Collaborative Circle Using Tints & Shades

This lesson focuses on three elements of art to achieve the unity in a piece.  Students will work in groups of 4-5 to create a circle using their assigned color value.  It is a good idea to do this lesson at the end of the day since the circles will need to dry on the desks.


This is probably the most labor intensive preparation in the art docent program.  You should allow yourself 60-90 minutes so you don’t feel rushed.  The first step can be completed in advance.  It is recommended that the circle tracing be done either during lunch or another time when class is not in session.  The rest of the preparation should be done in the classroom just prior to the lesson.  

STEP 1:  Prepare Your Circles

  • Cut six 3′ foot lengths of white butcher paper.  Take them to the classroom.  Locate a yard stick.
  • Ask your teacher to bring up this lesson and click on the links below in order to project the circles on to the board.  The projection should be just about 3′ in diameter.  If your class has more than twenty-four students, you’ll need to do at least one 5-part circle.  (The base color group is best.)
  • Trace a circle on each of your 3′ x  3 using either 4 or 5 divisions as appropriate.  Roll up and set aside until project time.

STEP 2:  Prepare Your Tints & Shades


All of the materials listed can be found in the art docent cabinet.  Grab them and take them to the classroom.

    • 36 large clear cups
    • 36 large paint brushes
    • 6 sheets of regular sized copy paper
    • Sta-Flo Liquid Starch
    • 1 fairly full 12 oz bottle of each of the following colors:  Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple/Violet.  We will refer to these as your “base” colors.
    • 2 fairly full bottles of white tempera paint
    • 1 at least half full bottle of black tempera paint
    • Set of measuring spoons

Getting Started

TInts & Shades Prep 1

Creating Your Tints & Shades

You’ll want to repeat this process for each color, except red.  Save red for the class demonstration.  As you mix each tint and shade, stir the paint thoroughly, then paint a stripe on your piece of paper.  You’ll need to see the colors to know whether they need a little tweaking.  A NOTE ABOUT YELLOW & ORANGE:  The black turns these colors very quickly.  We recommend adding only HALF the suggested amounts to start with when creating these shades.Tints and Shades 2

Tweaking your tints & shades

    • At this point you should have everything mixed, but the red you are saving for the class demonstration.  Take a look at your papers for each hue.  Do you need to go darker anywhere?
    • To darken the tints, add base color in 1/2 tsp increments.  Check the color on the paper before adding again.
    • To darken the shades, add black in two drop increments.  Be patient with this.  It’s not fun to have to scrap the whole thing and start over because you added too much black at one time.

STEP 3:  Prepare the Classroom

  • Push two tables together.
  • Place one circle on each table.
  • Place one tint or shade value on each table.
  • Place 8-10 paper towels on each table.

Now you are ready!



Unity is all the parts working together to be seen as a whole.  An artist or group of artists can create unity in a piece by using elements of art like line, color, and shape.  Repetition of these elements creates themes that unify a work of art.  In this lesson, each group should talk about the themes they will use to create unity in their piece.


Color refers to wavelengths of light.  Characteristics of color include the hue, value (lightness/darkness), intensity (saturation/amount of pigment), and temperature (warm/cool).  This lesson focuses on color value.  An artist can use color value to create depth and perspective in a piece, or give a flat, 2D image, a 3D quality as Van Gogh does in his piece Wheat Field Under Clouded Sky.

Wheat Field Under Clouded Sky

Wheat Field Under Clouded Sky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Color Vocabulary

  • Color Value: Value is defined as the relative lightness or darkness of a color.  There is a small poster you can use to illustrate this concept.
  • Hue: Hue is the name of the spectrum of colors regardless of value.  For instance you might have a light blue or a dark blue, but the hue is just blue.

Line & Shape

Lines can be horizontal , vertical, diagonal, straight, curved, dotted, broken, thick, and thin.  Shapes are always flat, or two-dimensional.  They can be geometric:  Squares, circles, and triangles.  Shapes can also be organic: leaf shape, blob shape, flowing shapes.


  1. Demonstrate how the tints and shades were created using red.  Students can volunteer to help.
  2. Each group should meet at their designated circle.  They should collaborate on which unifying elements they’ll be using for their art piece.
  3. Each student paints one piece of the circle.  By now they should know how to paint, but it pays to remind them to wipe the excess paint on the edge of the cup.  Too much paint will crack and chip once the piece is dry.



Once the pieces have dried, roll them up and store them in the classroom.  The completed circles will be displayed on the ceilings in the classrooms during Open House.  If the teacher elects not to display them in the classroom, we will use them in the gallery.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s