The visual elements

Media and activities for colour and tone


We can use chalk, chalk pastel charcoal, ink, paint, thick and thin brushes, grey or black sugar paper.


  • Look for and discuss light and dark places in the classroom. Compare the children’s hair colour – arrange in groups of light hair / dark hair plus the shades in between.
  • Using white chalk and charcoal to make light and dark patches on grey paper
  • Smudge them together – what happens when they meet?
  • Explore making further shades of grey
  • Look for shades of grey in newspaper black and white photographs
  • Work on a triangular piece of paper – work from the apex to the opposite side starting dark and getting lighter. This is an effective display if a group of children work this way
  • Discuss the effect of the light and dark areas
  • Make patterns in black and shades of grey on maths paper. Use only a pencil to make the different tones
  • Choose or cut a shaped piece of grey paper – make it dark on one edge getting lighter towards the opposite – discuss and describe
  • Look at the collection of white shapes with a light shining on them – where are the shadows? Draw the shapes and their shadows
  • Collect pictures showing shadows and objects that give off light. Draw the object – the light – and finally the shadows
  • Look at and discuss book illustrations and the work of other artists – find the lightest and darkest parts in the pictures – on clothing, in doorways, etc.
  • Collect black and white photographs of faces – look, discuss and record the lightest and darkest areas
  • Draw a portrait of your friend or an imaginary portrait starting in the middle of the face and working outwards – where do the shadows appear?
  • Draw or paint light and dark pictures in response to descriptions in stories e.g. the B.F.G.
  • Use line to create tone. Draw straight, curved and crossing lines close together and apart. Draw a shape like a sleeve or crumpled piece of cloth – add extra lines to create folds i.e. the ins and outs.