KS3 Art Scheme of Work: Colour Theory

I love this painting project because it introduces basic colour theory and you can add a range of different challenges each lesson. By the end of the project students are able to identify and mix paints to correctly have secondary and tertiary colours, and use their knowledge to create unique and vibrant final painted outcomes.

This art project is for Key Stage 3, but in school we teach it in line the the GCSE Art Assessment Objectives: students research an artist (Carolee Clark), they experiment painting with colour and drawing, they research their own ideas (using their own photographs), they design and then make their final piece.

Students start the project by researching artwork by Carolee Clark:

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Harmonizing - painting by Carolee Clark

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Students should identify the use of colours and patterns, noticing how the cooler colours are used for shadows and warmer colours are highlights. We have students create their own research pages about the artist but they could work in teams/tables to complete analysis sheets or homework etc.

Students then complete a series of tasks to practice mixing tints, shades, secondary and tertiary colours:

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This is followed by going through some basic colour schemes such as warm and cool, harmonious and contrasting colours.

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Students are given a homework to bring in a photograph of their own that they would like to work with; this is really good for engagement as most students choose a picture of their pet or an animal they love!

You can differentiate this by giving students pictures to work from if their own aren’t great or clear enough to use.

Using their homework, students trace the outline of their animal (I had students up against the windows in the classroom) then start to add the main features (ears, eyes, nose, mouth etc.)

You can set a challenge for more able students to draw out their animal without tracing, but since this wasn’t a drawing project I wanted to get students into painting as soon as possible.

I then introduced the concept of contour lines, demonstrating and explaining to students that they should add lines and shapes to fill any big white spaces on their animal.

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Once all the animals are drawn / traced out and students have added contour lines and shapes to fill their drawing, they can start to paint. I had to photocopy all of their drawings onto thicker paper which is a bit time-consuming but worth it to maintain the quality of their work.

To begin painting, students work from their animal photographs and identify the shadows, highlights and midtones. In each section they try to use:

Cool colours = shadows
Warm colours = highlights
Neutral (greens and tertiary greens) = midtones

We used A4 size for the artworks, so the challenge in the practical lessons was to paint accurately. Each lesson I would demonstrate how to paint into the small shapes as accurately as possible, using smaller brushes really helps; in school we use these man-made fine round brushes which are not bad, however I found that the aluminium ferrules come loose quite easily.

If you’ve got the budget (!) something like Windsor and Newton round sable brushes are much better quality.

Students worked on their paintings each lesson, learning and practicing how to mix secondary and tertiary colours. To add more challenge to the painting, we had a rule that students shouldn’t paint the same colour next to each other.

Some of the students struggled with the different challenges: either painting accurately, not having the same colour next to each other or drawing in their contour lines. Some ended up filling their animals with different shapes (rather than following the flow of the outlines):

Any mistakes were used to set targets through self-assessment, peer-assessments etc. so students could work to make improvements each lesson. The last few steps of the project were to add patterns, then outline the main features of their animals.

Again, this step could be differentiated to increase the challenge by asking students to only work with contrasting colours when adding patterns. 

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I had a lot of students asking if they could take their work home to complete, so I think that’s a good sign that they enjoyed the project! They worked really hard on them and have created some outstanding work!

I have this scheme of work available to share, so if you would like it please leave a comment or drop me an email and I can give you access to the PowerPoint.

What do you think of the work? Let me know!

KS3 Colour theory painting project - puppyKS3 Colour theory painting project - pandaKS3 Colour theory painting project - giraffeKS3 Colour theory painting project - dogKS3 Colour theory painting project - pig

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64 thoughts on “KS3 Art Scheme of Work: Colour Theory

  1. Hi

    Love this project idea – a great way to get them engaged and feel like they are choosing what they are doing! Please could you email me the powerpoint?


  2. Hi this is a fantastic lesson plan. Thinking how I could adapt this to use pastels. Please could you email me the planning.


    1. Thanks for your comment! I have shared the scheme of work with your email address. I’m not sure how well this would work with pastels since it relies on students mixing their colours correctly, but please let me know how you get on!


  3. This is a great lesson plan and I would love to have your scheme of work if you would share it with me. I am new to art teaching so would appreciate the help. From this topic could I move on to mention Fauvism?


  4. Hi, love this work. I am going to do this with my SN class as think there is ways of doing at many levels. If you could share the Powrpoint that would be great? Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, this is a lovely way to introduce colour theory, with an interesting and engaging outcome for the pupils. Please could you send me the plan. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hello, this is a fantastic lesson plan. A great way to teach color theory. I’m going to give it a go. Please could I receive the resources available

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi this is AMAZING!! It looks so fresh and different for Year 7! Would you be able to share the Lesson Powerpoint with me also please?
    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This looks brilliant – thanks so much for sharing and inspiring. Would I also be able to have a copy of you fab PowerPoint? Thank you so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello! I would really appreciate the PPT that accompanies this SoW. I think it would be great to do with Year 7 in Term 1 as it works as a foundation for their knowledge.


  10. This looks absolutely fantastic…just what I’m looking for to help set up my curriculum. Would you be able to send my the PPT/resources to deliver this? Thank you x

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This looks great. Can you share the al of the resources you used to deliver this series of lessons. Thank you in advance. Exactly what I am looking for my class to engage with.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love this work, so thank you for sharing it, with such good results. I would love to have a copy of the full powerpoint to enable me to work with and see the results I get. Thank you once again.

    Liked by 1 person

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