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!