Colors and Art

Painting is one of the oldest forms of expression. People have been painting for over 30,000 years, using colored earths and minerals to make pictures or to decorate themselves or their possessions.

The dry color powder is mixed with a ‘medium’ to make it liquid and make it stick when it dries out. Water, oil, acrylic, beeswax, and egg yolks can be used as a medium. Almost anything can be used to apply the paint, but the common tools are the brush, knife, roller, and spray gun. Spraying paint is not new! Artists in the Stone Age used hollow reeds to blow paint onto walls of caves.

The Color Wheel

It’s easy to mix paints to make new colors. You can use the primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) plus black and white to get all of the colors of the rainbow.

The Color Wheel shows the relationships between the colors. The three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue; they are the only colors that cannot be made by mixing two other colors.


The three secondary colors are green, orange, and violet; they are each a mixture of two primary colors. Their hue is halfway between the two primary colors that were used to mix them. On the color wheel, the secondary colors are located between the colors they are made from.


The six tertiary colors (red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green, yellow-orange, blue-green, and blue-violet) are made by mixing a primary color with an adjacent secondary color. On the color wheel, the tertiary colors are located between the primary and secondary colors they are made from.

Black, white and gray are not true colors (or hues). They are considered to be neutral, achromatic colors. To make a color lighter in value, add white. The more white you add, the lighter the color will get. This is called a tint of the original color.


To make a color darker (this is called a shade of the original color), add a small amount of black. If you add too much black, your color will be almost black. Another way to darken a color is to mix in some of the complementary colors. Just by mixing these colors, you can get all the colors of the rainbow!


Activity 1: Label the Color Wheel


A color wheel shows the relationship between the colors. Label and color the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors on the color wheel.


The three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) cannot be made by mixing two other colors. On the color wheel below, the primary colors are located on the points of the main triangle. Put red at the top.


The three secondary colors (orange, green, and violet) are each a mixture of two primary colors. On the color wheel, the secondary colors are located on the points of the upside-down triangle, between the colors they are made from.


The six tertiary colors (red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green, yellow-orange, blue-green, and blue-violet) are made by mixing a primary color with an adjacent secondary color. On the color wheel, the tertiary colors are located between the primary and secondary colors they are made from.

Activity 2: My favorite artist

Name ________________________

Date _________________________

1.  List biographical information on artist including:

Name ____________________

Date of birth ______________

Location of birth ___________

Artist’s style ______________

2. Choose two of your favourite works of art by this artist.First work of art:

Title     ___________________

Date _____________________

Media ____________________

Where you can find it     ______

Second work of art:

Title     ____________________

Date ______________________

Media _____________________

Where you can find it     ________

3. Personal Opinion: Why you like it / him /her ?


4. Write a brief description comparing the two works of art.:colour, line, shape, form, shapes, space, and texture; how are they different; how are they similar; which do you like best; why, etc.


5. Create your own masterpiece in the style of your favourite artist.

Activity 3: Art discussion question

  • What was the last art gallery you went to?
  • What’s the longest you’ve ever spent looking at one picture? What was it about that picture?
  • What’s the longest you’ve ever spent in an art gallery? And the shortest?
  • Who’s your favourite artist?What do you feel when you see one of his/ her paintings?
  • What do you think about abstract and semi-abstract art?
  • What do you think about contemporary art and artistic installations?   
  • Do you think any artists who are around now will be remembered in 50 years?
  • When do you think the best art was being produced?
  • Is there any one artist you think is over-rated?
  • What is the most you would spend purchasing your favourite picture (assuming you had unlimited money)?

Activity 4: What’s the meaning of colors?

Watch this excellent video by the artists Maria Cortes to know more about colours and their hidden and not so hidden meaning.

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