Category Archives: Unit 2: Painting/Color

Files to aid in the understanding of painting and color theory.


How to create areas of emphasis in your artwork

1. Contrast a shape with its surroundings.

2. Create a contrast of temperature

3. Use a darker or lighter value

4. Focus attention with converging lines

5. Isolate the object you want to emphasize

6. Increase an object’s intensity of color

Watercolor Sample Board

  1. Graduated Wash:  Paint the square from dark to light using at first a solid color then adding more and more water to make the color lighter.
  2. Blending Wash from Primary to Secondary:  Select your two favorite primary colors.  Paint a solid band of the first primary color. Add a little of the secondary primary for the next band.  Continue doing this until you have created a secondary color.
  3.  Bleeding:  Paint a portion of the square using one color.  While the color is still wet, paint another color next to the first.  This should cause the colors to bleed together.  Make sure you have a lot of water on your brush.
  4. Feathering:  Paint the square in completely using only clean water.  Next get some color on your brush and while the square is still wet, drag your paintbrush across the square.  You will see that the paint creates a feathered effect.
  5. Wet into Wet:  Paint the square a solid color.  While the paint is still wet, paint a design over the square.
  6. Wet on Dry:  Paint straight lines across your square.  Try to vary the thickness of each line so that you have some very thick lines and some VERY skinny lines.
  7. Dry Brush:  Remove all excess water off your paint brush.  Pick up some paint, with very little water in it and drag your brush across the surface of the paper.
  8. Lifting Out:  Paint the square a solid color.  Next, clean your brush and remove all water from it by wiping it with your paper towel.  While the square is still very wet, place your brush on the square and remove some of the color.  Wipe the liquid off your brush and repeat.
  9. Water Blooms: First, lay down a colorful wash. Then dip your brush in water, swirl it around and then, without blotting it on a towel, touch it to the paper where your wash is. Have your painting surface rather flat; not too tilted. You need not rub it around. What you have just done is add more water to a portion of the wash, and this water will force the pigment into a circle. The edges will be rough, and look somewhat like ruffles.
  10. Masking with Masking Tape:  Place some masking tape or apply masking   fluid on your paper and paint over the entire square.  When dry, remove.
  11. Masking with Masking fluid:   Apply soap onto your brush. Paint in the masking fluid onto the dry paper and wait for it to dry. Clean the brush with soap and water. After the masking fluid is dry apply layers of colored paint over. Once complete rub off the masking fluid.
  12. Rock Salt:  Paint the entire square using either one or two colors.  Before it  dries, sprinkle salt over the surface of the square.  Let the paint dry with the salt on the paper.
  13. Splattering:  Load up a toothbrush or a flat paint brush with paint without too much water and use your thumb to pull back the bristles and splatter the color onto the dry paper.
  14. Tissue paper technique: Apply paint to the entire square. Crinkle tissue paper and dab it onto the painted surface. The paint on the surface should not be so wet that it is still shining or you would pick up all the paint with the tissue. Paint that has “lost its shine” is still damp enough to have textures created by the blotting of tissue.
  15. Plastic wrap texture: Apply paint to the entire square. Plastic wrap can be applied when the paper is wet, but must stay on the surface until the paint is dry. First, create wrinkles in the plastic by wadding it up, and then flatten it out on the surface of the paper It can be pulled and stretched in different directions to alter the texture. To add to the texture, salt can be applied under the plastic. If you need directional lines in your texture, it can be pulled and stretched in different directions to alter the texture. Plastic wrap can also be used on heavier pigment as a blotter like the tissue. Make sure that the pigment is not shiny and wet with a lot of water. If the pigment is too wet and thin, the color will just run back together after you lift the plastic off the surface. Timing is everything when using these techniques.

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Monsters Inc.

In this project you will be developing a series of 3 color sketches that will be used to create two watercolor paintings of a monster(s) that you create.

What would you look like if you were a cartoon monster? Would you be fierce, fun, silly, sinister, edgy, abstract, goofy, or evil? This is an opportunity to create a persona that is different from your own, or a reflection of what you are about.

You are to build upon your previous experiences about the use of Line and Shape and combine them to create some ideas for a monster. To help you along the way, I have provided you with some examples from an American artist named Tim Biskup. Wikipedia describes him as “a free-spirited style that recalls 1950s storybook illustration, with bright colors and whimsical shapes unrestricted by the black outlining typically used in character design.” Below are some examples of Tim Biskup’s work:

As you are developing some ideas for your monster, consider the principle of design called RHYTHM:

Rhythm is the repetition or alternation of motifs (art elements such as lines/shapes/colors/textures) often with defined intervals between them. Rhythm can create a sense of movement, and can establish pattern and texture. There are many different kinds of rhythm, often defined by the feeling it evokes when looking at it.

  • Regular: A regular rhythm occurs when the intervals between the elements, and often the elements themselves, are similar in size or length.

  • Flowing: A flowing rhythm gives a sense of movement, and is often more organic in nature.

  • Progressive: A progressive rhythm shows a sequence of forms through a progression of steps.

  • Alternating: An alternating rhythm consists of successive motifs, which continue to appear in a regular distinct order.


In regular rhythm, the black stripes inside the bubbles are repeated at regular intervals with similar sizes and directions.


In Flowing rhythm, the wings and designs surrounding the monster provide a sense of movement and the lines curve and ‘flow’.


In progressive rhythm, the motif, the heart/shape, change in size and from solid to outlined form.


In alternating rhythm, the stripes on the monster fish rotate, or alternate between grey and brown as well as the red drops alternate to black drops.

I would like for you to experiment with each of these types of rhythm within your designs. In addition, you are now more aware of different color combinations from the previous exercises, so develop a range of color schemes with these examples.

Below are some examples of previous student work:

Color Basics

The Color Wheel

image001 The color wheel or color circle is the basic tool for combining colors. The first circular color diagram was designed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666.

The color wheel is designed so that virtually any colors you pick from it will look good together. Over the years, many variations of the basic design have been made, but the most common version is a wheel of 12 colors based on the RYB color model

Traditionally, there are a number of color combinations that are considered especially pleasing. These are called color harmonies or color chords and they consist of two or more colors with a fixed relation in the color wheel.

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Colors

In the RYB (or subtractive) color model, the primary colors are red, yellow and blue.

The three secondary colors (green, orange and purple) are created by mixing two primary colors.

Another six tertiary colors are created by mixing primary and secondary colors.

image003 Warm and cool colors

The color circle can be divided into warm and cool colors.

Warm colors are vivid and energetic, and tend to advance in space.

Cool colors give an impression of calm, and create a soothing impression.

White, black and gray are considered to be neutral.

Tints, Shades, and Tones

These terms are often used incorrectly, although they describe fairly simple color concepts. If a color is made lighter by adding white, the result is called a tint. If black is added, the darker version is called a shade. And if gray is added, the result is a different tone.

Tints – adding white to a pure hue:image005


Shades – adding black to a pure hue:image007


Tones – adding gray to a pure hue:image009


Classic Color Schemes

Monochromatic color scheme

image001  The monochromatic color scheme uses variations in lightness and saturation of a single color. This scheme looks clean and elegant. Monochromatic colors go well together, producing a soothing effect. The monochromatic scheme is very easy on the eyes, especially with blue or green hues. You can use it to establish an overall mood. The primary color can be integrated with neutral colors such as black, white, or gray. However, it can be difficult, when using this scheme, to highlight the most important elements.
Pros: The monochromatic scheme is easy to manage, and always looks balanced and visually appealing.
Cons: This scheme lacks color contrast. It is not as vibrant as the complementary scheme.
Tips: 1. Use tints, shades, and tones of the key color to enhance the scheme.
2. Try the analogous scheme; it offers more nuances while retaining the simplicity and elegance of the monochromatic scheme.


Analogous color scheme

 image003 The analogous color scheme uses colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. One color is used as a dominant color while others are used to enrich the scheme. The analogous scheme is similar to the monochromatic one, but offers more nuances.
Pros: The analogous color scheme is as easy to create as the monochromatic, but looks richer.
Cons: The analogous color scheme lacks color contrast. It is not as vibrant as the complementary scheme.
Tips: 1. Avoid using too many hues in the analogous scheme, because this may ruin the harmony.
2. Avoid combining warm and cool colors in this scheme.


Complementary color scheme

image005 The complementary color scheme is made of two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. This scheme looks best when you put a warm color against a cool color, for example, red versus green-blue. The complementary scheme is intrinsically high-contrast. When using the complementary scheme, it is important to choose a dominant color and use its complementary color for accents. Using one color for the background and its complementary color to highlight important elements, you will get color dominance combined with sharp color contrast.
Pros: The complementary color scheme offers stronger contrast than any other color scheme, and draws maximum attention.
Cons: This scheme is harder to balance than monochromatic and analogous schemes, especially when desaturated warm colors are used.
Tips: 1. For best results, place cool colors against warm ones, for example, blue versus orange.
2. If you use a warm color (red or yellow) as an accent, you can desaturate the opposite cool colors to put more emphasis on the warm colors.
3. Avoid using desaturated warm colors (e.g. browns or dull yellows).
4. Try the split complementary scheme; it is similar to the complementary scheme but offers more variety.


Split complementary color scheme

 image007 The split complementary scheme is a variation of the standard complementary scheme. It uses a color and the two colors adjacent to its complementary. This provides high contrast without the strong tension of the complementary scheme.
Pros: The split complementary scheme offers more nuances than the complementary scheme while retaining strong visual contrast.
Cons: The split complementary scheme is harder to balance than monochromatic and analogous color schemes.
Tips: 1. Use a single warm color against a range of cool colors to put an emphasis on the warm color (red versus blues and blue-greens, or orange versus blues and blue-violets).
2. Avoid using desaturated warm colors (e.g. browns or dull yellows), because this may ruin the scheme.


Triadic color scheme

 image009  The triadic color scheme uses three colors equally spaced around the color wheel. This scheme is popular among artists because it offers strong visual contrast while retaining balance, and color richness. The triadic scheme is not as contrasting as the complementary scheme, but it looks more balanced and harmonious.
Pros: The triadic color scheme offers high contrast while retaining harmony.
Cons: The triadic color scheme is not as contrasting as the complementary scheme.
Tips: 1. Choose one color to be used in larger amounts than others.
2. If the colors look gaudy, try to subdue them.


Tetradic (double complementary) color scheme

image011 The tetradic (double complementary) scheme is the richest of all the schemes because it uses four colors arranged into two complementary color pairs. This scheme is hard to harmonize; if all four colors are used in equal amounts, the scheme may look unbalanced, so you should choose a color to be dominant or subdue the colors.
Pros: The tetradic scheme offers more color variety than any other scheme.
Cons: This scheme is the hardest scheme to balance.
Tips: 1. If the scheme looks unbalanced, try to subdue one or more colors.
2. Avoid using pure colors in equal amounts.