Horse of a Different Color: An Introduction to Color in the Visual Arts

The names of the primary and secondary colors are often among the first words we learn to speak and write. Even very young children can identify the red object in a painting, or the blue object in a photograph, but there is a lot more to color than initially meets the eye.

In this curriculum unit students will be introduced to the importance and effect of color in the visual arts. Why do artists use particular colors in their compositions? The activities in this lesson will guide students towards a greater understanding of the ways in which color can focus the viewer's attention, give the illusion of depth in a two-dimensional medium, and affect the tone and mood of an artwork.

Guiding Questions

How do artists use color to create effects of perception and to set the tone of an artwork?

Learning Objectives

Explain the ways in which color is used to create a sense of depth in a two dimensional space

Identify the ways in which the artist uses color to draw the viewer's attention to points within the composition


Discuss the effect of color on the tone and mood of an artwork