All Our Favorite Ways to Teach Color Theory in One Place!

Color is one of those concepts that continuously amazes and amuses us. We teach it throughout our art courses and programs. We want our students to have a better knowledge of the world around them as it relates to color. We also want them to use color intelligently in their artwork.

Therefore, I’ve rounded up our favorite ways to teach and explore color theory all in one place! Peruse, pick, choose, and add your own in the comments below!
 

Teaching Tools and DIY Resources

 
Tools
 
Color Wheel Canvases
What’s better than art room decor that is multi-functional? Why not do a DIY project for your art room that doubles as a learning tool?
 
Kolormondo Color Globe
This color globe is a hands-on way to visualize color as it displays and organizes hue, saturation, and brightness all at the same time. Putting it together piece-by-piece helps show the ways in which colors interact with one another.
 
Magnetic Color Wheel
With this tool, students can interact with and manipulate the color wheel. Utilizing the magnets on the backs of the circles, they can sort colors into color families and rearrange the wheel as necessary right on the whiteboard!
 
 

Activities and Games

 
Activities and Games
 
Color Experiments
Here are 3 color mixing activities that not only will inspire your students but will get you thinking outside the box regarding teaching color theory.
 
Color Theory Getting-To-Know-You
In this activity, students use the color wheel to tell about themselves and their classmates. As an added bonus, this project makes Common Core connections in both Math (shapes, fractions) and English/Language Arts (writing, reading).
 
Fresh Ideas for Teaching Color
Here are 3 successful techniques for engaging students as you teach color.
 
A New Way to Introduce the Color Wheel
Use sentence starters to teach about the color wheel in this fun peer activity!
 
Color Sort Game
Need a creative review of the color families? Check out this quick, easy-to-make game!
 
Color Match Game
If you’re also facing the challenge of keeping young students engaged, then you might want to make a set of “Color Match” cards for your room!
 
Monochromatic Self-Portraits
Getting kids to make art on the first day is so much more fun for everyone and can be a much more memorable way to teach art studio habits and procedures. You could also use this as a review activity after a school break!
 
 

 Technology and Apps

 
Apps
 
App Inspired by Josef Albers
Josef Albers’s Interaction of Color is brought to life with this interactive app, the likes of which Albers could have never imagined.
 
3 Color Explorations Apps – Blendamaze, Harmony, and Blendoku
A couple of years ago, this article shared some incredible color theory apps. One of those apps, Blendamaze by Borderleap just released an update, and it’s now better than ever! My students LOVE playing this game. The game mimics a traditional, wooden labyrinth game, but mixes in color theory. Playing Blendmaze allows my students to have fun, problem-solve, and have a friendly competition, all while learning.  It’s fantastic! You can see how it works below.
 

 
Color in Motion Site
Check out “The Movies” portion of the site. The kids love to sit back and watch each color come to life in an animated way.
 
 

Color Videos

 
Videos
 
OK GO – Three Primary Colors (More OK GO Videos)
This favorite works equally well for elementary and high school students.
 
The Colors Song
A unicorn and a robot make learning colors fun for young students in this catchy song.
 
The Effect of Color
A short and sweet look at color and emotion. This one requires a teacher review and is best for older students.
 
AOE’s FLIPPED Color Wheel Lesson
We’ve flipped a color wheel lesson for you! Check it out!
 
DVD: Getting to Know Color in Art
You may want to consider adding this DVD to your collection.
 
 

Lessons

 
Lessons
 
K-2

 
 
3-5

  
 
Middle School & High School

 

Hopefully, you’ve gotten some fresh ideas about introducing color theory to your students of all ages! Let us know how they go and add other ideas below in the comments!

If you’re looking for even more color theory, check out the fascinating episode How Color Works from the podcast Stuff You Should Know.

 
 
 

What are your favorite ways to teach and review color theory?

What are your favorite color theory projects?

 
 
 

Alecia Eggers Kaczmarek

Alecia is an elementary art teacher in central Iowa who is passionate about teaching and reaching her students with an innovative and meaningful arts education.

Related

  • Matthew Martinez

    When I was student teaching, I was able to teach basic color theory to all the 2nd graders in the school at one time. I was the “Color Magician” and used water with food coloring and mixed the different primary colors together to get secondary colors at a small table in front of about 100 children. I didn’t have the hat and wand, but they got the idea of mixing colors was magic and they just loved it. I later had some of those when I had them in high school. I still remember their cheering faces when putting two colors together made a new color.

    • Alecia Eggers

      That’s awesome Matthew! What a great way to show the MAGIC of color mixing!

  • Mr. Post

    I tell the kids a story about the color wheel. Colors that are next to each other are friends and mix well together. Colors that are across from each other don’t get along well. When they try to play together they have a poopy time and make brown. So if kids want to make new colors, I tell them that as long as they don’t mix two colors that are across from each other they will end up with something interesting.

    I am not a big fan of using primary colors to make secondary colors. The secondary colors that you can make with this method always look a little muddy. On top of that, the primary colors in oil and acrylic paints cost way more than the secondary colors. I don’t know of any artists who use expensive blues and yellows to make greens. Greens are dirt cheap compared to blues and yellows. My friends who paint landscapes just buy the 40 different greens they need or want. I get it that mixing primaries with secondary colors is a learning exercise – but by far the most common color that gets mixed with almost every other color is white. I prefer teaching kids how to make tints, shades and tones. Those are colors that artists use and make all of the time. I like to teach the kids the way artists work so that if they decide to take art in Junior High and High school they already have a set of usable skills…

    • Alecia Eggers

      Great point John!

    • Ingrid Crepas

      Use cyan instead of blue! Also, if you have a color you want to tone down, it is important to remember that the complimentary is really useful to do this!

  • S. White

    One of the most exciting ways I let my middle school students explore the color wheel is by creating a frosting color wheel. Each pair of partners gets a scoop of frosting that is dyed with the primary colors, (I recommend using Wilton Red-Red Icing Color, rather than food dye for red. It is very difficult to make red icing using food coloring without getting pink. Blue and yellow work just fine), and 13 vanilla wafer cookies. I hit up the 1.00 store for the cookies and frosting After they complete the color wheel, make a gray, and get their picture taken by me, they can eat their cookies. My students LOVE this project, but I can’t take credit for the idea, I saw it online several years ago.

    • Alecia Eggers

      That sounds like fun! Thank you for sharing! :)

  • Lauren Snider

    I had to do a color theory lesson when I was student teaching and was required to give a homework on it. So I created this after scouring Pinterest for a review sheet that worked well for high school. I even told the kids if they couldn’t remember one of the answers they could google it. Unfortunately art and homework do not go together in the mind of a teenager so a lot of the class didn’t do it.

    • Alecia Eggers

      Thanks for sharing Lauren! :)

  • Jan Tenner
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