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


Scissors Round Headed Fastener Magazines Plastic Container Lids Water Containers Paper Towels Oil Pastels Paint Brushes White Glue Tempera Paint

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EXPLORING COLOUR – Creating a Colour Wheel - Step One

Step One

 Use the primary, secondary and tertiary coloured oil pastels to colour the inner shapes of the wheel on the template.

EXPLORING COLOUR – Creating a Colour Wheel - Step Two

Step Two

Mix tempera paint to colour the outer shapes of the wheel. Take a very small amount of two primary colours to start. Put the paint on a plastic lid as shown.

EXPLORING COLOUR – Creating a Colour Wheel - Step Three

Step Three

Paint a primary colour in two of the large circles. Mix the secondary and tertiary colours to match the oil pastel colours between the two primary colours you painted. 

EXPLORING COLOUR – Creating a Colour Wheel - Step Four

Step Four

Use a second plastic lid for the rest of your colours. Make sure you get clean water and wash your brush before you start. Put the third primary colour plus one of the others on the new lid. Work from both lids to mix the remaining colours in the wheel. 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 Five

Step Five

Choose a theme and find pictures in magazines to match the colours of your wheel. Fill the inside space with colours to match the outer colours.

EXPLORING COLOUR – Creating a Colour Wheel - Step Six

Step Six

Cut out the spinner at the bottom of the template. Attach it with a paper fastener. Use it to find complementary colours.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  1. Create a colour wheel based on colour theory;
  2. Mix secondary and tertiary colours from primary colours;
  3. Match existing colours; and
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment.



  1. Have students explore colour theory books they can use 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
    The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt 
  2. Have students create a colour theory poster based on a theme, for example, sports, a game, under the sea.
  3. Have students teach a student in a lower grade how to mix colours.


  1. Download the colour wheel poster available on this website.
    Colour Wheel
  2. Download the colour wheel template from this lesson plan and photocopy it on cardstock – enough for each student to have one.
  3. Gather required art materials.


  1. View the colour wheel and either review or 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 the value of a colour.
  4. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a colour wheel using oil pastels, mixed colours 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. Match existing colours with mixed colours.
  5. Demonstrate technical accomplishment.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  3. Observe students as they work. 
  4. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  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 the art works – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - COLOUR_wheel_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Download - COLOUR_wheel_self-assessment.pdf)