Art Lesson: Designing a Postage Stamp

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The Art classroom is the perfect location to study the history of the United States through the eyes of the postal service. The postage stamp first appeared in the United States shortly after the Pony Express began. The money from the sale of the postage stamps was used to pay postal employees and expand the postal service. The designs on the postage stamps portrayed important people and historical events that helped shape and build the United States. It was not until recent years that the designs on postage stamps began using cartoons, flowers and non-historical items.
Class prep work required before beginning a postage stamp design class is creating a set of templates for the students to use as their outline. Good designs include a square, rectangle or triangle shape. Draw the templates with the curved perforations around the edges instead of using straight lines. This helps the students to feel as if they are creating a stamp and not just drawing a picture. Provide each student with a stamp template that is approximately 8 by 10-inches.

Talk with the students about the history of stamps in the United States. Discuss possible items to put on a stamp design. Make special note that each stamp has the price printed somewhere on the stamp. Brainstorm with the students about possible designs they could draw on their stamp.

Give each student the choice of which stamp template they would like to use. Instruct the students to draw their design on the stamp using only a line drawing. Explain the finished design will be scanned and shrunk to a 1 by 1 1/4-inch finished size and placed on a sheet with a minimum of nine designs for them to color. The original drawing is done with pencil. Have the students use a permanent black ultra-fine marker to go over the pencil drawing once all corrections are made. Make sure all pencil lines are erased prior to scanning and shrinking the original design.

Use a PhotoShop program to reduce the original drawings. Make a page of stamps for each student that contains only their drawing. Place a minimum of nine and a maximum of twelve small stamps on a sheet.

Give each student two sheets containing their miniature stamp. Instruct the students to color each stamp in different colors using color pencils. Allow the students to pick out their favorite colored stamp and color their large stamp in the same manner.

Mount the finished large stamp and sheet of small stamps on a piece of black railroad board or poster board for display. Speak with your principal and ask if there is a location in the office or front foyer of the building to display three to five of the best stamp designs. Critique the final designs and let the student pick the top three to five designs. Display the designs in the office or front foyer of the school building.

References:

A Brief History of Postage Stamps Through the Years
United States Postal Service

Stamp History

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