Lesson #5: Creating a unified color palette


How can we create a unified color palette?
Students will be able to:
Identify a dominant color palette
Explain how to vary a dominant color to create interest
Select materials for a unified color palette
Students will understand that:
Unity in a composition can be achieved with a dominant color palette.
A color can be varied by using tints and shades of adjacent colors on the color wheel

Student sketches, manilla envelope,  scissors, collage materials such as magazines, newspapers, assorted papers, ticket stubs, take out menus, metrocards, cash register receipts, instruction manuals for machines, bar codes


Georges Braque's Still-Life with Purple Plums, Still-Life with Grapes and Clarinet; a large color wheel


Display the Braque still-lifes and the large color wheel.

  • What is the dominant color in each artwork?
  • Why do you think he used a dominant color?
  • What other colors do you see?  Where can you find them on the color wheel?
  • How did Braque vary each color?



Display two groups of materials: one with a great assortment of colors; the other showing a dominant color scheme.  Both groups should include solids, textures, and patterns. 

  • Which group of materials would be a better selection for our collage?  Why?
  • Look at the color swatches you've brought to class for homework.  Who has colors that fit into this group?  Explain why they fit it. 
  • Do the colors in your collage need to match the colors in the still-life set-up? Explain.

As you select your collage materials today, keep in mind a dominant color palette.  For variation, select colors that are next to it on the color wheel as well as their tints and shades.

Distribute envelopes to to students to store their collage materials. The teacher should set up a separate table on which there are assorted materials from which students can select.  Encourage youngsters to share their materials. As the students assemble their color palette, the teacher should circulate and discuss color choices with individual students.

Ask students at each table to share their collection of materials. Working as a group, they will identify the collection that demonstrates a unified color palette with the most variation within it. 

  • Why did  you select this collection of materials?
  • How did the student vary the dominant color?
  • Why do professionals like interior designers, theatre set designers, and architects make a visual presentation of sample materials before actually beginning work on, or getting approval for, a project? 

Continue to collect a variety of materials and found objects to enhance the dominant color scheme. 


Art Making:  gathering materials to create a unified color palette

Literacy:  hone observation skills, looking at and discussing art;  developing visual arts vocabulary

Careers and Life-Long Learning:  awareness of careers in visual arts