Note: This course is only available for registration to students residing in Canada.
This studio course in art, based on ten half-hour video programs about understanding and using
colour, is for anyone who wants to work with colour and use it effectively. The course covers
basic colour theory, colour research (mixing pigments), colour energy and temperature and colour
schemes. Each unit's program begins with a lecture/demonstration followed by a studio session
featuring students working on the program theme. Each program concludes with an exhibition of
By the end of this course, students should be able to:
- Mix pigments to produce mid-values for the six primary and secondary colours.
- Distinguish between subtractive and additive colour.
- Identify a range of pigments by their commercial names.
- Make a colour circle, showing mid-values for the six primary and secondary colours, and
identifying the warm/cool axis and the light/dark axis.
- Identify the "natural order" of light and dark colours.
- Exploit effectively the chromatic energy that results from combining warm and cool
- Develop colour schemes.
- Identify and mix complementaries for a wide range of colours.
- Mix chromatic greys, blacks, and whites.
- Prepare a grey scale.
- Mix a range of classical discords, alternating discords, and complementary discords.
- Demonstrate variations in the impact of colours produced by variations in mark, texture,
- Produce colour studies and analyses of natural objects.
- Analyze the use of colour in a painting.
- Analyze the use of colour in, advertising, display, signage, food presentation, and
- Discuss the "colour revolution," of the late nineteenth-century
- Outline the contributions that the great colourists of European painting made to the "colour
Unit 1: Basics of Colour
- Brief survey of subtractive and additive theories of colour
- Physics of colour
- Relationship between pigments and colours
- Primaries, secondaries, and complementaries
- Mixing mid-values
- Preparing a basic colour circle
- Colour energy
- The cyan, magenta, yellow (CMY) colour wheel
Unit 2: Colour Energy
- Impact of complementaries (maximum contrast)
- Contrast of extension
- Warm/cool dimension of colour (maximum energy)
- Colour/form relationships
Unit 3: Colour Structures
- Importance of colour temperature in colour structures
- Analyzing colour schemes in paintings
- Points, lines, and marks
- Triads and tetrads in colour schemes
Unit 4: Between Black and White
- Analyzing use of black, white, and grey in paintings
- Mixing chromatic blacks
- Mixing chromatic greys
- Mixing chromatic whites
- Grey scale
- Breaking a colour with its complementary
Unit 5: Discord Energy
- Definition of classical discords and examples of their use in paintings
- Mixing classical discords
- Mixing alternating discords
- Mixing complementary discords
Unit 6: Colour in Nature
- Major developments in twentieth-century landscape painting: shifting point of view and using
colour to create form
- Analyzing colour and form in natural objects
Unit 7: Living with Colour
- Please note that there are two half-hour video programs for this unit.
- Analyzing use of colour in architecture, interior decoration, fashion, food, packaging,
advertising, and signage
Unit 8: Colour Light
- Additive theory of colour
- Effect of different kinds of light on colours
- Computer-aided exploration of colour organization and colour relationships
- Colour dynamics
Required text and materials
Students will receive the following:
- Itten J. Elements of Color, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1970.
Type: Custom Reprint
Textbook. ISBN 0-471-28929-9.
- Gregory, Richard L. Eye and Brain, The Psychology of Seeing. 5e. Princeton University
Type: ISBN 978-0-691-165165
- TRU Open Learning. Colour: An Introduction.
- TRU Open Learning. Color Wheels and Information.
- TRU Open Learning. Postcard Booklet.
- VISA 1101 Art Supply Kit.
Students are responsible for supplying a number of minor items for their studio work:
- Odourless mineral spirits and baby oil to clean up paint from palette
- Masking tape
- 18" x 24" acrylic or glass sheet for mixing
- X-acto knife
- Paper towel
- Wax paper
- Push pins
Additional common items may be required to complete assignments. Refer to the detailed course
description on the TRU-OL website or contact Student Services.
Please be aware that due to COVID-19 safety guidelines all in-person exams have been suspended. As such, all final exams are currently being delivered through ProctorU, which has an approximate fee of $35 involved. There will be more information in your course shell, on how to apply, if your course has a final exam.
The assignments for units 1 to 7 are studio-based, requiring students to work with pigments and
other materials. Assignment 8 is a written assignment. Students are also expected to keep a
notebook in which they record personal extensions of the ideas introduced in the course. The
notebook could include sketches, clippings, samples, colour studies, notes, photos, etc. In some
units, specific notebook activities are assigned. The notebook must be submitted to the Open
Learning Faculty Member at the end of the course.
It is strongly recommended that students complete all assignments in order to achieve the
learning objectives of the course. The total mark will be determined on the following basis:
|Assignment 9 (Notebook)
There is no final exam in this course.
Open Learning Faculty Member
An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Primary communication is by
phone if you are taking the print version of the course and through Learning Management System's
"Mail" tool if you are taking the web version. You will receive the necessary contact information
when you start your course.