ABSTRACT DESIGN – Colour Schemes, Shape, Space

Students create an abstract design using repeated and overlapping shapes painted using a specific colour scheme.

Required Time

180 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 7 to Grade 9


Language Arts
Visual Arts


abstract colour scheme composition shape space


Crayola Tempera Paint Crayola Paint Brushes Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") - 1 piece per student Crayola Scissors Pencils Erasers Plastic Container Lids For Palettes - several per student Water Containers - 1 per student Paper Towels

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ABSTRACT DESIGN – Colour Schemes, Shape, Space - Step One

Step One

  1. Cut out the templates or create 2 new shapes.
  2. Use them to create a design.
  3. Trace each template at least 5 times to compose an abstract design.
  4. As you are composing your design think about how you can:
    - overlap the shapes and place them in different directions letting some of the edges go off the paper;  
    - balance the composition by making sure the shapes are evenly distributed;
    - create new shapes by overlapping shapes;

    - create new shapes because of the negative spaces.
ABSTRACT DESIGN – Colour Schemes, Shape, Space - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Choose a colour scheme.
  2. Paint the design.
  3. From time to time view the painting from a distance.
    - Do the colours and shapes move your eye through the composition?
    - Does it feel balanced and comfortable to look at?

ABSTRACT DESIGN – Colour Schemes, Shape, Space - Step Three

Step Three

  1. View the painting with fresh eyes.
    - How do your eyes move through the composition?
    - What comes to mind as you view the painting?

    What effect does the colour scheme have on the composition?
    - What do you like best about your painting? Why?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • apply the creative process to create an original abstract design;
  • use shapes and a colour scheme to compose a balanced design;
  • mix a variety of colours with paint;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the artworks.


Have students:

  • use similar shapes to build a free standing, 3-dimensional artwork;
  • display the 2 artworks beside each other;
  • write a haiku to accompany the display;
  • write a critique of one of the artworks.


  1. Prior to this lesson teach/review concepts about shape, space, contrast, and balance.
  2. Teach 3 colour schemes.
    - COMPLEMENTARY - uses colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel, e.g., orange and blue.
    - ANALOGOUS - uses colours that are beside each other on the colour wheel, e.g., oranges and yellows.
    - TRIAD - uses colours that are evenly spaced on the colour wheel, e.g., green, orange and violet.
  3. If you do not have individual paint kits for students use the Get Ready to Paint guide available on this website to organize group paint kits. 
  4. Print copies of the Clean-Up Roles - one for each group. (Downloads - CleanUpRoles.pdf)
  5. Print copies of the Critical Analysis form enough for 1 per student. (Downloads - CriticalAnalysis.pdf)
  6. Download and display the Colour and Principles of Design posters available on this website.
  7. Place students into groups of about 6 so they can share the paints.
  8. Print copies of the Abstract Design worksheet - enough for each student to have one. (Downloads - AbstractDesign.pdf)
  9. Download images of abstract art from the Internet.
    Abstract Painting 1
    Bertram Brooker


  1. View and discuss the two abstract painting focussing on the use of colour, shape and space.
    - How are they the same? How are they different?
    - What really catches your eye in each painting? What do you see that makes you say that?
    - What do you notice about the use of space?
    - How have the artists' used colour to move your eye around the composition?
    - What colour schemes are used?
    - What effect do the colour schemes have on the designs? 
  2. Explain the meaning of abstract art - art that is non-representational.
  3. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Apply the creative process to create an original abstract design.
  2. Use shapes and a colour scheme to compose a balanced design.
  3. Mix a variety of colours with paint.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the artworks.

The Process

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - carefully planned and completed my design
    - included a variety of shapes
    - mixed a variety of colours
    - used a specific colour scheme
    - used contrasting colours and values
    - created a balanced composition
    - kept the finished artwork in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work. 
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Place students into partners.
  2. Ask them to: 
    - share their work and discuss the things that are especially effective and why
    - analyse the designs using the Critical Analysis form (Downloads - CriticalAnalysis.pdf)

    - talk about what they found satisfying about doing this project
    - talk about how they might use what they learned in a different way
  3. Share ideas with the whole class. 
  4. Ask students to tell how they felt about doing this project.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their artworks – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, holds design to the side, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads - AbstractDesign.pdf)
  5. Have students reflect on their work in their sketchbook/journals.
    - What do you like best about the design? Why?
    - Explain how you used colour effectively.
    - If you could choose a different colour scheme, what would you choose? Why?
    - What did you learn about colour mixing by doing this project?