Monochromatic Style Painting

Interpreting the Emotion of Color

History of Monochromatic Painting

American artists around the 1950s turned from abstract expressionism to a movement labeling them colorists.

Colorists painted with a monochromatic color palette using variations of one color. Their process was made easier with the introduction of acrylics and acrylic mediums in 1953.

Painters like

  • Barnett Newman
  • Morris Louis
  • Frank Stella
  • Ad Reinhardt

created paintings in all black. They believed art was art and should be created without rules. This break in approach to art was not popular with art critics. The critics found that a closer look at the monochromatic paintings exhibited details and required more thought.

Artists added texture and surface variations to enhance the monochromatic paintings. American colorists changed the artists image from that of realistic human behavior to the use of color for feelings. They worked to make color and color changes the total emphasis of their art.


  1. Decide on color and paint the canvas panel with that color for background.
  2. Apply shade, tints and hues of the first color in painting areas of texture and color on the canvas.
  3. Experiment.
  4. Try adding white and black to adjust the tint.
  5. Always stay with the first basic color as the outstanding color.
  6. Continue to add texture.

Teacher Expectations

  • Quality of painting technique with a brush.
  • Quality of brush strokes.
  • Quality of blending of colors.
  • Effectiveness of application of color to create a composition with at least 5 points on a value scale.