Create Your Own Color Wheel

Noth­ing teaches you as much about color mix­ing as cre­at­ing your own color wheel!

Here’s some help­ful vocab­u­lary and direc­tions for cre­at­ing a color wheel of your own:

Pri­mary col­ors — red, yel­low and blue (col­ors that can­not be cre­ated by mix­ing other col­ors)
Sec­ondary col­ors — orange, green and vio­let (col­ors that are cre­ated by mix­ing two pri­mary col­ors together)
Inter­me­di­ate col­ors — col­ors that are cre­ated when a pri­mary color is mixed with a sec­ondary color (ex. “yellow-orang
Ter­tiary col­ors — the browns and grays cre­ated by mix­ing all three pri­mary col­ors
Com­pli­men­tary col­ors — col­ors that are directly oppo­site each other on the color wheel (ex. yel­low and violet)


  • Paper plates, two per stu­dent (one for a palette, one for the color wheel)
  • color wheel tem­plate, cut and glued onto paper plates (“uncoated” paper plates work best for paint­ing on)
  • Tem­pera paint: red, yel­low and turquoise
  • Water and containers
  • Brushes
  • Paper tow­els


  1. Begin by paint­ing a swatch of yel­low along the rim of your plate, across from the point labeled “yellow”.
  2. Next, add a very small amount of red to some of your yel­low to make a yellow-orange color. (When mix­ing col­ors, always add a small amount of the darker color to a larger amount of the lighter color. You can always add a lit­tle more of the darker color if needed, but it takes a lot more of the lighter color to make it lighter again!) Paint a swatch of this new color across from the “yellow-orange” point.
  3. Rinse your brush and blot any excess water on a paper towel.
  4. Now add a very small amount of blue to a larger amount of yel­low to make a yellow-green color and paint a swatch of this color across from the “yellow-green” point.
  5. Then, mix equal amounts of yel­low and blue to make green and paint a swatch of this color across from the “green” point on the diagram.
  6. With­out rins­ing your brush, add a lit­tle more blue to this mix­ture to make a blue-green color and paint a swatch of this color across from it’s cor­re­spond­ing point on your color wheel.
  7. Con­tinue mix­ing col­ors and paint­ing swatches in this man­ner until you have com­pleted your color wheel. Try to mix col­ors in an order that lim­its how often you need to rinse your brush to keep your water clean as long as possible!

When your color wheel is com­pleted, mix all the col­ors on your palette together in a large swirling motion. (Leave the rim unpainted so you have some­thing to hold on to!) Mix­ing all three pri­mary col­ors together cre­ates the ter­tiary color “brown”. Now (just for fun!) use the handle-end of your brush to “draw” a design onto your plate. If the paint on your palette is too thick, the lines you draw will grad­u­ally fill back in, but with the right amount of paint this will yield a result sim­i­lar to “scratch art”!


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3 Responses to Create Your Own Color Wheel

  1. TuTu's Bliss June 1, 2010 at 11:09 pm #

    Thank you for this activ­ity. This is just what I was search­ing for!!

  2. Helena Georgette May 18, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    I can not find your color wheel tem­plate :(
    HELP! I need for a class as soon as pos­si­ble.
    Love the idea!

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