Adding to an art and design project through making colours from natural materials to enhance the image. A lesson plan to use for art and design.

In this project, students were creating work related to nature, but the principles could apply to all sorts of different mark making and painting projects.

Making your own paint

Painting is about images, whether they are abstract, figurative or a mixture of both. But painting is also about the medium itself: paint.

As this project was about nature, it made sense for the colours to be made of natural substances. In order to explore what paint is, students can try making their own paint from colours. But they could also think about how to make the actual medium closer to the topic of the project. Which is why they worked on trying to create colours from natural substances. Lots of things can be used to make colours.

Traditionally, lots of ingredients were used to make natural dyes, such as beetroot, onion and turmeric, but its possible to use any types of foodstuffs and raw fruit and vegetables. Students just grabbed what they could and explored mixing them in different quanitities with water.

The colours didn’t give a full range, but students worked within these constraints using the closest colours they could. The studio smelt wonderful with all of the spices and the work was really experimental.


Time: Approx. 2 hours

Aim: Explore the use of natural colours to reflect nature


  • Discuss methods of extracting colour from natural ingredients
  • Represent natural forms and colours through natural colours
  • Reflect on relationship between natural colours and communication of work

Activity 1: Discussion and demonstration of creating a small selection of cololurs from ingredients, combined with question and answer on creating the colours.

Activity 2: Create at least 2 compositions using natural colours, creating the tones as close as possible to the still life object.

Activity 3: Discuss the relationship between the colours and how they communicate the natural forms and colours.




Taking natural colours further

Some students went on to actually use the natural colours in their outcomes. Many mixing these with other media and showing some more advanced skills.


Daniel Freaker Daniel Freaker Educational Consultant, Painter, Writer, Designer