EXPLORING COLOUR – Creating a Colour Wheel

Students create a colour wheel by mixing and matching colours using oil pastel, tempera paint and magazine pictures.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 4 to Grade 10


Visual Arts


colour wheel complementary colour palette primary colours secondary colours tertiary colours


Crayola Oil Pastels - 16 Colours Crayola Tempera Paint Crayola Paint Brushes Crayola Glue Sticks Crayola Scissors Round Headed Fasteners - 1 per student Plastic Container Lids - 2 per student Water Containers Paper Towels Magazines Cardstock Paper - White - 21.6 cm x 27.9 cm (8.5" x 11") - 1 piece per student

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EXPLORING COLOUR – Creating a Colour Wheel - Step One

Step One

  1. Use oil pastels to colour the small inner shapes of the wheel on the template.
    - primary colours - red, blue, yellow
    - secondary colours - orange, violet, green
    - tertiary colours - red-orange, yellow-orange; blue-green, yellow-green; red-violet, blue-violet
EXPLORING COLOUR – Creating a Colour Wheel - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Mix tempera paint to colour the outer shapes of the wheel.
  2. Take a very small amount of 2 primary colours to start.
  3. Put the paint on a plastic lid.
  4. Paint a primary colour in two of the large circles.
  5. Mix the secondary colour to match the oil pastel colour between the two primary colours you painted.
  6. Mix the tertiary colours to match the oil pastel colours between the primary colours and the secondary colour. 
EXPLORING COLOUR – Creating a Colour Wheel - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Use a second plastic lid for the rest of your colours.
  2. Make sure you get clean water and wash your brush before you start.
  3. Put the third primary colour plus one of the others on the new lid.
  4. Work from both lids to mix the remaining colours in the wheel.
  5. Each time you start mixing a new pair of primaries start with clean water and a clean brush. 
EXPLORING COLOUR – Creating a Colour Wheel - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Choose a theme.
  2. Find pictures in magazines to match the theme in the colours of your wheel.
  3. Fill the inside space with pictures in colours that match the outside colours.
  4. Glue the pictures down flat and smooth.
EXPLORING COLOUR – Creating a Colour Wheel - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Cut out the spinner at the bottom of the template.
  2. Attach it to the centre of the colour wheel with a paper fastener.
  3. Use it to find complementary colours.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create a colour wheel based on colour theory;
  • use primary colours to mix secondary and tertiary colours;
  • match pre-mixed colours; 
  • explain how Newton contributed to the scientific study of colour;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment.



Have students:

  • explore colour theory books as inspiration for their own book creation, for example, Mouse Paint, by Ellen Stoll Walsh; Monsters Love Colors, By Mike Austin; Color Dance, by Ann Jonas; and The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt; 
  • use the Creating a Simple Bound Book lesson plan available on this website to create an illustrated colour book;
  • share their books with another class.


  1. Download and display the Colour Wheel poster available on this website.
  2. Download the colour wheel template from this lesson plan and photocopy it on cardstock – enough for each student to have one. (Downloads - Colour_Wheel.pdf)
  3. Gather plastic container lids to use as palettes - enough for each student to have 2.
  4. Teach about the science and history of colour - interesting information available at the Smithsonian libraries Color in a New Light.


  1. View and discuss the colour wheel - review/introduce the primary colours and how they can be mixed. 
  2. View the oil pastels in the boxes and ask students to arrange them in the order of the colour wheel.
    - notice how all the secondary and tertiary colours are already mixed and labeled
  3. Use tempera paint to demonstrate what happens when you mix a small amount of two primary colours together.
    - emphasize how little paint it takes to change a colour
  4. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a colour wheel using oil pastels, paint and magazine pictures. 
  2. Use tempera paint to mix secondary colours from primary colours.
  3. Use tempera paint to mix tertiary colours from primary colours.
  4. Mix paint colours to match existing oil pastel colours.
  5. Demonstrate technical accomplishment.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created a mixed media colour wheel
    - accurately mixed secondary colours
    - accurately mixed tertiary colours
    - accurately mixed paint to match existing colours
    - constructed the colour wheel with care
    - kept my colour wheel in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work offering suggestions and support.
  5. Provide individual assistance, encouragement and modifications as needed.


  1. Place students into small groups. 
  2. Ask them to: 
    - Compare their work and describe to each other what they feel is the most effective part of their colour wheel and why.
    - Consider how they might use this colour wheel when creating artwork.
    - Talk about what was difficult and what was easy for them.
  3. Share ideas with the whole class. 
  4. Ask them to tell how they felt about doing this activity.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their colour wheels – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, holds colour wheel to the side, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the colour wheel.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads - ColourWheel_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - ColourWheel_self-assessment.pdf)