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.

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