COLOUR THEORY PAINTING – Colour, Shape, Implied Texture

Students combine their knowledge of colour theory, and elements and principles of design to create a non-objective painting.

Required Time

180 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 7 to Grade 10


Language Arts
Visual Arts


balance colour theory composition contrast pattern rhythm shades tints value scale


Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Paint Brushes Crayola Tempera Paint Crayola Permanent Markers - Black Water Containers Paper Towels Pencils Erasers

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COLOUR THEORY PAINTING – Colour, Shape, Implied Texture - Step One

Step One

  1. Paint a 12 colour Colour Wheel using only primary colours.
  2. Paint 2 Value Scales.
    - one with shades of a colour (the colour plus black)
    - one with tints of a colour (the colour plus white)
  3. When mixing TINTS: 
    - always begin with white and add very small amounts of the colour to it
    - make sure there are distinct steps from one tint to the next
  4. When mixing SHADES:
    - always start with the colour and add very small amounts of black to it
    - make sure there are distinct steps from one shade to the next
COLOUR THEORY PAINTING – Colour, Shape, Implied Texture - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Draw a complex composition that fills your paper, for example,
    - divide the space into separate sections
    - add patterns and details in each section
COLOUR THEORY PAINTING – Colour, Shape, Implied Texture - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Use a black permanent marker to outline the details in your drawing.
COLOUR THEORY PAINTING – Colour, Shape, Implied Texture - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Use your knowledge of colour mixing to paint your composition.
  2. Be sure to use a variety of:
    - shades;
    - tints; 
    - seconday colours;
    - tertiary colours.
COLOUR THEORY PAINTING – Colour, Shape, Implied Texture - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Compare your finished painting to your Value Scales and Colour Wheel. 

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • understand and apply colour theory;
  • mix secondary and tertiary colours from primary colours;
  • mix two value scales - one tints and one shades;
  • create a complex composition that includes colour, pattern and rhythm;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • discuss how the invention of photoraphy changed the nature of painting;
  • research an artist who has used colour theory as a predominant feature in his/her artwork;
  • create a colour theory poster based on a theme, for example, sports, a game, under the sea;
  • teach a student in a lower grade how to make a colour wheel or a value scale.


  1. Prior to this lesson have students study colour theory.
  2. Download and display the Colour, Value, Rhythm and Repetition posters available on this website.
  3. Download images from the Internet, or find pictures in books, of examples of paintings by artists who use colour, shapes and pattern in their artwork, for example, Canadian artist Bertram Brooker.
    Sounds Assembling


  1. Review the colour theory poster.
    - have students take notes on all aspects of colour theory for later reference
  2. View and use the critical analysis process to discuss a painting such as Sounds Assemblingby Bertram Brooker.
    - initial reaction
    - description
    - analysis - how artist has used the elements and principles of design
    - interpretation - support ideas with evidence found in the painting
    - expression of informed point of view - compare this point of view with their original ideas about the painting
  3. Discuss how the artist has used balance and placement in the composition.
  4. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a Colour Wheel with 12 distinct colours using only primary colours.
  2. Mix two value scales - one tints and one shades.
  3. Create a complex composition that includes a variety of colours, patterns and rhythms.
  4. Use the creative process to create an original, non-objective painting.
  5. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  6. Support your ideas with evidence found in the paintings.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - mixed secondary colours from primary collours
    - mixed tertiary colours from primary colours
    - painted an accurate shades value scale
    - painted an accurate tints value scale
    - created a complex composition that includes colour, patterns and rhythms
    - created an original non-objective painting
    - kept the painting in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Make sure students paint their colour wheels and value scales before beginning their paintings.
  5. Observe students as they work. 
  6. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Display the completed paintings for a group discussion. Remind students of the challenge.
  2. Ask students to:
    Look closely at the paintings.
    Choose one that interests them for some reason.
    Share thoughts about the work.
  3. During the discussion include references to:
    contrast – how contrasting colours affect the composition
    balance – how colour placement and pattern get the eye to travel through the picture plane
    colour mixing – the effects of different tints, shades, and various mixed colours
  4. Discuss why each painting is unique even though they were based on the same steps.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their paintings – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, holds artwork to the side, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads - Colour_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Download - Colour_self-assessment.pdf)