COLOUR THEORY PAINTING – Colour, Shape, Implied Texture

Students combine their knowledge of colour theory, and elements and principles of design to create an abstract painting.

Required Time

180 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 7 to Grade 10


Visual Arts


balance colour theory composition contrast harmony movement pattern repetition shades shape tints value scale


Paint Brushes Tempera Paint Crayola Marker and Watercolour Paper – 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm cm (9” X 12”) Pencils Water Containers Paper Towel Fine Permanent Black Markers

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

Step One

Paint a 12 colour, colour wheel using only primary colours. Paint 2 value scales. Paint one with shades of a colour (the colour plus black). Paint the other with tints of a colour (the colour plus white).

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

Step Two

Draw a complex composition that fills your paper, for example, divide the space into separate sections and add patterns and details in each section.

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

Step Three

Use a permanent marker to outline the details in your drawing.

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

Step Four

Use your knowledge of colour mixing to paint your composition. Be sure to use a variety of shades and tints of seconday and tertiary colours.

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

Step Five

Compare your finished painting to your value scales and colour wheel. 

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  1. Understand and apply colour theory to a painting;
  2. Mix secondary and tertiary colours from primary colours;
  3. Create value scales using tints and shades;
  4. Recognize and use colour theory, pattern and rhythm in a complex composition; and
  5. Support their ideas with evidence found in the works.



  1. Have students research an artist who has used colour theory as a predominant feature in his/her artwork.
  2. Have students discuss how the invention of photoraphy changed the nature of painting.
  3. Have students create a colour theory poster based on a theme, for example, sports, a game, under the sea.
  4. Have students 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 images from the Internet, or find pictures in books of examples of paintings by several artists who use colour, shapes and pattern in their artwork, for example,  
    Bertram Brooker


  1. Review the colour theory poster on this web site and have students take notes on all aspects of colour theory for later reference.
  2. Display an image of non-objective art, Bertram Brooker's painting 'Sounds Assembling', for example. Have students use the critical analysis process to discuss the painting. 
  3. Discuss how the artist has used balance in the composition.
  4. Explain that they will be creating a non-objective painting using colour theory, pattern and shape.
  5. Explain that in a non-objective painting placement and balance must be considered.
  6. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Apply the creative process to create an original work of art.
  2. Use the elements and principles of art to create a non-objective painting.
  3. Challenge yourself to mix many new colours from primary colours.
  4. Challenge yourself to create a complex composition.
  5. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creative thinking.

The Process

  1. Remind students to use only primary colours for their colour wheel. Secondary and tertiary colours must be mixed.
  2. Remind students to always begin with white and add very small amounts of the colour to it when mixing tints for their value scale. When mixing shades always start with the colour and add very small amounts of black to it. 
  3. Demonstrate the steps in creating the painting.
  4. Provide individual assistance as needed.
  5. Encourage students to share new colours they have created.
  6. Make sure students paint their colour wheel, then their value scales, before beginning their complex composition.


  1. Display the completed paintings.
  2. Discuss why each painting is unique even though they were based on the same steps.
  3. Discuss how each student used balance in their composition.


  1. Observe students as they work  – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting
  2. Observe students as they discuss the art works – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - COLOUR_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Download - COLOUR_self-assessment.pdf)