Introduction: Motor Powered Color Mixing Wheel

About: The Maker Studio is a museum makerspace at Science City in Kansas City, MO. To see more of our creations follow us on Instagram @The_Maker_Studio or @ScienceCityKC

In this project we will be making a color mixing wheel that uses a DC motor to spin. It will show how mixing different combinations of the 3 primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) yields the 3 secondary colors (green, orange, and purple).


  • Sheet of white paper
  • Plastic cup
  • Cap off of a plastic bottle
  • Cardboard
  • DC motor
  • Battery holder
  • AA battery
  • Two wires with alligator clips on the ends
  • Markers of the 3 primary colors (red, yellow, and blue)
  • Pen
  • Glue stick
  • Hot glue gun
  • Tape
  • Ruler

Step 1: Draw Your Wheel

The first step is to draw your wheel on the sheet of paper. We need 3 circles of different diameters that fit inside of each other. Flip the plastic cup over and place it on the paper. Then take the pen and trace around the lip of the cup, making a circle. Then flip the cup over and use the bottom to make your second circle. Make sure the second circle in the center of the first circle. Lastly use the cap of the plastic bottle to make the inner most circle. After drawing all the circles use the ruler to divide the entire circle in half. These are the sections we will color in.

Step 2: Color in the Wheel

Next you will color in the sections of the wheel using the markers. Remember, you want each circle to be made of up 2 different colors. You also don't want to repeat any of the color combinations.

Step 3: Make Your Wheel a Little Sturdier

Now that your color wheel is colored it, we need to glue it onto the cardboard to make it a little more rigid. The first thing you'll want to do is cut the color wheel out of the paper. After you have cut it out, use the glue stick and attach the paper wheel to the bit of cardboard. Then cut the whole wheel out.

Step 4: Make Your Electrical Circuit

Next you will make the electrical Circuit that will power your color wheel. A circuit is a complete loop that electrons can move through to power different objects.

Take your battery holder and attach both of your wires too it. I went ahead and stripped the wire a bit so that I could wrap it around the alligator clip. This helps ensure that you have a better connection. After that put your battery into the battery holder. From this point forward make sure you don't touch the ends of the two wires together. This will create a Short Circuit. A short circuit occurs when electrical charge flows where you don't want it to. In the case of our battery holder, a short circuit like this will waste our battery and cause the whole thing to get hot to the touch.

You can now attach one of the wires on your motor to one of the wires connected to the battery holder. Then touch your last alligator clip to the other wire on your motor and see if your motor turns on. We don't want to fully clip the last wire right now though. When the motor runs, it slowly drains the power from our battery. So once we know the motor is working we want to stop touching our last wires together. The last thing you will want to do is wrap tape around your three connections. This will help hold the alligator clips secure, and the tape will also function as an Insulator. Insulators are materials that restrict the flow of electrical currents. Rubber is a good example of an insulator, which is why it is often wrapped around wires. The metal wires themselves are Conductors. Conductors are the opposite of insulators, in that electrical currents flow easily through them. Copper is a good example of a conductor.

Step 5: Attach Your Color Wheel to Your Motor

The last step is to attach our color wheel to the electrical circuit we just made. Make a small hole in the middle of your color wheel. Don't make it too big, as we need it to snugly fit over the end of the DC motor. Next put a small dot of glue over the front of the hole. You're trying make sure the wheel and motor are attached securely. You can also use some glue on the back of the color wheel, just make sure you don't accidentally get glue down in the motor itself.

After the glue as dried, you can connect the last wire and see your wheel in action.

Why does it work? You can almost think of it like an optical illusion. The colors are spinning and changing so fast that our brains can not tell them apart, so it tries to register both colors at the same time. Since we used the primary colors when we made our wheel, what we end up seeing are the secondary colors that get made as a result of mixing the primary colors together.