Languages for All
Short Courses
Your basket
Your account

Understanding Colour

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

An introduction to the uses of colour using the National Museum of Scotland’s collections. We will examine objects from the natural history, scientific and decorative arts galleries to consider the role of colour in our world. Students will be shown some simple techniques to record the colourful images, creating a lasting reminder of their studies.

Please note, this course takes place at the National Museum of Scotland (meet at the Information Desk in the entrance hall).

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge required. A keen interest in colour is essential and consulting the course text books is recommended. In addition, some ability to use colour / draw and paint would be good but not essential, as full advice and tuition will be given. 

Special Information

Students would benefit from the use of watercolours, which can be used in an effective way on a small scale by using either watercolour pencils or small boxes of watercolour paints and a small watercolour pad.

Content of Course

The order of this programme may be altered due to changes in display and/or items being on loan or in conservation.

1. Natural Pigments: Plants and Minerals

2. Painting

3. Dyeing

4. Colour in Nature

5. Camouflage

6. Attraction

7. Warnings

8. Historical and Cultural

9. Industrial Production

10. Textiles and Ceramics

Teaching method(s)

Teaching will be predominantly gallery based, focusing on the collections and the fabric of the buildings of the National Museum of Scotland. There will also be hand-outs available, with time for Q&A and group discussions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Appreciate colourand communicate the uses of colour;

  • Show an understanding of the sourcing and relevance of natural pigments throughout history;

  • Explain the production and manufacture of pigments in our search to imitate nature.


Core Readings


  • Gage, J., 1999. Colour and Meaning Art, Science and Symbolism. London: Thames & Hudson.


  • Delamare, F. and Guineau B., 1999. Colour Making and Using Dyes and Pigments. London: Thames & Hudson.

Web Sources

Class Handouts

At the beginning of the course students will be given a comprehensive reading list. Hand-outs that cover periods, styles and information on colour will also be made available throughout the course.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.