This fun color mixing art activity is perfect for kids in grades 2 and up. Originally, I created this project to celebrate our “100th Day of School“, but kids will enjoy doing this anytime! Your students will gain valuable color mixing experience while creating a frame-worthy piece of art.
The example above was created by a 2nd grader in a 50-minute art class. These students were already familiar with mixing secondary, intermediate, and tertiary colors from my Create Your Own Color Wheel lesson, which they had done previously. This made it possible to give students some quick directions and let them get right to work.
a color mixing art activity & challenge
After making their own color wheels, my students were feeling very confident about their color mixing skills! So I challenged them to mix 100 different colors using only red, yellow, blue (turquoise in this case), black, and white. They were excited for the challenge!
We began with a very quick review of color mixing. Then I gave the instructions (below), demonstrating each step as I explained it.
(For detailed, step-by-step instructions with photos, a printable template, and a color mixing review, please see my “Mix 100 Colors” resource in my TPT store.)
For this project, you will need:
- Cardstock or watercolor paper to paint on. For this project, I like to have students paint on a grid for a clean, finished look. A grid also helps them keep track of how many colors they’ve mixed. In the example above, we used the template from my “Mix 100 Colors” resource in my TPT store. You could also create your own template or just let students fill their cardstock with small swatches of color.
- Paper plate “palette”
- Liquid tempera paint: red, yellow, turquoise, black, and white
- Newspaper or a large piece of scrap paper for wiping paint brush
- Color wheel poster for reference (optional)
(Students should understand the basics of color mixing. If color mixing is new for them, I recommend first doing my “Create Your Own Color Wheel” activity in my TPT store.)
- Review how to mix secondary, intermediate, and tertiary colors using the 3 primary colors: red, yellow, and blue.
- Review adding white to make a tint and black to make a shade.
- Then students can start mixing colors, painting a small swatch of each new color onto their cardstock. Leaving a little white space around each color will make the colors “pop”!
- Students should clean their paint brush by wiping it on the newspaper or scrap paper when they need to. It’s important that they wipe the color from their brush rather than wash it. This will enable the great variety of colors they’re trying to achieve.
- Encourage students to mix as many different colors as they can, trying not to repeat any colors. A fun extension is to have kids think of names for their colors as they work!
It’s not essential to paint on a grid, as we did in the example above. Students could also paint their color swatches on plain cardstock to create a different pattern or design, or randomly, in no specific order at all. It just becomes more difficult to keep track of the number of colors painted if they aren’t in some kind of order.
To help students create a balanced composition, I made a template I could print on cardstock for them to paint on. My template consists of 10 rows of 10 very light gray squares with some white space between each square.
I didn’t want black outlines to show around the painted colors, which is why I chose to use very light gray squares on my template. Painting on this template allows the colors to really stand out and “steal the show”.
You can find my template, lots of tips for success, and more in my “Mix 100 Colors” resource in my TPT store.
Why no water?
Students will be used to washing their brush with water when changing colors. But not washing it is the key to creating so much variety of color. So instead of washing their brush, have them *mostly* clean it by wiping it on their newspaper.
When students paint without water, the colors they make are just incredible. This is due to the small amount of residual color that gets left in their brush. (This technique only applies to liquid tempera paint, and not to watercolor, of course!)
Try this color mixing art activity with grades 2 and up
Only six of my twenty-five 2nd graders completely finished by the end of our 50 minute period. But the rest were very close to finishing when we had to stop to clean up.
Allowing a full hour for these younger kids might be a good idea if you’re able to. You could also divide this project into two sessions, beginning each session with a quick color mixing review. Or you could opt for a goal of mixing fewer colors than 100.
Almost any age (even adults!) could have fun with this project and come away with a new technique for mixing colors. This was a challenge for 2nd grade, but they LOVED it. I think this color mixing art activity could change the way these kids think about mixing colors forever!
For a fun variation of this project (perfect for Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day), try doing this same color mixing art activity but with hearts!
Here are a few final tips for color mixing success.