Media Arts


By Debra Cline, posted on Nov 9, 2023

Let’s be honest—donuts are delicious, and designing one is a fun way for students to express themselves artistically. There are many different approaches to creating donut designs, ranging from the culinary arts to 3D modeling and, of course, striking designs created with conventional art materials. My sixth-grade students created donut designs using the free program Microsoft Paint 3D. The results were stunning, and each design was a unique piece of art.

SchoolArts magazine, The Media Arts Issue, December 2023, Middle school art lesson, 3D donut designs
Left: Anna D. Right: Adalyn T.
SchoolArts magazine, The Media Arts Issue, December 2023, Middle school art lesson, 3D donut designs
Left: Lilly S. Right: Nevaeh H.
SchoolArts magazine, The Media Arts Issue, December 2023, Middle school art lesson, 3D donut designs
Taylor S.

Real-Life Connections
We began by talking about how donut designs could be used in commercial advertising. We discussed different donut franchises as well as promotional items like advertisements and marketing strategies. It was fun for students to think about how their designs could be used on t-shirts, keychains, buttons, stickers, and in animated commercials.

Connecting Concepts
I shared some of the elements of art and principles of design to help students connect and apply these concepts to their work. Students considered the following:

Elements of Art
Think about the type of line(s) you want to use—thick, thin, straight, wavy—and how will this affect your overall design.
Shape. Think about how your flat 2D art can create the illusion of a 3D form.
Color. How will the colors that you choose represent flavors, and how will they go together?
Value. How will adding highlights and shadows help to create the illusion of a 3D form?
Texture. What elements can you add to your design to give the illusion of texture? For example, crunchy sprinkles or creamy, smooth frosting.

Principles of Design
Contrast. How can using dark colors on top of light colors (or vice versa) create an eye-popping design?
Pattern. Does creating a pattern in your design make your donut more visually appealing? Play with different patterns like zigzags, dots, and crisscrosses.

The Process

  • Open a new file in the Microsoft Paint 3D program.
  • Click on 3D shapes and draw the basic shape of your donut.
  • Select a base color for the donut design and the desired finish (most students preferred a matte finish for the base of their donut).
  • Click on brushes and experiment with different types of brushes, colors, and thicknesses for the frosting on the donut.
  • Sprinkles and other elements may be added using the 2D shapes tool.
  • Save the finished art as a PNG file and enjoy sharing it with others through slideshow presentations or emails.

Cross-Curricular Tie-Ins
Our charter school promotes art integration, so connecting art lessons with core course instruction is encouraged. Students can improve their vocabulary skills in their Language Arts class by writing a commercial jingle for their donut design. Math teachers could have students construct a donut container based on the size packaging needed to fit a dozen 5" (12.5 cm) round and 2" (5 cm) high donuts. A science class could talk about nutrition and the balance of eating sweets in moderation with other foods. The history of donuts and other pastries is fascinating and culturally diverse, with many available online resources to explore in a social studies class.

This lesson can also lead to many different project extensions, like a donut-frosting party (photographs of this event could make great yearbook pictures) and maybe even community involvement with local vendors to help offset the cost of materials. Try creating ceramic donut designs that could be used as a fundraiser during a school festival or special event. Arrange to have an art show in a donut shop or café. My favorite is a gallery show filled with student art.

Oh, how sweet it is to create donut designs. Explore the possibilities and enjoy!

Debra Cline is an art teacher at Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Florida.

View this article in the digital edition.