Art! Color

I hope you started with Art! drawing 1 and Art! drawing 2 but if you didn’t we’ll talk about some drawing basics again.

Are you familiar with the TV show “Brain Games”? I’ve only seen a few episodes but the first one I ever saw was the first season, first episode entitled “watch this” The show is all about the way the brain works and this particular episode incorporates optical illusions. You see, sometimes our brain makes assumptions. Our eyes automatically translate 3-dimensional things to our brains. So when you paint on a solid surface- it helps to know what your brain is going to see. This is how we make a 2D painting LOOK 3D. We use what our brain knows and help is see a 3-dimensional object.

Let’s try an example: a child is asked to draw a table:

table 1

a table is a rectangle with 4 legs. right?

table 2

as we grow we learn that the 4 legs need to go under that table and that one or more can be hidden.

Well, if you’ve done the drawing exercises and learned  basic shapes and shading , we are ready to learn how to shade using color. But first- lets take a look at color theory. It will help us to name the colors and how they work together.

There are only 3 primary colors. Red, Blue and Yellow. They are called primary colors because there are no colors you can mix to create them, and all other colors can be created with them. You remember right? Red and Blue make Purple. Blue and Yellow make Green. Yellow and Red make Orange. There are called Secondary colors- you could mix them using primary colors.

White is actually all color and black is no color. Did you think I said that backwards? Well the color we see is what [light] bounces off of an object. It absorbs all but the color that bounces back to our eyes. So think of a hot summer day in the sun. White reflects all color (light) back and black absorbs all color. This is also why a black hole swallows everything up.

here is a lesson in color theory

here is an info-graphic on color theory

now we’ll see if we can learn to create with color.


*What can you use to color? anything with color!  You can use colored pencils, conte crayons, pastel chalk, paints (any kind tempra, acrylic, I’d hold off on oil maybe) watercolor or watercolor pencils. you can use crayons, but they will not mix as well as other media. As with anything else, you get what you pay for. You can collect some of these items very inexpensively and they can work quite well, if you find you are really enjoying the media, you might look for a higher quality and you may find that the quality of color and the ability to mix is better, but I wouldn’t worry too much at this stage. You can find supplies just about anywhere. I usually shop: Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Dick Blick or Miller Pad and Paper and the University Book Store. Really the best quality and selection I’ve found was in my college bookstore. I still travel there to buy for some projects.

now color is going to require a little lesson in vocabulary:

hue and value

photo from

Hue– this is what we think of as color- red, blue, green. In art we are more specific. saturation in this visual can mean how much pigment or how strong the color. The saturation is important because nothing you mix with it can ever make that color brighter or stronger.

The Value – is how light or dark the color (or hue)

Value is determined like this:

a tint – is the hue is when we add white

a shade– is adding black or darkness to our hue

with pencil we practiced

Shading techniques

and shade 3d forms like this sphere in multiple techniques

now we should mix a hue with black and white- making shades and tints

try a worksheet like this

or this

create scales or try another technique like this

a video here

create a project of a color wheel-you can try making a project where you create a color wheel in a fun, imaginative, creative way

this example isn’t set up as strictly a color wheel- but if gives you the idea of a creative color wheel

a ballerina

geometric shapes here, here or here

some fun examples here

and here is a fun one

color wheels can be fun. search for more ideas or check my color theory pinterest board.


Color Combinations or Color Schemes

Now that we have learned about primary colors, tints, and shades lets talk Color schemes

lets review:


image from

Primary colors are in the center. they cannot be mixed.

Secondary colors are the next row out. They can be mixed using primary colors.

Tertiary colors are all of the other color that can be mixed in-between like a yellow-orange, orange-yellow, green-blue…

as we look at these colors on the wheel, we can pick out tired and true color combinations:


image from

as we look at the color wheel we can pick out certain color schemes that will go together. It is fun to try these out.

Here is a worksheet for identifying color combinations using your color wheel.

The first one not shown (above) is called Monochromatic. It is one color. one hue. You use tints and shades of that color (like your scales you did above) to create a picture or project like

this ice cream cone project or this guitar

these beautiful monochromatic painting examples

here, here, here or here

now in the photo above do you see the complimentary? split-complimentary? triadic and analagous? try some of them out!

**SIMPLIFIED IDEA- I’ve done this in a class that was VERY simple. Not terribly artistic but effective in teaching the color combinations. (it depends on how artistic your student wants to be)

find or print some coloring sheets.They can be simple or more complicated. Color them in with the listed color combinations. It can be fun to play with the colors when you are not worried about a project or drawing. Try the project next 😉


another way is to color in the pictures in a mosaic style. Try cutting the necessary colors from magazine photos- cut reds (or red patterns, tint and shades) and greens. TINY, imperfect squares. now use a glue stick and fill in your coloring sheet with these tiny squares to fill in the necessary color.

try a mosaic in this style using the magazine or scarp paper pieces

PROJECTS– try your color knowledge!

Try this project for any color combination OR all of them in one project


here are some project ideas focusing on color, shading or color schemes:


underwater scene – this one is an idea in fractured lines but it sparks a number of ideas for me like a monochromatic or analogous underwater scene

legos– colors in cube forms.

combination color and perspective project

fun mixing colors

value landscape

water droplets

stained glass tint and shades


One thought on “Art! Color

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