Home Studio: Real-World Color Wheel

March 20, 2020


Our first activity explores the relationship of colors, both in art and the world around us. Engaging in a basic discussion about the color wheel and how it is made is a great way to begin this project! If you do not have a color wheel at home, you can look one up online. Listed at the end of this post are some links for reference, if needed. The three primary colors are yellow, red, and blue. These hues are called the primary colors because they cannot be made from other colors, but they are used to make all other colors. When you mix two primary colors together, you get a secondary color. The secondary colors are orange (red+yellow), green (blue+yellow), and violet/purple (red+blue). Tertiary colors are created when you combine a little more of one primary color than the other after mixing a secondary color. For example, if you make orange and then add a little more red to it, it becomes a red-orange. The tertiary colors are red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.


An introduction to the fundamentals of color theory through the creation of a color wheel using objects from around the house and the wilderness of your own backyard.



  • Paper
  • Markers/colored pencils/crayons (whatever is available!)
  • Collected materials from nature
  • Collected materials from around the house
  • Magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue


  • Analogous colors – Groups of three colors next to each other on the color wheel.
  • Color wheel – A visual tool used to show the relationship between colors.
  • Complementary colors – Colors that are opposite from each other on the color wheel (red and green, blue and orange, purple and yellow), that create high contrast when placed next to each other and therefore make each other stand out.
  • Cool colors – Purple, Blue, and Green; Colors that evoke a sense of coldness.
  • Hue – Another name for color.
    Monochromatic – The use of only one color.
  • Primary colors – Red, Yellow, and Blue; The colors that are used to make all other colors.
  • Secondary colors – Green, Purple, and Orange; The colors made when two primary colors mix.
  • Shade – A darker value of a color, made by adding black to the color.
  • Tertiary colors – Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green, Blue-Green, Red-Violet, Blue-Violet; Colors made by adding a little more of one primary color to a secondary color after it is mixed.
  • Tint – A lighter value of a color, made by adding white to the color.
    Value – The lightness or darkness of a color.
  • Warm colors – Red, Orange, Yellow; Colors that evoke a sense of warmth.


  • Color: After the basic color wheel discussion, pick out each primary and secondary color from your drawing materials (markers/crayons/colored pencils). Begin by using the primary colors (yellow, red, blue) to create shapes of your choice at the points of an imagined triangle.
  • Next, use each secondary color (orange, green, purple) to create three more shapes, making sure to place each color between the two primary colors that mix to make it.
    • Red + Yellow = Orange
    • Yellow + Blue = Green
    • Red + Blue = Purple
  • Gather: After the basic color wheel is in place on the paper, it’s time to be adventurous! Hunt around the house, collecting things that are allowed to be glued down, like old buttons, bottle caps, or even a Barbie shoe missing its match–the options are endless! If some fresh air is needed, venture outside and continue the search, trying to find something to represent every color from the color wheel.
  • Cut: If you are missing objects to represent particular colors, search through old magazines to find a variety of tints and shades of colors. A color wheel with hues representing a range of values will be more balanced and visually appealing!
  • Organize and Glue: Organize all objects by hue, then begin gluing them near or on the coordinating color on the color wheel. Start with cut out pieces from magazines, then work through gluing the found objects from home and yard.


Use the completed color wheel to further the discussion of color theory. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel are called complementary colors. Colors near each other on the color wheel are called analogous colors (such as red, red-orange, and orange), and can be used to create a bold visual impact. Monochromatic color schemes utilize tints and shades of only one hue, also with great impact. Certain color groupings can be used together to evoke specific moods or feelings (warm colors are red, orange, and yellow; cool colors are purple, blue, and green).

Share Your Work

We would love to see your creations! Share your work with us by taking a photograph and emailing it to us at pr@mmfa.org.

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