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 Water Containers Paper Towels Palettes (Paper Plates, or Yogurt Container Lids) Paint Brush

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

Step One

Begin by lightly drawing a sea creature the full width of your paper. Divide the body into 7 or 8 equal parts. Draw a horizontal line across the width of the creature to divide it in half. Choose a PRIMARY colour for one half of your creature. You will be making a scale that shows tints of the colour going in gradual steps from light to dark. Start by painting the first section white.

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

Step Two

Mix a tiny amount of the colour, for example blue, into the white. Always add the colour to white, because it takes hardly any colour to change white to a tint.

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

Step Three

Paint each section a tint of the colour. Gradually add a little more colour to the tint you just mixed for the next step until you get to the end. Paint the last step the colour with no white added. 

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

Step Four

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

Repeat the same process for the other half of your creature, this time using only black and white to make gradual steps of grey. Try to match the value of the grey with the tint of the colour it is beside.

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

Step Six

Mix a complementary colour for the background. (In this example orange is the complement of blue. Red and yellow were mixed to make orange.) Mix tints and shades of this colour to make the background interesting. 

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

Step Seven

Fill the entire background with mixed colours. 

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  1. Understand and apply colour theory to a painting;
  2. Mix secondary colours from primary colours;
  3. Create value scales using tints;
  4. Use a complementary colour scheme and rhythm in a composition; and
  5. Support their ideas with evidence found in the works.



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


  1. Download the colour wheel and Value posters available on this website.
    Colour Wheel
  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 works.

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. 
  4. Remind students to always begin with white and add very small amounts of the colour to it when mixing tints for their value scale. 
  5. Demonstrate the steps in creating the painting. Remind students to mix enough of their secondary colour to be used for the background and to add very small amounts of black to it when creating shades. 
  6. Provide encouragement and individual assistance as needed.
  7. Encourage students to share new colours they have created.


  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 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 - COLOURcreature_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Download - COLOURcreature_self-assessment.pdf)