National Gallery at Home: A Colour Experiment!

Photo by Kate DrinaneCredit

While our onsite activities are reduced, our Education team are bringing some of their family and sensory workshops to you online so that you can get creative at home!

Follow this step-by-step activity to create your own landscape painting with some unusual materials, inspired by the Gallery's collection of watercolours by J.M.W. Turner.

The Gallery has a beautiful collection of watercolours by English artist J.M.W. Turner. He liked to paint landscapes with dramatic weather and light, like this one of a storm at the mouth of the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. Watercolours are delicate works of art that can be damaged by sunlight.
We're going to make our own landscape painting using tea and coffee instead of watercolour paint, and then we'll do an experiment to find out what happens when we expose our picture to sunlight.

Let's get started!

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National Gallery at Home

A Colour Experiment!



  • Cardboard
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Paper clips or sticky tape or a glue stick
  • Paper
  • A cup of cold coffee and a cup of cold tea
  • Some patience!


  1. Brew very strong cups of tea and coffee (ask an adult to  help you). Leave them to cool, and make sure they are cold before you start!
  2. Use the tea and coffee to paint a picture of a landscape. 
  3. Can you see that the tea is a lighter colour than the coffee? You can use the tea for large areas, like the sky, and then use the darker coffee to add details.
  4. You could add in trees or buildings. What kind of weather will you include? Maybe a cloudy sky?
  5. You could also paint an abstract picture of shapes and lines. Try alternating the tea and coffee for different shades.
  6. Now comes the experiment! We're going to cover bits of the painting and expose it to sunlight so that parts of it fade!
  7. Cut out a piece of cardboard and use paper clips to attach it to your painting. 
  8. Or, you could use a couple of pieces of cardboard. Make sure you only cover a bit of the painting.
  9. If you don't have paperclips, you can use tape or glue to attach the cardboard to the edges of your painting.
  10. Leave your picture indoors on a windowsill and wait! You'll need to be patient - it might take a week for the colours to fade.
  11. When you remove the cardboard you will see how the sun has made the colours fade. The parts that were covered will be much darker. This can happen to watercolour paintings if they are exposed to sunlight.

Credits: Activity by Kate Drinane, National Gallery of Ireland.

This activity, which would normally have taken place in the Maples Group Creative Space, is now brought to you online.

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