Starting points for paint and colour

Experience and imagination

Painting based on children’s experience, real or imagined, gives them opportunities to:

  • Use paint and colour to express their own lives and interests
  • Use colour both imaginatively and descriptively

Young children will enjoy painting colourful pictures to do with themselves, home and play. Evoking colourful situations, such as a remembered visit to the circus, or talking about a story, poem or song that has a strong visual feeling can be stimulating ways of triggering responses.

Emotional stereotyping of colour should be avoided, for example suggesting blue for sadness: blue can also suggest lightness, clarity or joyfulness, as in a clear blue sky. Colours change their expressive dimension according to individual use. Young children use colour most effectively to express feelings within the context of a theme that is personally meaningful, for example ‘I am happy playing with my friend.’

They should be encouraged to draw with the paint brushes rather than have them colour in drawings. Children who have attained a certain skill with drawing materials may be frustrated at not being able to achieve the same amount of detail with paint. Themes that call for a broader response and that would enable them to enjoy free-flowing colour should be suggested, for example ‘a big colourful bird/fish/alien’, ‘a big picture of me in my Halloween outfit’.

As they progress, children will use colour expressively to create rich and varied detail, pattern and rhythm in their art work. With experience, they will use colour and tone to suggest three-dimensional form in objects, and they will experiment with warm and cool colours and tones to suggest space in depth on a page.