Seahorse Watercolor Painting Warm and Cool Colors

Seahorse color contrast watercolor lesson

Sea Horse Warm Cool Color PaintingSeahorse Watercolor Painting Warm & Cool Colors

Students will review the color wheel and learn about warm & cool colors. They will also learn about color contrast-using contrasting colors to make subjects stand out in the artwork.


12×18 sheets of tag board, pencils, reference photos of sea horses, sharpies, watercolor paints, paint brushes, water cups, paper towels, newspaper for tables (optional: white oil pastels for background), Basic Watercolor Techniques Worksheet



  1. How was the spectrum discovered? In 1665, Isaac Newton was grinding lenses for a telescope when he found that one of his lenses made blurred rims of color around the edge. He stopped working on lenses and began his study of color.
  2. Color wheel: organized into 3 main groups:
    1. Primary colors (red, yellow, blue)
    2. Secondary colors (green, orange, purple: made by mixing 2 primary colors together)
    3. Intermediate colors (yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, yellow-green: made by mixing one primary color together with one secondary color).
  3. Color wheel can also be organized into 2 other groups:
    1. Warm Colors: reds, yellows, oranges-come towards the viewer & attract your attention first (show examples)
    2. Cool Colors: blues, purples, greens- visually recede from the viewer (show examples)
  4. Color Contrast: Artists use contrast to show differences between two things, to make something stand out. When cool colors are placed next to warm colors contrast is created. (show examples) (additional color contrast listed at bottom of post)
  5. Teacher guided demo: how to draw a seahorse (following the steps in the Walter Foster book-Sea Creatures)

Activity Instructions: Sea Horse Mixed Watercolor Painting

Objective: Create a watercolor painting of a sea horse under the sea using color contrast.

  • Begin by having students observing photos of sea horses, then draw their compositions in pencil. Include the sea floor-seaweed, coral, other sea creatures (keep the focus on the sea horse), etc Types of coral









  • Using the fine point black markers, students will trace their entire pencil design.

Sea Horse outlineclose up coral

  • Optional: Use a white oil pastel to draw swirly lines in the water (to give the water movement). Then paint with watercolors –this is a watercolor resist method.

Sea Horse Texture

  • Paint the color of the background-cool colors… dark green, blue, blue-green
  • Paint the sea horse a warm color –yellow, orange or red. Sprinkle salt into the paint while it is wet to give interesting texture.
  • Paint the seaweed & coral mostly warm colors (yellow-green, pink/red, orange, etc.).

Coral Texture

Student Artwork in Progress:

This lesson was created by Michelle C East. If you choose to re-blog or use this lesson in any way (written or photos), then please make sure to link/credit to Create Art with ME.

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