UNDER THE SEA – Tints, Shades, Colour Schemes

Students draw an imaginary sea creature, divide it into equal parts and use tempera paint to fill in the design with tints, shades and complementary colours.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 4 to Grade 6


Language Arts
Visual Arts


colour scheme colour wheel complementary colour palette shades tints value scale


Crayola Tempera Paint Crayola Paint Brushes Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Water Containers Paper Towels Plastic Container Lids for Palettes Pencils

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UNDER THE SEA – Tints, Shades, Colour Schemes - Step One

Step One

  1. Begin by lightly drawing a sea creature the full length of your paper.
  2. Divide the body into 7 or 8 equal parts.
  3. Draw a horizontal line across the length of the creature to divide it in half.
  4. Choose a primary colour for one half of your creature.
  5. You will be making a scale that shows tints of the colour going in gradual steps from light to dark.
  6. Each section counts as 1 step.
  7. Start by painting the first section white.
UNDER THE SEA – Tints, Shades, Colour Schemes - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Mix a tiny amount of the colour, for example blue, into the white.
  2. Always add small amounts of the colour to white – it takes hardly any colour to change white to a tint.
UNDER THE SEA – Tints, Shades, Colour Schemes - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Paint each section a tint of the colour.
  2. Gradually add a little more colour to the tint you just mixed for the next step until you get to the end.
  3. Paint the last step the colour with no white added. 
UNDER THE SEA – Tints, Shades, Colour Schemes - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Place a small amount of white on one side of the palette and a small amount of black on the other side.
UNDER THE SEA – Tints, Shades, Colour Schemes - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Repeat the same process for the other half of your creature.
  2.  This time use only black and white to make gradual steps of grey.
  3. Try to match the values of the grey with the values of the colour it is beside.
UNDER THE SEA – Tints, Shades, Colour Schemes - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Choose a complementary colour for the background.
    - In this example orange is the complement of blue.
    - Red and yellow were mixed to make orange.
  2. Mix tints and shades of the complementary colour and use them to fill the background in an interesting way.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • understand and apply colour theory to a painting;
  • mix secondary colours from primary colours;
  • create value scales using tints;
  • use a complementary colour scheme and rhythm in a composition; 
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • explore colour theory books they can use as inspiration for their own book creation, e.g., Mouse Paint, by Ellen Stoll Walsh; Monsters Love Colors, By Mike Austin; Color Dance, by Ann Jonas; and The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt. 
  •  create a colour theory poster based on a theme, e.g., sports; a game; under the sea.
  • teach a student in a lower grade how to mix colours.


  1. Download and display the Colour and Value posters available on this website.
  2. Download images from the Internet, or find pictures in books of examples of sea creatures, for example,
    Egyptian Creature
    Greek Creatures
    Tokyo Creature
  3. Gather a selection of paint chips from a paint store that include a range of tints of various colours - enough for groups of students to work with.
  4. 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 value - the lightness or darkness of a colour.
  3. Demonstrate what happens when you mix a small amount of colour with white creating a tint, or a small amount of black with a colour creating a shade. Emphasize how little paint it takes to change the value of a colour.
  4. Give each group of students a pile of paint chips and ask them to arrange them from lightest to darkest in colour famiies.
  5. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Paint a sea creature design that demonstrates colour theory. 
  2. Mix secondary colours from primary colours.
  3. Paint value scales using tints.
  4. Use a complementary colour scheme and rhythm in your composition.
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the paintings.

The Process

  1. View the images of sea creatures drawing attention to their shapes and patterns.
  2. Encourage students to use their imagination when designing their own sea creature.
  3. Remind students to:
    - use only primary colours,
    - always begin with white and add very small amounts of the colour to it when mixing tints for their value scale.
  4. Ensure that everyone understands the challenge.
  5. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - drawn and painted a sea creature
    - mixed at least 7 tints of a primary colour in gradual steps from lightest to darkest
    - mixed 2 primary colours to get the complementary colour of my chosen primary colour
    - filled the background with tints and shades of a colour

    - kept the paper in good condition
  6. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  7. Observe students as they work.
  8. 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 complementary colours create strong contrast and create the illusion of depth
    movement – how colour and pattern get the eye to travel through the whole space
    colour mixing – the effects of different tints and shades


  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, points to areas in the painting, 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 painting.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - COLOURcreature_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Download - COLOURcreature_self-assessment.pdf)