Monday, January 3, 2011

Creating a Color Wheel...The Beauty of Mixing Paint

I am not sure what it is but for some reason mixing paint is just so much fun. I guess it is the idea of all the different colors that you can create by using three main primary colors (red, yellow and blue) and then mixing the primary colors together you create secondary colors (purple, orange and green)…and no matter what, you get a little messy because painting is just where you can let your creative energy flow.

During our winter break, my daughters and I had the best afternoon learning about color! Yes, we created our own color wheel so that they could see firsthand how colors are created. It is one thing to see color on a page, the different shades and hues via markers, in a crayon box or even in the various colored pencils that we doodle with on a daily basis. Now they have (I hope) a better visualization of how mixing colors can open the door to creating many colors on their painting palette.

We started out with an 11X17 sheet of paper. I traced around a dinner plate, allowing for two larger circles on the page (one top and one on the bottom). Then each of the circles were divided into six pie shaped slices, which would later be represented by a specific color.

We started our color wheel project by using crayons on the top color wheel, so that my six- and three- year old daughters could see the colors that we were going to be creating and mixing together below. Our first three colors were the primary colors of red, blue and yellow. These three colors were colored on three pie slices, with a white slice in between them so that the secondary colors (purple, orange and green) would be colored in their respective places. Our color wheel would consist of the following (final) order of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

Then for the second color wheel, I placed red, yellow, and blue paint in little ramekins to share. They painted each primary color respectively on their color wheel (my three year old mixed the order around a little bit as you can see from the photograph above but she did have the colors in the final mixing order correct). We then had three more ramekins where they did their mixing together.

Blue + Red = Purple
Red + Yellow = Orange
Blue + Yellow = Green

After we finished the color wheel, we talked a little bit about how by adding black or white, it changes the colors that we use. We can mix black with colors to make a shade. So for example, I asked them to put a dabble of red on another ramekin and then add a little bit of black paint to make the color burgundy. With the same color of red, I shared with them that if we mixed red with a little bit of white paint we would make a tint and create pink. Where pink is a tint of red.

We also talked about the use of warm and cool colors on the color wheel. The warm colors being the red, yellow and orange where they create a feeling of warmth – like the sun. Then the cool colors being green blue and purple and these creating a feeling of coolness – representing water, ice, etc.


  1. Saw your blog on the workboxes group this morning. I have a post about color mixing too... and made some "shades of..." coloring mixing charts too. Hope you'll stop by

  2. Hi. I like houw you showed the tertiary color wheel. That is a great idea!

  3. Hi Michelle! I just read your Cabin Fever article in the Jan/Feb issue of Mothering (digital). We have more than our fair share of cabin fever lately, and with another snow day happening tomorrow, I am ready to put your ideas to work!

    I also have two daughters - 6 and 3 - and am a big fan of Modern Handmade Child. Just wanted to stop by and say that I enjoy your work!