How Eric Carle Makes His Beautiful Art

Author and artist Eric Carle

Eric Carle’s books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar are linked in the minds of his faithful readers with his very distinctive and beautiful art. But how does he make the art and with what materials? We take a look at his process for making the images in the books and show you how you can do it, too!

Carle credits his influences for his style as ranging from Picasso, Matisse, Leo Lionni, and Ezra Jack Keats. His pictures are actually collages and not paintings. On his website at, the artist says of his process, “I begin with plain tissue paper and paint it with different colors, using acrylics. Sometimes I paint with a wide brush, sometimes with a narrow brush. Sometimes my strokes are straight, and sometimes they’re wavy. Sometimes I paint with my fingers. Or I paint on a piece of carpet, sponge, or burlap and then use that like a stamp on my tissue papers to create different textures.” That’s a fascinating way to go about making a collage, by preparing lots of different surfaces to work with!

Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar

But what does he do with all of this paper? Eric Carle continues, “These papers are my palette and after they have dried I store them in color-coded drawers. Let’s say I want to create a caterpillar: I cut out a circle for the head from a red tissue paper and many ovals for the body from green tissue papers; and then I paste them with wallpaper glue onto an illustration board to make the picture.” Wouldn’t you love to look through all of those drawers of prepared papers?

Do you feel like running out to your local arts and crafts store to make your own collage, or do one with the kids? Carle says, “You might want to try it. It’s messy, but fun.” The artist has also created a handy instruction sheet on how to make a hungry caterpillar at Be sure to share your own Eric Carle-inspired art with us! We’d love to see it!

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