Online Course: Colour

Enrol until
Sun 11 Apr, 11.59pm (AEST)

Past program

This program takes place virtually

This course commenced on 29 March. Enrolments have been extended to midnight on Sunday 11 April. Once enrolled you can start the course at any time. Please allow up to 72 hours to receive your login details. Access to the course content is available until 23 May.

We inhabit a world of infinite colour – it pervades nearly every aspect of our lives – but what is colour exactly and how does it work?

Discover the stories behind the colours we love and how artists and designers have used colour to convey meaning in this self-guided online course.

Over five weeks, NGV curators and guests guide participants through a study of the various facets of colour including colour theory, the history of pigments, the science behind colour and our relationship with it. Held in association with the exhibition Spectrum: An Exploration of Colour at NGV International, this online course explores the central role of colour in art and design throughout history.

Complete the course in your own time. Access to the course will be available from 10am on Monday 29 March.


Basic Course Enrolment
M $44 / A $49
Includes 8-week access to learning materials from the course start date (Monday 29 March). Access will expire at midnight on Sunday 23 May.

Premium Course Enrolment
M $134 / A $149
Includes 8-week access to the learning materials from the course start date (Monday 29 March) and five lunchtime virtual study sessions led by an NGV educator providing an opportunity to discuss the weekly content in a small-group setting. Access will expire at midnight on Sunday 23 May.

Capacity is limited to 20 people for this enrolment. Lunchtime study sessions are delivered online via Webex each week on the following dates and times.

  • Wednesday 31 March, 12–1pm
  • Wednesday 7 April, 12–1pm
  • Wednesday 14 April, 12–1pm
  • Wednesday 21 April, 12–1pm
  • Wednesday 28 April, 12–1pm

Capacity for Premium Enrolment has been reached. 


Week 1: An Introduction to Colour
We experience colour in our lives every day, but what if we stop and ask the question – what, in fact, is ‘colour’? To begin the course, we will learn the science behind colour and our perception of it and explore colour theory and the history of colour in art and design. How have artists and designers utilised the properties of colour and colour theory in their work?

Week 2: Artist’s Colours and Pigments
From the first pigments drawn out of the earth to our ongoing ingenuity in creating colours that were previously unavailable, colour has always played an integral role in the way we describe the world around us. What are the stories behind certain colours and how did they come to be produced and eventually used by artists and designers?

Week 3: The Science of Colour
Learn about how colour can be conserved, manipulated and analysed, from methods used by conservators to perceive colour, to fugitive pigments, re-touching and colour-matching. How does the colour we see in works of art and design impact their preservation and care? What can we learn about an artwork through the study of colours that have been used in their production?

Week 4: Symbolism and Uses of Colour
What do different colours symbolise? How does this symbolism differ between people, places and cultures? How are we influenced by colour? Discover the various ways that colour has been and continues to be used throughout history and around the world.

Week 5: Colour in the 20th and 21st Century – Politics, Gender, Commodification
How has colour been gendered, politicised and commodified in modern and contemporary society? Learn about the way colour continues to be used by artists and designers as a tool to effect change and communicate ideas.


  • Explain the basics behind the science of colour
  • Outline the key elements of colour theory
  • Look at the history and development of colour pigments
  • Discuss key examples of the influence of colour on art and design
  • Discuss the psychology of colour and our relationship with it
  • Identify, describe and analyse works of art and design in the NGV Collection with a focus on colour
Closed Captions Asia Australia Conservation Contemporary Decorative Arts Design Fashion & Textiles Gender Indigenous International Modernism NGV Collection Painting Photography Prints & Drawings Virtual


The NGV is grateful to the Ken and Asle Chilton Trust, managed by Perpetual, for their support of this program.