Task 8 Colour Theory

What is colour theory?

If colour theory is simplified, it can be broken down into 3 parts- The colour wheel, colour value, and colour schemes. Each part of colour theory builds on the previous. Understanding each section of colour theory fully, will help you better understand its importance in the creation of art.

To help with this task, here is a resource to use:

Colour Wheel & Theory


The Colour Wheel

The colour wheel was developed by Sir Isaac Newton by taking the colour spectrum and bending it into a circle. If you follow around the colour wheel, you will find the same order of the colour spectrum- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo (blue-violet), and violet.

In the resource you will find a 12 piece circle to print, or create a circle by hand with 12 equal sections ready to add your colours.

The colour wheel is made up of three different types of colours – Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary.

The primary colours are red, yellow, and blue.

They are called primary for a couple of reasons.

First, no two colours can be mixed to create a primary colour. In other words, primary colours can only be created through the use of natural pigments.

Secondly, all other colours found on the colour wheel can be created by mixing primary colours together.

The secondary colours are orange, green, and purple.  Secondary colours are created by mixing equal parts of any two primary colours.

Yellow and blue will give you green.

Red and blue will create purple (violet).

Red and yellow will give you orange.

Tertiary colours are created by mixing equal parts of a secondary colour and a primary colour together.

There are six tertiary colours- red-purple, red-orange, blue-green, yellow-green, blue-purple, and yellow-orange.

Notice that the proper way to refer to tertiary colours is by listing the primary colour first and the secondary colour, second.

Colour Theory: Colour Values

The second part of colour theory deals with colour values.  Value is the darkness or lightness of a colour.

Adding white to a colour produces a tint…

Adding black produces a shade…


Colour Theory: Colour Schemes

Monochromatic- literally means one (mono) colour (chroma).
This colour scheme is made up of one colour and its shades and tints.

Analogous colours are colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel.  Analogous colours can be dramatic. Eg. Blue, blue-green, green, and yellow-green; red, red-purple, purple, blue-purple. They also produce harmony.

Complementary colours– are colours found directly across from each other on the colour wheel.  Complementary colour scheme provides strong contrast.  Eg. Blue and orange, red and green, yellow-green and red-purple.

There are many others, but if you learn the basics and look out for them in artists’ works, you will start to notice how the choice of colours and colour schemes impacts the art you are viewing. In time, you can apply colour schemes to create effects and atmospheres are you hoping to create within your paintings.


Join our Facebook Group for LIVE lessons and friendly art community – see you there 🙂

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART

OCAD Studio: Broken Colour Exercise

In this exercise you will discover how to make your flat colours more vibrant by laying them in a broken fashion rather than painting a solid mixed tone.

To start, watch the accompanying video above.


  • Three similarly sized brushes (about ⅓ – ½ an inch wide)
  • Two different pigments/hues in oils, acrylics or gouache
    • Ideally hues that are typically mixed to make a separate colour, such as red and blue or yellow and red etc.
  • White surface to paint on such as canvas paper, canvas or panel.
  • A matching medium (water for acrylics and gouache or mineral spirits for oils)


  1. Use a pencil to lightly draw two 3×3 inch squares next to one another on the surface.
  2. Squeeze out the two different colours on your surface, near the edge.
  3. Now take one of your brushes and mix them together to form a new colour. For example, if you mix yellow and red you will make an orange, or if you mix yellow and blue, you will make a green.
  4. Now paint one of the 3×3 inch squares with this newly mixed colour. You can use the medium to thin the paint if necessary. This will be your flat colour.
  5. Next you can make a broken version of the same colour.
  6. Take your remaining clean brushes, and using one for each pure colour, start randomly applying spots of the two colours within the second 3×3 square.
  7. Keep adding more spots until all the white within the square is covered and the spots are evenly distributed.
  8. That’s it! If You step back from the canvas, or paper, you will see that the further you are away from the broken colour, the more it merges into a single colour. However, it should vibrate nicely and have a bit more life than the flat colour.
    1. Both approaches are useful in different situations. Broken colour is particularly useful for landscape painting and making field colour abstract paintings.

OCAD Studio: 7 Canvas Stretching Tips

Stretching your own canvases can be great way to improve the quality of your surfaces and save money at the same time. Watch the video tutorial and read through these tips to get started making your own canvases.

  1. Get the right tools; a staple gun, scissors and a hammer are essential and I highly recommend investing in stretching pliers.
  2. Work slowly and check your corners carefully to make sure that your stretchers are square before starting to stretch.
  3. If possible, use linen as it will change shape less over time compared with cotton.
  4. Stretch as tightly as possible,and only use the corner wedges if absolutely necessary.
  5. Stapling at the sides is easier but if you want the piece unframed you will need to staple the back instead.
  6. Allow at least three times the depth of the stretcher bars in excess canvas for stretching. This will ensure that you have enough fabric to grip.
  7. Fold your corners before stapling as this will make it easier to spin the canvas around and rest it as you work.

OCAD Studio: Intro to Broken Colour

If you find that your paintings are lacking in vibrancy, then applying some broken colour is a great way to liven them up.

Broken colour is a reasonably recent development in the history of art. It was first employed by the French Impressionists in the late 19th Century but has been used in many different painting styles since, from abstraction to hyper-realism.

Claude Monet, Grainstack. (Sunset.), 1890-91

If you look closely detail of the image on the left, you will notice lots of short strokes of differing hues placed next to one another. There are yellows, greens, blues, pinks, reds and so on. You would think that so many different hues would confuse your eyes, however, when we look at the whole painting on the right, these strokes merge to form a single colour. So the blues and yellows in the shadows on the grass look green and the dusky oranges and purples in the underside of the grainstack look almost fluorescent.

Whenever our eyes look at this painting they are trying to determine exactly what colour each element is. This is an impossibility because each section of the image is made of lots of tiny shifting hues. Our eyes merge them to form an amalgamated colour but it is just a guess and can quickly shift as we focus on different section or even star at the whole image for a long time.

The whole image vibrates with luminous life as there is no solid block colour to latch onto. Instead we are presented with an image full of constantly shifting possibilities, which in many ways mimic the experience of perceiving light much better than exactly matching a solid colour as we see it.

Task 7: Tonal Portrait Drawing

A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person.

This task is about creating a portrait. In earlier posts I talk more about the ‘self portrait’ and how to create an artwork that has some personal meaning and content.

This time however I will keep it simple.

Today portraiture is a healthy and vital discipline in the art world.

While there are quite a few non-traditional approaches out there, many artists are returning to traditional techniques to address contemporary issues, and more people are painting portraits than ever. So with this in mind, I will return to the Renaissance to help you to start discovering how the masters became the artists we have all heard of today.

Just think in those days when amazing Ancient Greek and Roman sculptures began to be excavated, how excited artists would have been!? To see marble, carved so perfectly from so many years before- they finally saw they had a lot to learn.

The Renaissance is known as ‘born again’ time… everyone got hooked on Greek Mythology as if the Greeks has been ‘born again’, but this time, in Italy.

In simple terms, many artists were copying the raw emotion within expressions found on these sculptures. This, as well as copying the perfect proportions of these figures, helped them to learn about drawing the human form.

They were learning from the best… the Ancient Greeks!

Below is a resource of images that could be used to draw from. In my demonstration I use charcoal to draw ‘The Dying Gaul’. I think from drawing sculptures in real life is the best way, but having great tonal photographs is the next best thing.

Resource: Portraiture-from the beginning

You can learn a lot about the stories of the characters found in Ancient Sculpture, but also looking at the Renaissance sculptors themselves and their amazing work, can help to teach you about proportion and capturing emotion in your drawings.

Michelangelo’s David for instance. That intense stare of David, the detailed veins and muscles that can be seen in his hand, chest and neck… by observing and drawing from such art works will help you to build up your technical skills.

So take your pick and get exploring!


Join our Facebook Group for LIVE lessons and friendly art community – see you there 🙂

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART