TREE SILHOUETTE – Warm and Cool Colours, Contrast

Students use tempera paint to mix warm and cool colours. They use the colours to paint a background and then use black oil pastel to draw the silhouette of a tree on it.

Required Time

120 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 1 to Grade 6


Art Techniques
Language Arts
Visual Arts


colour theory colour wheel cool colours primary colours secondary colours silhouette warm colours


Pencil Paper Plates Water Containers Paper Towels Oil Pastels Tempera Paint Paper

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TREE SILHOUETTE – Warm and Cool Colours, Contrast - Step One

Step One

Make sketches of several trees. Choose the one you like the best to use for your painting. 

TREE SILHOUETTE – Warm and Cool Colours, Contrast - Step Two

Step Two

Put a small amount of yellow, red and blue paint on a paper plate. Mix equal amounts of 2 primary colours together to make a secondary colour. For example, mix red and yellow together to make orange. Mix blue and yellow together to make green and red and blue together to make violet.

TREE SILHOUETTE – Warm and Cool Colours, Contrast - Step Three

Step Three

Start painting at the bottom of the paper. Make a band of a cool colour such as blue or green.   

TREE SILHOUETTE – Warm and Cool Colours, Contrast - Step Four

Step Four

Gradually change colours moving from cool to warm. Allow the edges of each band of colour to overlap and mix as you add new colours. Fill the page with colour. Place the painting in a safe place to dry. 

TREE SILHOUETTE – Warm and Cool Colours, Contrast - Step Five

Step Five

Once the painting is dry use black oil pastel to draw your tree. Have your tree sketch beside you to help you draw your tree.

TREE SILHOUETTE – Warm and Cool Colours, Contrast - Step Six

Step Six

Fill the page with your tree and its branches. Look at your painting from a distance to see it with fresh eyes. Add details until you are satisfied with how it looks.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  1. Mix secondary colours from primary colours;
  2. Recognize and use warm and cool colours;
  3. Use contrast to create emphasis;
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity; and
  5. Support their ideas with evidence found in the works.


  1. Have students explore books about colour that they can use as inspiration for their own book creation, for example, Monsters Love Colors, by Mike Austin, Color Dance, by Ann Jonas, The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, Vincent’s Colors, by Vincent Van Gogh and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  2. Have students teach a student in a lower grade how to mix colours.


  1. Prior to this lesson you may want to have students make a colour wheel using the Exploring Colour lesson plan available on this site.
    Exploring Colour 
  2. Download the Colour Wheel posters available on this website.
    Colour Wheel
  3. Download images from the Internet, or find pictures in books of examples of trees, for example,
    Maple Tree
    Weeping Willow
  4. Gather and make available books about trees, for example, Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems, by Kristine O'Connell George, The Tree, by Karen Gray Ruelle, Sky Tree: Seeing Science Through Art, by Thomas Locker
  5. Have students do an inquiry-based study about trees in different seasons. Include poetry about trees as part of the study.
  6. Collect a variety of paint chips in warm and cool colours.
  7. Gather required art materials.


  1. View the colour wheel and either review or introduce the primary colours and how they can be mixed. 
  2. Introduce warm and cool colours.
  3. Have students get into small groups. Give each group of students a pile of paint chips and ask them to arrange them from coolest to warmest colours.
  4. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Mix secondary colours from primary colours.
  2. Recognize and use warm and cool colours.
  3. Use contrast to create emphasis.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the works.

The Process

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  3. Observe students as they work.
  4. 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 you for some reason.
    - Share thoughts about the work.
  3. During the discussion include references to:
    - Contrast - how it emphasizes the tree and adds drama to the picture.
    - Movement - how colour and lines get the eye to travel through the whole space.
    - Colour - how the colours change from cool to warm colours 
    - Feelings the work evokes and why/how.



  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 – TREE_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Download – TREE_self-assessment.pdf, TREE_PRIMARY_self-assessment.pdf))