside the walls of your home! In art class we apply joint compound with plastic utensils. Joint compound does not have a smell. We are NOT using the powdered stuff; we want the kind of joint compound that is already mixed up and ready to use sold in a plastic tub. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about inhaling any dust. I have art supplies in my art room with more warnings on the labels than can be found on joint compound. Chalk pastels, varnishes, turpentines…these art supplies are far more dangerous! Really, you must know your class… If you have students that like to eat art supplies, do not use joint compound OR any other art supplies that are not meant to be eaten! Use caution with ALL art materials; accidents can happen even with pencils!


High School Students Create Art with Joint Compound


Recently, I gave an open-ended high school assignment where I challenged students to explore the possibilities of joint compound. Students took risks and used joint compound in exciting ways adding texture to their2D and 3D artwork..

Welcome to the slide show of art projects that incorporate joint compound to add surface texture. All art below was done by high school students!



Sculpted Self Portraits



This sculptural self portrait art project works well for 5th grade and up.


Project Supplies:

USG Sheetrock Brand All-Purpose Joint Compound

Canvas Board 9” x 12”

Plastic utensils

Acrylic paint

Newspaper

Hot glue

Paper mâché mix (flour and water)


We used face molds to create the papier mâché faces. The product is called Face Forms made by Roylco. You can find the product HERE. The face molds are reusable and last for many years! The set comes with ten large, clear molds featuring five ethnically diverse faces.

Fill the molds with papier mâché, let dry and pop out. Students bring the paper mâché all the way over the edge of the face mold. It's important to leave a ledge around the face shape because that's how you will attach the face to the canvas board.

Papier mâché faces are hot glued to 9”x12” canvas boards. A layer of gesso is applied to the newspaper face so that it will take fewer layers of paint to cover up the newspaper print. Next, joint compound is applied to add hair texture. Use a plastic fork to scrape into the wet joint compound. Hide the seams of the face mold and canvas board with joint compound. Use a small amount of joint compound to add texture to eyebrows. If hair is short, joint compound is also used to add shape to the ears.


Clean Up Tip

I never wash the plastic utensils used for joint compound. I might take a paper towel to remove excess joint compound when students are finished. It's not necessary to remove all the joint compound off of the utensils. Once the joint compound dries, you can knock the joint compound off onto the table. Plastic utensils are stored in a plastic bucket and have been reused for many years.




Skin color is painted (face, neck, and shoulders) Hair is painted and then the background. The shirt can either be painted or scrapbook paper can be used as a shirt. Design the shirt, measure it, and glued it on.




This portrait features corn braids. Joint compound was applied in rows.


Glasses can be sculpted out of wire and added to the face as a finishing touch.


5th grade sculpted self portraits


Middle school/high school student sculpted portraits




Cake Sculptures

3rd Grade



Supply List:

Joint Compound

Plastic utensils

Cardboard

Masking tape

Acrylic paint

Paint brushes

White school glue + paint (drizzle sauce)

Candy sprinkles or small beads



Making The Armature

Students fold precut cardboard into a triangle, cake slice shape. Then

they hold the triangle together with masking tape.




This is the template I use for the cake slice sculpture.

Cake slices come in all sizes and shapes so it's not necessary to use my template.


The cardboard triangular armature is strong enough to hold the joint compound.


This slice of cake has joint compound applied to it. Look at that amazing frosting texture!

This cake has a layer of icing inside the cake.


Students apply joint compound to cake sculptures using plastic utensils.

Joint compound is distributed on paper plates.


Clean Up Tip

I never wash the plastic utensils. I might take a paper towel to remove excess joint compound when students are finished. It's not necessary to remove all the joint compound off of the utensils. Once it dries you can knock the joint compound off onto the table. Plastic utensils have been reused for many years.


Decorating Tips

Joint compound works perfectly in disposable cake decorating bags! Don't forget the rubber bands to close off the other end of your decorating bag. I use Betty Crocker plastic decorating tips. They are perfect for making cake sculptures fancy! You can add acrylic paint to the joint compound first if you don't want to paint later. The plastic tips are reusable too.


Painting Your Cake

When the joint compound dries, it's time to paint the cake. To embellish your cake, add drizzle sauce (Drizzle is made with white school glue and paint mixed together inside the glue container; a long skewer can help with the mixing.) Offer drizzle variety…dark chocolate drizzle, milk chocolate drizzle, cherry drizzle, butterscotch, blue berry…etc. Add sprinkles or small beads for embellishment. Display your cake slice on a doily because it's all about presentation!




You can never have too much drizzle sauce!















The cake sculptures in this video were made by 3rd grade students.



Mosaic Picture Frames


Joint compound is the perfect material to create mosaic art with. Just insert into wet joint compound... plastic beads, sea shells, sequins, acrylic gems, plastic mosaic pieces, small tiles, small clay pieces, etc...

I prefer using plastic mosaic tiles because they are lightweight and more economical for classroom use. This is a great project for elementary students and up.


Supply List:

Joint Compound

Plastic utensils

Picture frame

Plastic mosaic pieces (or any other material)

Acrylic paint

Mod Podge


MOSIAC PICTURE FRAME NOTES Take your frame out of the package; remove the center cardboard. (I purchased wooden picture frames from Michaels for $1.00) I recommend working in a small area at a time as the joint compound will start to dry.  Applying the joint compound onto your picture frame is kind of like icing a cake.  You want it to be thick enough to hold your mosaic materials but not over flowing Think of making a mosaic picture frame as a puzzle; try to fit as many pieces as you can. The more pieces you add to the frame, the more exciting it will look. Frames dry overnight There are two ways to do this. You can add the paint to the joint compound first. (Any color of acrylic paint can be added to change the color,) OR create a paint wash to paint over your completed mosaic frame. I usually use the joint compound straight out of the tub and later add a color wash over the frame. If you are working with large groups of students, it’s easier to add a color wash over the finished mosaic frame. (Premixing large quantities of joint compound with color can be time consuming, but it’s great to have options!) Here are the color wash details:. After the joint compound is dried, I put a small squirt of black acrylic paint into a cup.  I add enough water to make a wash, (like colored water).  Then I brush this watered down acrylic mixture over the frames.  The paint sticks very well to the coarse surface of the joint compound but not as well to the mosaic materials. Using a damp paper-towel, I remove the wash from the mosaic material.  The joint compound is porous and will take on the colored wash very quickly.  Start off with a very diluted wash as you can always add more color as you go.  If you accidentally have too much paint color, go over the area with plain water and blot to remove some of the excess color. Let the watered down paint mix dry. It dries very quickly. Finally, add a coat of Mod Podge over the mosaic frame to get a protective shine. The Mod Podge also ensures all the mosaic pieces will stay stuck as it strengthens the joint compound.



Mosaic Christmas Tree Sculptures


Mosaic Christmas Tree Sculptures by third grade students


Mosaic Christmas Tree sculptures feature acrylic gemstones, plastic mosaic tiles, sequins, shells, and beads. Students added a colorful variety of beads and topped their Christmas trees with a sparkle foam star.


Supply List:

Joint Compound

Plastic utensils

Cardboard cones (also known as Textile Cones)

Plastic mosaic tiles (or any other material for mosaics)

Green acrylic paint

Mod Podge (I used a glitter Mod Podge to add sparkle over the festive Christmas Tree)

Sparkle foam star (or angel) to top the tree

Fairy Lights (optional)




This is a great art lesson for Kindergarten to third grade and up! Joint compound was mixed with green acrylic paint and applied to a textile cone. The video below documents the process. Plastic mosaic pieces and plastic gems were stuck into the wet joint compound. The Textile cones (pictured left) can be purchased in bulk on eBay. Many are from sweater factories. I have purchased lots of 50 or 100 cones for about $20.)






It’s not necessary to cover the entire cone with joint compound. I recommend one side of the cone -or-one section at a time just to get the students started. Then spin the tree around and apply green joint compound to another side. You can put your hand inside of the cone to hold it up. Students spreed the green joint compound on with a plastic knife. If you have students start with one section they should finish adding the mosaics and beads at different times so you can over see or assist with the application of another section. It’s very quick to apply the green joint compound. It takes much longer to push the beads and tiles to fill a section completely, very tactile project. Finally add a coat of Mod Podge over the mosaic Christmas tree to give it a shine. The Mod Podge also ensures all the mosaic pieces will stay stuck and strengthens the joint compound. This Christmas tree sculpture makes the perfect center piece for the holidays.


This video shows the process of making Mosaic Christmas Tree Sculptures.

This year I found cupcake star toppers on sale, they were used for the top of the tree sculptures.

This year I added fairy lights to the sculptures!



These Mosaic Christmas Tree sculptures were made by Kindergarten students!




Donut Sculptures


Supply List:

Joint Compound

Plastic utensils

newspaper

masking tape

acrylic paints

Paint brushes

White school glue + paint (drizzle sauce)

Candy sprinkles or small beads


Start with one sheet of newspaper. roll it up, fold it in half and shape it into a donut. Use masking tape to hold your shape together. Use a plastic knife to spread joint compound on your donut shape.

These donuts are easy to make there is no paper mâché mess the joint compound covers most of the tape. The sides are painted and no one sees much of the bottom of the donut especially if you put your donut sculptures in a box.


This is what the donut sculpture looks like after the joint compound has dried.


When the joint compound is dry it's time to paint your donut sculptures. I painted the inside of the donuts first and saved the tops to decorate last.


To embellish your donut sculpture add drizzle sauce (drizzle is made with white school glue and paint mixed together inside of the glue container. a long skewer can help with the mixing) Offer drizzle variety…Dark chocolate drizzle, milk chocolate drizzle, cherry drizzle, butterscotch, blue berry…etc. Add sprinkles or small beads for embellishment.


This video shows the application of drizzle sauce.

These donut sculptures are a lot of fun to make!




Thiebaud Inspired Sculpted Desserts


These sculpted Desserts are inspired by the delicious dessert paintings of Wayne Thiebaund. Sculpted desserts were created in sections and assembled onto a 9x12 canvas board. The desserts are drawn separately on light weight cardboard, joint compound is added for texture, dessert is painted, and the canvas board background is also painted. My photographs should help to illustrate the process.


Supply List:

Joint Compound

Plastic utensils

light weight cardboard (cereal boxes)

scissors

9x12 canvas board for background

acrylic paints

Paint brushes

tacky glue or hot glue

White school glue + paint (drizzle sauce)

Candy sprinkles, small beads, and/or glitter




Dessert Templates are offered to students as an option. In addition to drawing the dessert you may need to also cut out a dish or a tray for your dessert to be displayed on.

Draw a cake, cake slice, or cupcake on lightweight cardboard (like a

cereal box) use patterns if desired. Cut out your dessert.



Using joint compound and plastic utensils apply the frosted area of the dessert. This is what your dessert might look like with the joint compound added to the cardboard. The joint compound is not applied to the cardboard tray shape. The joint compound is only applied to the dessert. A plastic fork scraped into wet joint compound adds a great striped texture to the bottom of cupcakes or the center of cakes. Use a plastic knife to add a swirl mark to the top of a cupcake. experiment creating different textures in your joint compound desserts by drawing, stamping, and/or scrapping into the wet joint compound. Use a variety of techniques to add texture and variety to your artwork.




Students (ages 5-7) apply joint compound to their dessert cutouts using plastic utensils


This was a very large class and it was necessary to organize student work separately to dry on paper plates.


Add joint compound to the cake shape and paint...



Decorating Tips

Joint compound works perfectly in disposable cake decorating bags! Don't forget the rubber bands to close off the other end of your decorating bag. I use Betty Crocker plastic decorating tips. They are perfect for making desserts fancy! You can add acrylic paint to the joint compound first if you didn't want to paint later. The plastic tips are reusable too!


Cakes, plates, and backgrounds are painted separately. The background canvas board is divided in two sections. The bottom section represents the space where the dessert sits, a table. The top section is the wall behind the dessert. I recommend painting the background after painting the dessert so that you can choose colors that are not in your desserts for background contrast. When the paint is dry the cake is glued to the plate shape and then glued to the background.



Art Camp (ages 5-7) paint their desserts.


Slide show of finished dessert sculptural painting examples



Art Camp, student work (ages 5-7)


Paintings by Wayne Thiebaud. Wayne Thiebaud is a contemporary American painter born November 15, 1920. He is famous for painting commonplace objects- pies, lipsticks, paint cans, ice cream cones, pastries, and hot dogs. Students looked at Thiebaud's famous dessert paintings for inspiration! See Thiebaud's dessert paintings HERE.



Tropical Birds



Supply List:

Joint Compound

Plastic utensils

light weight cardboard (cereal boxes)

scissors

9x12 canvas board for background

acrylic paints

Paint brushes

tacky glue or hot glue

Botanical Cuts 3D Paper by Roylco.

An assortment of construction paper


This art project works well for grades 4 and up.

Tropical bird templates are offered. The templates are great to have weather or not students use them they are a great reference for size. The birds should fit on a 9x12 canvas board. Many visuals of tropical birds are available for students. Show students the many varieties of parrots to inspire them to draw a bird of their choice. HERE is a great poster of Tropical Birds, same day shipping and laminated too!

These are some of the templates that I offer students...





Draw a bird onto a lightweight cardboard (like a cereal box) This is what your bird might look like with joint compound applied to it.The bird is made up of two pieces. A wing is cut out separately and will be glued onto the birds body after it is painted. This extra wing gives the

bird more dimension!



A tree branch has also been cut out of cardboard. Joint Compound was applied to the branch for texture. The bird will perch on the branch.


Student birds and branches drying. Not all students decided to cut out an extra wing for added dimension.


Clean Up Tip

I never wash the plastic utensils used to apply the joint compound. I might take a paper towel to remove excess joint compound when students are finished. It's not necessary to remove all the joint compound off of the utensils. Once it dries you can knock the joint compound off on the table. Plastic utensils are stored in a plastic bucket and have been reused for many years.


The back ground, the birds, and the branch are painted separately. When the paint is dry the branch, the bird, and extra wing (if desired) is glued to the back ground.


Painting The Background.

You may choose to paint your background a solid green, gradation of greens OR maybe it’s sunset?



After the bird and tree branch is glued to the background. Plants and flowers were cut out of construction papers and collaged into the picture. I recommend Botanical Cuts 3D Paper by Roylco. ($11.29 for hundreds of precut plant and flower shapes)

https://roylco.com/shop/r15333-botanical-cuts-2/



STUDENT ART






Why not make an entire jungle scene of surprises in the style of Henri Rousseau? The animals and some of the branches have texture from joint compound. The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau is an excellent book to accompany this art lesson, find the book HERE.




PET PORTRAITS


This is a new lesson idea that I plan to teach this school year at the high school level.

One day recently I was looking at the textures of joint compound and I thought joint compound is the perfect texture for dog hair! (cat hair too) I looked at Steve Jenkins book, Dogs and Cats, and I saw the image of a happy Border Collie that I had to build!

You can find this beautiful picture book HERE.


This tutorial explains my process in creating dimensional/sculptural pet portraits.

Student examples coming soon!


Supply List:

Joint Compound

Plastic utensils

cardboard (thicker cardboard)

scissors or x-taco knife or utility knife to cut cardboard

9x12 canvas board for background

acrylic paints

Paint brushes

tacky glue or hot glue

Mod Podge to add a protective coat over finished project.


This is the pattern I made for the happy Boarder Collie dog. If you want to make one just cut out the pattern and trace each section onto cardboard. I used a thicker cardboard for more dimension. The dog should fit on the canvas panel size you are using. I used a 9x12 size.


My students will not be using my pattern. They will be creating their own patterns.


HOW TO CREATE A PATTERN

Find an image of an animal that inspires you to work from.

Draw to basic shape of the animals head. Now decide what feature do you want to pop out the most? In my border collie I decided to have the nose pop up the most so I needed to cut out that same nose shape about 3 or 4 times and stack the shapes.

This picture shows the cardboard armature of the border collie.

Whatever animal you decide to make will need to be cut out of cardboard and layered.


The dogs face was built up in a few layers of cardboard because I wanted the dog to look as if he was popping off the canvas board! when all of the face shapes are cut out glue them together.



ADDING TEXTURE

This is what the dog looked like after joint compound was applied. Notice some of the cardboard is still showing. That’s ok because when the joint compound is dry the paint will hide the cardboard. I used the joint compound to hide the cardboard seams between the layers of cardboard. The joint compound makes excellent fur texture!



Clean Up Tip

I never wash the plastic utensils. I might take a paper towel to remove excess joint compound when students are finished. It's not necessary to remove all the joint compound off of the utensils. Once it dries you can knock the joint compound off on the table. Plastic utensils have been reused for many years.



PAINTING

I used acrylic paint. The canvas board was painted separately. The dog was painted separately. When the paint was dry the dog was glued to the background.




SUNFLOWERS INSPIRED BY VAN GOGH


These sculpted sunflower paintings were created by middle school and high school students.


Supply List:

Joint Compound

Plastic utensils

light weight cardboard (cereal boxes)

scissors

11x17 canvas board for background

acrylic paints

Paint brushes

green paper variety for stems and additional petals

tacky glue or hot glue


This video shows the process of making these sculpted sunflower paintings.

We started the project with a drawing game! I wanted my students to include variety in their bouquets of sunflowers. This game helped students to be creative in their drawing styles and it was an excellent art journal drawing activity." Van Gogh's Sunflowers Roll and Draw" by Expressive Monkey available on TeachersPayTeachers you can find the game HERE.


1. Sketch a vase of sunflowers that show variety


2. Using lightweight cardboard (cereal boxes) student drew and cut out sunflower shapes and arranged them on a 11x17 canvas board.


3. Use joint compound to add dimension and texture to flowers, petals, and vase.


4. Paint Sunflowers, leaves, vases, and canvas panel background


finished examples of high school sunflower paintings




This student became part her artwork!




COLLABORATIVE SUNFLOWERS


5th grade students worked together to create a collaborative sunflower sculpted painting for the school auction.


When working on a collaborative art project I recommend buying the frame first! Once you have found the frame that will work with the project you will know what size to make everything to fit inside of the frame. Purchase the frame first and you can select something in a standard size and you can find a coupon for it too. If you wait to find the perfect frame last you will most likely have to custom order the frame that fits your project and that will be very expensive!



Each student contributed one sunflower and one petal to this collaborative sunflower art project. The school auction was a success!




TEXTURED LANDSCAPES


When I think of Van Gogh I think of incredible texture! He used an impasto method of painting. Impasto is a technique used in painting, where paint is laid on an area of the surface in very thick layers, usually thick enough that the brush or painting-knife strokes are visible. Paint can also be mixed right on the canvas. When dry, impasto provides texture; the paint appears to be coming out of the canvas. Van Gogh painted in many layers of paint you could see his brush strokes and palette knife marks, he loved texture! Joint compound gives the look of many layers of paint without using all your paint up. You build the texture first and then paint over the texture.

I was inspired to recreate the look of impasto painting using joint compound. I decided to recreate Van Gogh's Wheatfield with Cypress's to try to imitate his textures using joint compound.


Supply List:

Joint Compound

Plastic utensils

9x12 canvas board

acrylic paints

Paint brushes


Start by sketching the basic composition of the landscape onto the canvas board.

This is a quick sketch so that I know where to apply the joint compound. Using a plastic spoon I dropped the compound onto the drawing one section at a time being careful not to loose my entire sketch. I started with the cypress tree and moved over to the bush and the tall grasses in the foreground. Finally I worked to add texture into the sky.

If you are doing this landscape with younger children you might want to start at the top of the canvas, with the sky first. That way they are not leaning into the wet joint compound.


A plastic fork scraped into wet joint compound adds a great striped texture to the wheatgrass. Use a plastic knife to add a swirl marks in the cypress tree and the bush. Experiment and create different textures in your joint compound landscape by drawing, stamping, and/or scrapping into the wet joint compound. Use a variety of techniques to add texture and variety to your artwork.


Clean Up Tip

I never wash the plastic utensils. I might take a paper towel to remove excess joint compound when students are finished. It's not necessary to remove all the joint compound off of the utensils. Once it dries you can knock the joint compound off on the table. Plastic utensils and kept in a plastic bucket and have been reused for many years.


When the joint compound dries it is time to paint the landscape. Look at that exciting texture!



A few joint compound textured landscapes by high school students




Joint Compound is truly an exciting All Purpose material that is easy to use and very economical for classroom use.



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