Shading with Gray
A Windmill and Dolphins

This teaching unit places special emphasis on a clear description of the exercise and an experimental mixing technique used directly on the drawing paper. The highlight of this crafting idea is the moving elements in the picture.

Further material for this article.

Shading with Gray - A Windmill and Dolphins

Colorful and yet shaded: Like in the picture of the windmill, the opaque paints used for the dolphins have been shaded with gray paint. However, in the left half of the windmill picture as well as for the clouds, pure opaque white has been used, too. The paints have been mixed directly on the drawing paper.

Teachers' Information

Apart from mixing colors, toning down and lightening up colors are the most common techniques when working with opaque paints. Particularly when using black paint, the colors will change intensively, especially when adding too much of it!

When a color is mixed with gray, the reaction to it is not as intense; it is rather dampened: The brightness of the color becomes less intense, it is broken. You speak of shading a color. The color gray is familiar to the viewer's eye. Anyhow, when a color is shaded with gray, it creates a rather odd impact on the spectator. It is not automatically recognizable how the color has been made. This makes shading colors with gray all the more exciting. Anyhow, you will have to mix the gray paint on the color palette first. Even then, the colors might react totally different than expected. Too much black used in the gray paint will also have a strong influence on the mixed color later on.

Information on Shading

The Pelikan color wheel is our starting point for shading. It consists of 12 different colors. Here, in our example, we used the color yellow to explain how shading works.

Our model shows a color from the color wheel. It was brightened up stepwise to the outside and shaded down to the center of the color wheel (as all three primary colors, when used together, make black).

To shade a color, you will have to mix gray on the palette first. For this, fill opaque white into a mixing tray and then add black paint. Finally, mix the initially chosen color with the gray.


This is what you need:

  • Paint box K12
  • Opaque white
  • Paint brushes with long and short bristles, sizes 10, 12
  • Fresh water
  • Sketch block, size DIN A3
  • Glue, pair of scissors
  • Tape
  • Baggy tie or florists' wire
  • Pencil stub or shashlik skewer
  • Pelikan fineliner black
  • Pelikan fineliner black
  • Download templates

To realize the teaching unit "Shading with Gray", there are two movable crafting ideas at choice.

This teaching unit places special emphasis on a clear description of the exercise and an experimental mixing technique used directly on the drawing paper. The highlight of this crafting idea is the moving elements in the picture.

(Proposition 1) Windmill

It's as easy as this:

First, cut out the windmill from the download template and glue it onto a piece of DIN A3 drawing paper from your sketch block.

The template of the windmill is glued onto the drawing paper. The windmill is now ready to be painted with the opaque paints by using the corresponding colors of the letters shown.

1. When painting the windmill gray, start on the left (field A) using opaque white. For field B, mix gray on a palette (see "information on shading"), whereby only few drops of black are added to the white. Now add more drops of black paint to the created shade of gray on the palette, until you gain a dark gray. Paint field C in dark gray.

2. Now mix vermilion with dark gray for the lower part of the windmill.

3. The top of the mill is painted in black.

Background (mixing technique on paper)

4. To give the background a more cheerful look, do not mix the colors in the paint box, but directly on the drawing paper while you are painting. You will need 4 mixing trays and the following four colors: Opaque white, black, blue and green. Take a thick paintbrush with short bristles (size 12). In turns, dip the paintbrush into 3 different trays. With lavish strokes, paint over the paper with the mixture. This way, you can create a shaded and yet vivid area that is determined by the amount of the single colors used. What makes it particularly exciting is that aside from a shaded color, the black and opaque white will create a strong contrast. Let the page dry well before removing it from your sketch block.

5. Now it is time to cut out the windmill sails. Glue the sails on top of each other, however, opposite from each other. To do so, place the points C and D of the one sail on top of the points A and B of the other.

6. Now, apply a piece of tape onto the center points of the mill top and the mill sails. Use a pair of scissors to make a small hole in each of the centers.

7. Tie the baggy tie or the piece of florists' wire around the pencil stub or shashlik skewer. Twist it together tightly so that it cannot slip off.

8. Stick the two ends of the baggy tie, beginning from the backside, first, through the background page and, next, through the windmill sails.

9. Spread the ends apart, shorten them to about 1 cm and tape them tightly to the piece of paper (Steps 7 to 9, see also scheme below).

10. Finally, cut out the little circle from the brown colored paper. Use it as a cover for the center of the windmill sails and glue it on.

11. Now the windmill is finished and ready to be used. The windmill sails will even turn!

The windmill sails are installed according to the instruction manual and are finally ready to be turned.


(Proposition 2) Dolphins

The approach is similar to that of the windmill.

  1. First, cut out the dolphins and paint them gray.
  2. The plate the dolphins are attached to is painted in the same blue as used for the background, later on.
  3. Then, the front (the waves) is decorated using the mixing technique on the drawing paper. Start by painting blue and green waves. Add opaque white to a mixing tray and also a few drops of black paint. Then apply the created shade of gray onto the blue and green waves. The colors will mix on the drawing paper and consequently be shaded by the gray paint.
  4. Now, paint the background using the same shade of blue as the one used for the plate of the dolphin. When the paint is dry, use opaque white and gray to paint the clouds.
  5. Apply a piece of tape onto the dot on the base plate as well as on the plate of the dolphin and make a hole using a pair of scissors.
  6. Next, take the baggy tie and wrap it around the middle section of the pencil stub or the shashlik skewer. Stick it through the picture from the backside and shorten it to about 1cm. Fasten it with a piece of tape.
  7. Finally, glue the wave‑covering onto the bottom edge of the base plate, so that the dolphin plate can still spin smoothly. Glue the sides of the wave‑covering to the base plate, as well.
The idea for the dolphin decoration consists of a base plate, the spinning dolphin plate and the wave covering, which is painted, attached on top of each other and glued, later on.
The colors of the waves are shaded by mixing the colors directly on the drawing paper using the color gray. By spinning the gray, jumping dolphins, it virtually emphasizes how the gray color dives into the colorful waves.

All download materials at a glance

The windmill and its sails including the covering.

The base plate for the dolphins, the spinning dolphin plate and the wave covering.