Students explore a variety of painting techniques using a range of brushes and only one colour plus black and white.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 1 to Grade 9


Art Techniques
Language Arts


blend bristle brushstroke colour dry brush ferrule handle opaque texture transparent value


Crayola Washable Paint Crayola Paint Brushes Bristol Board - 25.4 cm x 25.4 cm (10" x 10") - 1 per student Water Containers Paper Towels Newspapers to Cover the Desks

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EXPLORING WASHABLE PAINT – Monochromatics - Step One

Step One

  1. Choose a brush.
  2. Choose a colour.
  3. Divide up the space.
  4. Let the lines flow.
EXPLORING WASHABLE PAINT – Monochromatics - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Start painting into the spaces.
  2. See what happens when you paint black over the colour.
EXPLORING WASHABLE PAINT – Monochromatics - Step Three

Step Three

  1. See what happens when you paint a new layer of your over the black.
  2. Keep adding layers until you get an effect you like.
EXPLORING WASHABLE PAINT – Monochromatics - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Use the end of your brush handle to scratch lines into the wet paint.
EXPLORING WASHABLE PAINT – Monochromatics - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Try blending the spaces in between the lines,
    - mix in some white or black to create soft contrast
  2. Compare the 2 effects – both are effective but different.
EXPLORING WASHABLE PAINT – Monochromatics - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Keep working in the spaces trying out your ideas.
  2. Think about how to make brush marks show.
  3. How to make areas stand out.
  4. When you place light beside dark you get strong contrast and the feeling of depth. 
  5. What happens when you make a more gradual transition from dark, to medium, to light values?
EXPLORING WASHABLE PAINT – Monochromatics - Step Seven

Step Seven

  1. Notice your work area.
  2. See how helpful the newspaper was to dab off paint and test colours.
  3. The plastic lids are really useful for keeping black away from your other colours.
  4. View your painting with fresh eyes.
    - What does it make you think of? 
    - What do you see that makes you say that?
    - What area attracts your attention first? Why?
    - What do you like best about the painting? Why?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • use paintbrushes to create a variety of effects with washable paints;
  • blend black, white or grey with one colour of paint to create a range of values;
  • build on their own and others’ discoveries to generate new ideas;
  • explain their process;
  • express opinions about the works;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the paintings.


Set up a work area that students may visit when they are finished other work early, or need a brain break. Have students:

  • set a personal challenge and then meet it, e.g., 
    - Make a strip that starts with red paint at one end and white paint at the other and they gradually blend together.
  • post their experiments with a brief explanation of their process on a central bulletin board so they can learn from each other;
  • find exmples of artworks that have similar effects as those they have created and add them to the bulletin board.


  1. Place students into groups so they can share ideas.
  2. Cover tables with newspaper to keep the tables clean and provide a space to try out paint colours and dab off excess paint.
  3. Use the Get Ready to Paint guide available this website to organize paint kits for each group.
  4. Cut Bristol board to desired size, e.g., 25.4 cm x 25.4 cm (10" x 10").
  5. Print copies of the Clean-Up sheet - one for each group. (Downloads - Washable_Paint.pdf)


  1. Explain that washable paint is semi-opaque so it can be used in a variety of ways.
  2. When first applied it is transparent, but as you add layers of paint it becomes more opaque. 
  3. Ask students to share what they know about painting in general.
  4. Point out the parts of a paintbrush:
    The bristles - the hair of the brush;
    The ferrule - the metal part that holds the bristles together; 
    The handle - the wooden or plastic part that you hold when painting. 
  5. Ask them to try to keep the paint on the bristles, not the ferrule.
  6. Remind them that they can use the handle of the brush to make marks with too.
  7. Explain that today's class is for experimenting with washable paint and brushes. 
    - It's a time to play with ideas and see what happens.
    - They should try to get as many different effects as they can, share ideas and learn from each other.
  8. Prior to beginning the painting lesson ask students to number off.
  9. Give each table a clean-up sheet that indicates the job each number must do. (Downloads - Washable_Paint.pdf)
  10. Before starting the challenge go through each job, for example, 'Hands up if you are number 3 and 4? Your job is to wash the brushes and return them to the bucket at the back of the room.’
    - This will ensure that everyone participates in the clean-up and that they know exactly what they have to do when you call for clean up at the end of the class.
  11. Ask one student from each table to get a paint kit. 
    - Ask this student to be responsible for returning the kit in good condition at the end of the lesson. 
  12. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Use washable paints.
  2. Use paint brush marks to create lots of different effects 
  3. Blend black, white or grey with one colour of paint to create lots of light and dark areas.
  4. Experiment with lots of different ideas.
  5. Explain your process.
  6. Express opinions about the paintings.
  7. Support your ideas with evidence found in the paintings.

The Process

  1. Demonstrate how to begin by thinking out loud, for example,
    Hmm, I think I'll choose red paint, and this nice fat brush.
    Let's see what happens when I do this..... and so on.
  2. Encourage students to be intuitive and thoughtful at the same time. Making a mark freely, then thinking about what to do next.
  3. Encourage them to 'listen to the marks they make and let the painting tell them what to do next.'
  4. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  5. Observe students as they work.
  6. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.
  7. Part way through the class ask students to do a walk about to see what others have done, ask questions and come back to their painting with fresh eyes.


  1. Place students into small groups. 
  2. Ask them to: 
    Talk about how various parts of the images make them feel. 
    Compare their work and describe to each other what they did to get certain effects.
    Consider how doing these experiments might help them if they were painting a picture.
  3. Ask some students to share their ideas with the whole class.


  1. Have students cut their experimental painting into rectangles about 8.5 cm x 10 cm (3.3"x 5") to form a set of 6 cards.
  2. Ask them to look at each one individually and answer these questions on the back:
    What does this card remind me of? Why?
    How could I use this effect in a picture? Why?
    What else could I do with this technique?
  3. Provide students with envelopes for storing their cards.
  4. Encourage students to add to their collection with other experiments, and to use the cards for inspiration throughout other painting lessons.