27 Easy Monochromatic Painting Ideas

monochromatic painting ideas

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Painting monochromatic paintings not only practices your general painting skills, but it also allows you to have a deeper understanding of the importance of value in a composition.

The only problem is … Even if you know this, sometimes it’s difficult to come up with art project ideas for such a simple exercise!

If this is what you’re currently troubled with, have no worries! Below, we’ve prepared a comprehensive list of easy and quick monochromatic painting ideas that you can try when working on your painting skills:

What Is a Monochrome Painting?

A monochrome painting is a painting that is painted using only one color or hue. There is a related term in the art industry, grisaille, which describes a type of underpainting that is completed in grays.

Note, however, that any color can be used when painting monochromatically. Different shades of one color can be used in order to create depth in the composition. But there must only be a single color as a base.

QUICK and Simple Monochromatic Painting Ideas

Idea #1: Blue Ocean

The ocean is blue, that much is clear. So why not paint it that way? If you want to create monochrome paintings, it’s best to start with painting a subject closer to its natural color so that you can start on the right foot! This makes painting a blue ocean a great first exercise.

Idea #2: Misty Morning in Gray or Blue

Next, let’s paint a misty morning scene! You can paint one in the mountains or in the forests like @moonmoonartwork on YouTube, who has a popular misty forest painting video where she used only a single hue and one brush!

Idea #3: Sunset in Orange


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Stepping away from the blues for a moment, let’s talk about its complement — orange! When you think of orange, aside from the fruit, isn’t the sunset the first thing that comes to mind? How about it? Orange paint doesn’t get much use at most times, now’s the chance to finally use up some of the miscellaneous orange paints you collected when buying paint sets!

Idea #4: Golden Desert

If you still want to continue using up the unusable shades of orange in your paint sets, another monochrome painting idea is the desert! You can paint the desert sand or the desert rocks (as is shown in the image above). Whatever works!


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Idea #5: Emerald Forest

For monochromatic paintings, an emerald forest is a fairly common idea. Just take a look at @DrawingwiffWaffles’s monochromatic watercolors painting video and you can see how simple and beautiful a forest made of light and dark tones of emerald looks!

Idea #6: Majestic Purple Mountains

Stepping into the ‘outlandish’ types of monochromatic color schemes, we first have purple mountains. If you take a look at @MirandaBalogh’s single-hue watercolor art project, you can see that purple mountains seem both right and wrong at the same time.

Normal mountains are definitely not purple. BUT! Purple just shows the right majesty, which suits the subject matter very well.

Idea #7: Yellow Fields of Gold

yellow fields of gold

Do you like flowers? How about the golden yellow fields shown in the image above? It’s a bit of a challenge to limit a field of flowers to a monochromatic color scheme. However, for those who like art challenges, taking on this subject may just be what they’re looking for.

PRO TIP! If you want to try it out, establish a clear tonal values map for your chosen color. That way, you can be confident when using the same color to create depth throughout the painting.

Idea #8: Dark Blue Night Sky

The night sky definitely requires a bit of color mixing if you want to make it look as dreamy as the galaxy. But if you’re careful, using a single-type color scheme can work just fine! Just be careful when choosing your base color.

For example, Payne’s gray, navy blue, ultramarine blue, etc. are great because they are just dark enough to allow you to establish a tonal value with an adequate range of darks and lights.

Idea #9: Black and White Cityscape

After the dreamy night sky, it’s time to move on to something a little more gloomy. That is a black-and-white cityscape. You can see an example of it in the video below, where artist @NiazHannan painted five different types of buildings in watercolors. The first example is the most apt for this exercise. It gives off a gloomy, desolate feeling. Which is just right for this monochromatic color scheme.

Idea #10: Red Seaweed

Although the ocean is blue, there are numerous subjects within it for you to choose from that can make up a rainbow! For example, seaweed.

The most common color for underwater plants is, of course, green. But it’s nice to experiment and choose more unique monochrome color schemes to have fun, just like in this ‘Ocean Series’ video from @deWintonPaper where the seaweed is painted in red.

Idea #11: Orange Corals

Aside from underwater plants, there are also coral reefs in the ocean, If you watched the ‘Ocean Series’ video recommended in the previous idea in the monochrome paintings list, then you should have seen an example of watercolor corals in orange.

Idea #12: Yellow Green Foliage

If you want to do a whole ‘florals’ exercise sprint, then you can move your subject matter out of the ocean and into the forest. There, you can find foliage in different shapes, colors, and sizes. Which is perfect for practicing all sorts of monochromatic color schemes.

You can even make an entire art project out of it and personally go out to pick some branches and leaves to dry in a journal!

PRO-TIP! For these single-subject monochrome paintings, don’t be too obsessed with laying out background paint. You can either leave the white of the paper as the background or do a very diluted wash of the same color to give your monochrome painting adequate visual scale.

Idea #13: Watercolor Red Roses

watercolor red roses

A fun and easy monochrome painting exercise is the study of watercolor red roses. There’s nothing that is easier than this. It’s just a matter of controlling water more carefully in the final step of the painting — making the core of the rose more saturated and the ends light and airy.

FUN TIP! If you do enough of these red roses, you can send out greeting cards to old friends to bid them well. After all, waste not, want not!

Idea #14: Smiling Red Fox

smiling red fox

Let’s continue with red watercolors with a smiling red fox! The one in the artwork shown above is definitely not done with just one color, but you get the idea. If you want to try it out, make sure to be careful with the shades used to create adequate contrast in the portrait.

Idea #15: Distant Blue Mountains

Did you know that objects in the distance tend to have a blue tone the further you get? This is why green mountains, from a distance, look blue! This is a matter of perspective and color theory, and one way to imprint it is to do a monochrome painting exercise of distant blue mountains to practice value scale and perspective.

Idea #16: Terra Cotta Pottery

Terra Cotta pottery may vary in color based on its age. A fresh one will be earthy orange, whilst an older one with a patina will be a mix of oranges, blues, and greens.

You can play around with monochromatic color schemes when working on this particular monochrome art project. If you paint using mostly watercolors, it’s best to choose an earthy color — there are always one or two of these in more advanced paint sets to add some fun, even though they’re rarely used!

Idea #17: Winter Scene in Payne’s Gray

In the winter, all things are covered in white and the flowers that are proliferating in spring have long died away, leaving behind landscapes filled with tall trees. Coming out to take a picture of this type of scene is a great idea when planning for a monochrome painting where bluish-gray paint is used.

@Ahra on YouTube paints a great example of this type of painting if you want to see how to do it before you try.

Idea #18: Lake Scene in Teal Blue

@PremaWatercolor painted a lake scene in soft teal blue. Which is just right for you to try out after the winter scene recommended in the previous idea.

Idea #19: Lightning Storm in Gray Blue

Another monochrome painting idea in gray-blue is a stormy night. Here, you have to plan your composition carefully so that you don’t miss out on the best highlights for the lightning in the midst of the storm

As for how to do that, check out this ‘Lightning Storm’ video on YouTube to learn more.

Idea #20: Sepia Old Buildings

To maximize the age and history of an old building, it’s best to create monochrome paintings of its type in sepia. Sepia naturally gives off a ‘nostalgic’ feeling, which sets the mood just right.

sepia old buildings

Idea #21: Old Photographs in Sepia

Speaking of painting old things in sepia, if you have old photographs or magazines at your house from your grandparents’ generation (like the ship in the image above), you can pick out a few for you to use as a reference.

Having a photo right in front of you will help you create a more accurate value scale — and to make it even simpler, you can map your tonal values before you start to paint.

old photographs of sepia

Idea #22: Bronze Autumn Leaves

The previous sepia ideas were a bit more complicated, so let’s take a step back and do some studies of quick-to-do flora and fauna again. This time, it’s autumn leaves.

Autumn leaves are beautiful when painted in a mix of reds, oranges, and yellows. However, they’re no less beautiful in bronze watercolor paint. It’s just a matter of taking dark and light tones more seriously to create adequate contrast in your artwork.

Idea #23: Purple or Green Grapes

Although the example of watercolor grapes in the image above is a mixture of purple and green, you don’t have to follow its example. You can use either red purple or yellow as appropriate and it’s certain to look just as fresh and juicy as the grapes in the art above.


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Continuing with the trend of fruits, let’s work on some monochromatic art of lemons in yellow lemon! Talking about fresh subjects, anything done in this bright and popping color is just right for lifting one’s mood.

Here’s a good example of a spirited little lemon from another YouTuber, who decided to work on a ‘Lemon Challenge’ for fun.

Idea #25: Black and White Self-Portrait

Alright, we’re getting to the last few on our list. This is the time to abandon the simpler art projects mentioned in the previous ideas and move on to more complicated subject matter.

For example! A self-portrait. Why not? You can do it in black and white. Forget about color theory or choosing other base colors for now. Just black and white.

black and white self portrait

PRO TIP! It’s best to get a black and white image sample of your own portrait as a reference, so that you can create monochrome art more easily!

Idea #26: Monochrome Celebrity Portraits

If you’re not a fan of painting your own face, then you can do some celebrity portraits like @SofiaPavasMacias on YouTube. Simple monochrome portraits like these make great exercises for those who want to do realistic portraits in the long term.

At the very least, it’s just the right type of study for learning the planes of the face and understanding how different they may look based on the light conditions at the time.

Idea #27: Monochrome Landscapes

All of the landscapes we suggested before were definitely more on the simpler side. Which is just right for a quick practice. But monochrome painting is not limited to just exercise.

Sometimes, art looks better when your palette is limited. Painting in monochrome makes it easier to set the mood. Just like in this atmospheric streetside by @KarenRiceArt.

PRO TIP! Of course, if you want to try out more complicated monochrome landscapes, you have to pay better attention to creating proper visual interest to make the main subject of your art stand out. Otherwise, it may look either messy or purposeless.


Why Create Monochrome Paintings?

Many famous artists paint monochrome paintings in order to create powerful art that can provoke deep and personal experiences. The emotions evoked from a piece of art in monochrome are not necessarily about the overall composition or the finer details, but about the paint color chosen and how it affects one’s mood.

What is the Best Monochromatic Color Scheme?

The best monochrome color scheme will be different based on the subject matter and what you want to achieve with a given painting. It can be said that an ocean should be painted in blue paint because the ocean is naturally blue. But if that’s not the effect you want, you can go wild and paint it in red, purple, pink, or even orange. Anything works!

what is the best monochroamtic color scheme?
Fauvist Painting by Henri Matisse

To give you an example of how natural color does not dictate anything. Have a look at fauvism — which was popular amongst the artists of the early 20th century. Fauvism is an art style comprised of strong colors and painterly brush strokes. Creating surreal paintings that are considered to be both eye-catching and out of this world.

What Are the Rules for Monochromatic Painting?

The main rule for monochrome art is the ‘single color’ rule. Don’t make it too complicated, now is not the time to practice your art color theory, so you can put that aside for later and work on your values and perspective for the time being.

Conclusion: Step-Up A Level with Monochrome Paintings!

Want to take a step up and advance your drawing and painting skills? Creating monochrome paintings is a great exercise for you to gnaw on.

Of course, if you want to truly advance. It’s best to deepen your understanding of value and perspective first in order to have something to stand on while you practice. As for how to do that, it’s easy enough!

Why don’t you check out some online courses and see which one works with your schedule and budget? There are plenty of out there that you can review as needed.

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