Tin Painting for El Dia de Los Muertos

El dia de los muertos Tin Painting, Tinkerlab.comThe Mexican folk art of tin painting is eye candy for little kids, such a fun medium to play with, and it’s perfect for El Dia de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead, November 1 & 2).

I used to lead this activity when I taught art in Los Angeles elementary schools, and I’ve seen 100’s of children get sucked right into it, inevitably asking for more. I was curious to see if my 3-year-old would have the same reaction…she did!

She made 6 tin paintings before I had to cut her off. If you try this, you’ll have to let me know if you have the same experience with it. If you do a quick image search for Mexican Tin Art (or click this link), you’ll have some good inspiration for this project.

tin painting for el dia de los muertos

For this project you’ll need:

  • Permanent Markers (like Sharpies) in multiple colors
  • Pure Metal Tooling Foiltin painting for el dia de los muertos. Kitchen aluminum foil is too thin to do the job, but I encourage you to try heavy duty foil it if that’s all you have. If you’re feeling more DIY, you could try cutting an aluminum can with tin snips as Anjie did here.
  • Paper tape or electrical tape
  • Blunt pencil
  • Magazine
  • Scissors

tin painting for el dia de los muertosThis is essentially an embossing project, and I think the joy in it lies in pressing into the foil to create a relief print. It’s highly rewarding, the foil is shiny and enticing, and the final product is a keepsake.


  1. Cut the foil to the desired size. I like this foil because you can cut it with household scissors or a paper cutter. So easy!
  2. Tape off the edges to avoid cutting little fingers
  3. Place the foil on top of a magazine and draw on it with the blunt pencil. Press down firmly to make a good, strong mark. You can experiment with both a blunt and sharp pencil to see how they work differently. The magazine (or stack of newspaper) creates a cushion that allows the embossing to happen.
  4. Once the drawing is complete, decorate the tin painting with permanent markers. The foil will maintain its sheen beneath the Sharpie marks.
  5. Display proudly.
tin painting for el dia de los muertosMy daughter taped off these edges by herself (she was proud) and drew one of her signature spiral shapes.
tin painting for el dia de los muertosWhen I introduced this project to elementary age children, we would also include a small piece of tracing paper (the same size as the foil) and images of Pre-Columbian and Mexican symbols (see Resources for a link to a great book). The children would trace the symbols of their choice, place the tracing paper on top of the foil, and then trace the image again. It’s a different experience from the free-form preschool activity I’m sharing here, but it may be of interest to those of you with older children.



  1. I love tin art. We had a go making plant signs from aluminium plates and decorating with embossing and permanent marker – great fun

    • Ooooh, what are aluminum plates? I’ll have to look for that.

  2. Wow! Thanks for all the great info: love the use of an aluminum can! This is my kind of art! I have tooling foil, but would love to try it with the can an nail polish! Great job researching!

    • Nail polish would work beautifully. And yes, I can see you doing some wonderful stuff with aluminum cans!

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