Children who are three or older who have had previous experience with easel painting can now try painting with one brush instead of using a brush for each colour. A medium size brush such as a #12 Montmarte series which is 20cm/8” long or similar is ideal.


Brush Washing – 

It is worth demonstrating the skill of washing a brush and then wiping it on the side of the container when they start out painting this way.
The brush needs to be clean, so show how to dip, wriggle and wipe the brush on the side of the container. The brush must be damp before it is loaded with paint, as this helps the paint flow when it is applied to the paper.

image of how to clean art brushes.


Brush Marks – 

Another skill that needs demonstration is how to make the brush stroke by lightly pulling the brush, as opposed to squashing the bristles flat onto the paper or doing stabbing strokes. It is important to explain why and show how to handle brushes with care.

Tonal Values – 

In the Montessori classroom we introduce children to the sensorial colour tablets shown below. This gives them an understanding of all the different shades of colours, or tonal values. I suggest you collect paint sample charts from a hardware store to make the child aware of the range of dark and light colours. There are also sample paint colour charts available from paint manufacturers online.

image of Montessori sensorial colour tablets.



Vincent Van Gogh believed that being able to draw and paint in black and white was so important, he spent the first two years of his ten-year painting career only using these two colours. It worked for him!

“I am going to put the black and the white, just as the colour merchant sells them to us, boldly on my palette and use them just as they are.” – Vincent Van Gogh 1888.

Exercise – Tonal Painting With Black & White –

Place a grey scale somewhere close by where the child can see it. You can print the 5-value grey scale image below.
The child sits on a low table with the palette, and a piece of paper next to it.



Materials –

  • Paint brush.
  • Squeeze bottles of white and black paint.

white&black paint

  • Palette. You can use a traditional palette or a large ceramic plate, piece of Perspex, or anything that provides a good paint-mixing surface.


  • Container of water.
  • Roll of paper towels.
  • Sheets of paper – always have a good supply of paper handy.
  • Rubbish bin for used paper towels.
  • Ask the child to squeeze a small amount of white paint and a smaller amount of black on either end of the palette.

Steps – 

  1. Demonstrate how to take a small amount of paint from the white and place it in the middle of the palette, then a smaller amount of black to mix a grey. Use the brush to pick up the paint from each pile and mix it.
  2. When you have mixed the grey, clean the brush and wipe it with a paper towel.
  3. Invite the child to place the brush in water and wipe it on the side of the container. Then pick up the mixture with the brush and try it on the paper.
  4. After making a sample stroke of the grey colour, wash the brush as described in brush washing above.
  5. Next, you can say, “Let’s mix a darker grey”. This requires a mixture with more of the black colour.
  6. Or “Let’s mix a lighter grey” – requiring more of the white colour.
  7. Each time you mix a grey try it on the paper.
  8. You can also suggest making a grey scale. This involves trying to mix tonal values that match shades on a chart. The child might like to paint a tonal painting of his own.

When children can wash and load the brush with paint they can experiment with mixing various colours. After every painting session there is a clean up procedure, so be sure to involve the child in this as well.

Care of the brush –

Clean the brushes in warm water and soap, rinse and place with the handles in a jar with the bristles up to dry.

Conclusion –

This experience makes children aware of tonal values in painting. This is a big step forward in their artistic development.


If you missed Part 1 – How To Make Painting Interesting For Children – you can read it HERE.

Please share and leave a comment below – Dawn.

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