Blue and Yellow Make Green!




About: I'm an artist, environmentalist, animal lover, gardener, recycling nut, a high school teacher, crafter, Mom, Christian and widow who reads a lot in between figuring out how to do things.

Blue and yellow make?You guessed it! Green! (Oh you cheated and read the title?) But did you know that yellow and black will also make Green! ( or actually) Green? Thanks Codyg102 for the correct html code for the shade of green!! Here is a whole 'nother color theory system to explore

Knowing about color is a necessary task for artists. Teaching about the color wheel is one of the lessons that most art classes will study as the color wheel is an organizational tool for understanding color. This instructable will show a color wheel painted on a 48 inch round table. I am painting this table as a real life object lesson for my middle school students in my art classroom.

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Step 1: Free Stuff

I got this table free. It was posted on freecycle and I was the lucky recipient. The posting stated that it had been painted several times. It was a very drab brown with a few touches of a beautiful red showing through, and some mad scribbling done by the child of the previous owner. But alas also were some big chips and peeling places that told me I'd have to do some repainting eventually.

So inspired by a pinterest photo of a table painted like a color wheel, I decided this week (school is starting next week- eek!) to start painting this table. Now because it was fairly large, I had to take it apart to fit it into my small SUV. I didn't/don't want to put it together until I get it at school as I'm going to have to transport again.  So my painting happened in my messy garage. Sorry folks. This is reality.

Step 2: Materials

sandpaper and elbow grease or palm sander
paints: latex, acrylic, your choice

and eventually sealer of some kind to protect all of this work from scraping and the like!

Step 3: Clean, Prime, Sand and Maybe Prime Again?

  1. First clean your surface and dry.
  2. Sand the surface to roughen the surface paint and also smooth out any chipped places.
  3. Wipe/wash again and then dry. (yes dry again unless you live in the desert where the humidty is wicked away like money) 
  4. Prime.
  5. Sand. Reprime if needed.(I did, see below.)
  6. Sand again to nullify all those brushstrokes.

Sidenote: I tried to revitalize some primer I had in the garage. It had gotten pretty firm. So I got out my trusty drill and paint mixer thingee and added water and and...well it sort of worked, but when I started painted I noticed some thicker chunky spots. So not really the best idea after all.  I've discovered recently that you shouldn't store your used paint in your garage particularly if you live somewhere like Houston where it is really hot and humid. I've still got it out there ( the paint), mostly because I have no room for it inside without being totally tacky and using it for shelves (you know the old paint can with board shelf you had in college--oops dating myself now!) Since a good portion of the paint was given to me, if I lose it because it solidifies, I guess I haven't lost anything. Meanwhile, you environmental types like me, I've got the primer (and the second can I found in a similar condition) sitting ready to go for the hazard recycling pick up. I didn't throw it in the trashcan. Funny how paint is classified like batteries.

Step 4: Design Process

I'd decided I wanted to do in a pie shaped diagram with the shades on the outer edge, the pure hue in the center and tints on the inner area.

Art refresher:
Pure hue (pure color, the most saturated color without anything added, or in plain language: right out of the bottle)
Shade (color with black added)
Tint (color with white added)

To come up with 12 pie shapes in a circle, well my method wasn't really exact (sorry engineers, but I'm an artist). And I didn't take pictures because...because I knew I was gonna guesstimate and it weren't gonna' be pretty. And no one would like this un-pretty guessing.

I took paper and made a 1/4 size piece pattern- I had paper that was 24 inches long.  Then I folded the paper into three to have a 1/12 piece. Tip, folding into three is kind of guess work. One method is to slightly fold the first edge until what you SEE remaining looks about the same size and fold.That's what I did. And what I got was pretty close to perfect so I went with it. Another method is to hold the paper and fold without creasing into a tube/cone. When you've got something that is about the same- crease/fold away.

Then I found the center of my table and marked that. And used my pie shape wedge to mark 12 sections along the edge, using my center marking as a pivot point.

Then taking a yardstick, (because I couldn't find the 4 foot level-- where is that sucker??), I drew light pencil lines across the table, criss crossing so that I had a table divided into 12 pie slices.

Then I took string and pivoted around with the pencil tied onto the string where I wanted my circles to be for my shade, hue and tint. Not photo worthy exept the end product. I don't have a compass that large- do you? Anyway-kind of rough. But then, I'm an artist and I can get away with that kind of stuff. Because I know the secret.The secret is knowing how to deal with your mistakes!

Step 5: Neutral Gray/grey- How Do You Spell That Word?

I have a bunch of paint samples that someone donated to me. I searched around to find a light gray/grey. (How do you spell that word? There is no concensus, and when my students tell me I've spelled it wrong, I reply "in what country?")

I then painted around the outer edge with gray. Why?

Grey is a neutral color. You get gray when you mix complements together (colors opposite on the color wheel or the highest contrast, like red and green, blue and orange, yellow and violet). Grey is great for giving you the best background to your colors-- it's Switzerland with a bonus: gray has no opinion. It won't favor blue over yellow. Grey will just highlight both!

There is a mid-gray shade that is called neutral  by photographers. But grey is a great color. It's the new black or white?  Or maybe a combination of black and white?

While painting my gray, I modified my design. (I'm allowed to do that; it is my design.)  My smaller paint roller was a 4" roller. Now I had kind of measured around with my string compass a 4 inch rule. But while rolling out the paint, I realized I had another compass type measuring device. So I just used the edge of my paint roller to demarkate my first color line. I wasn't really concerned about the perfection of this line.( I'm trying to get my students away from the fear factor of perfection.) So-- if I wasn't perfect, better for their lesson to see how I overcame my imperfections. If your teacher is perfect, how will you learn?

Step 6: Paint Away

Step 7: Mistakes

I've got a lot of mistakes on this table.

First of all my purples (violets, same thing) aren't right. How? It's hard to describe but they're too muddy. Even the perfect hue from the tube isn't the right color. And red- violet is perfectly violent. I'm going to redo them. But I'm waiting until the students see the evidence and then I'll be able to use this as an object lesson, a real life object lesson.

It is important to see how you overcome mistakes. I need to repeat this: It is important to see how you overcome mistakes. Mistakes are your opportunity. How do you deal with mistakes?

 So I'll repaint the violet and red-violet with my student support. Sometimes they give me inspiration! I'm curious about what they'll say And I can't wait for the conversation.

Step 8: Not Finished Yet

So this is my table now. It isn't finished. I have to fix the violet, red-violet violent crisis. And then I will add the text (words). I will add the color names and maybe color names in different languages. But the text needs to wait until I've finalized my colors. And I need my students to see my mistakes and to help me fix them before I add words.

Step 9: Final Thoughts

I'm doing this table because I need to. It is my obsession du jour. And because of a multitude of teacher reasons: getting ready for the new school year, coming up with authentic lessons, etc. But ultimately, I write the instructable for me. It is a metacognition (thinking about thinking) so I think deeply about what I'm doing and why. I hope that someone also benefits from this instructable besides me. I am very grateful to be allowed to post my  thoughts to this supportive online community of creative folks.

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    26 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Cool! really like it.

    QoQo Love

    3 years ago

    This was an awesome article. I appreciate the context being art and yet the content could apply to any life lesson. Thank you


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This is a great instructable...and a great way to learn about colors! :) I love it. Glad you commented on my pet bed and I got to find your cool instructables. I love ART also!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I have no good knowledge for colors, to me it seems perfect !
    Nice idea for an old table

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I've been using it for a year in my art classroom, and honestly the only one that notices the imperfections are me! Such is the life of an artist.


    6 years ago on Step 9


    As an artist, I appreciate this as both a 'tool' and a lovely thing to look at!!!

    A Plexiglas 'lazy-susan' in the center with the "complimentary, split complimentary, triad, etc" lines would be a helpful addition....and a conversation piece!

    By the way, I'm a firm believer that if two or more colors can be seen in nature (in your scope of vision) they "go together"....either harmoniously or by creating tension. =)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Not only is this project the color wheel but it is also a work of art. Artists are too critical of their works since they can see every damn mistake or flaw. Art should be enjoyed from a distance and so many do not see a mistake at all. On top of that, as a teacher it is a great learning tool and conversation starter. Getting a good dialogue going with the students is the best thing that could happen.

    Now...for me, personally, I HAVE to have something like this and it will be one heck of a project. I might have to scale it down to a smaller table and it might even be on a square or rectangle. It will be my project, too, darn it!! This is quite the inspiration for me and many others, I see.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Good Work! I want it on my bedroom's desk (I'm at last year of "Food Chemistry" course, so we often work with spectra, and so colour charts).


    7 years ago on Introduction

    i really like this. I have a round dining room table that i got at a garage sale for 10 bucks that i want to make into a craft table for my kids. this would be perfect for that. thanks for the inspiration. of course when i do this i'm going to take full credit for the idea........ :)
    there are some tricks to having crisp edges.
    after you've laid out the pattern, paint every other wedge letting the color overlap the edge line. once those are painted then use painters tape and mask off the unpainted wedges and paint them.
    to prevent bleeds, after you mask your edges, first paint the edge with the adjacent color that's being masked. once that has dried then paint the field color. when you remove the tape any bleeding will be that first initial color which is the same as the color you've masked and is thus invisible. hopefully that makes sense.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You go for it!

    The painter's tape is an excellent idea about straight lines-- curves don't work as well. I was not concerned about having a "perfect" example.

    Another tip is to use a wedge(angle) shaped brush. Use the shape of the brush to pull a straight line.

    Please let me know how this works out! And it is YOUR idea! Because it will be your design. There are other designs, for example the colors all in circles. I wanted to highlight the color relationships and also the tint/shades.

    Great table! I love how vivid it is, and it's great to have such a hands on visual aid for kids to see the color wheel up close.

    Your purples will probably be less muddy when you use magenta instead of red, since red isn't a real primary color. :)

    4 replies

    Thank you- my objective was to have a really big visual sample from real life that wasn't so "perfect" as the color wheel charts and posters.

    Red, yellow and blue for mixing pigments are still the primaries (what you use to mix all the other colors). Light color theory and printing will use magenta as the primary and even in some avenues add a fourth with green....

    But my pigments weren't liking each other (I was using naphthol crimson because I had a lot of it and it didn't like the blues or even the violet I had.) So I'll probably need to switch my red pigment. And you're right that I'll veer towards a magenta or a pinkish red like a Alizarin Crimson which is a "cool" red and my red was too warm. I'll also need to use a different blue, one that is a bit lighter and less green.

    I left the "muddiness" because the conversation I'm having with you is what I want to have with them. I want to discover that there are different systems of primaries in color theory and how pigments also will change their result.

    Thanks for the conversation and stopping by!

    I've always had a hard time finding pigments in acrylic that were close enough to true primaries.

    I do have one tube of paint, though, that's labeled "primary red" that looks magenta if you apply a thin layer, but mixes very well with blue or yellow to make non muddy intermediates. I have no idea where my husband got it, because I found it in his old stuff. I've had to resort to buying two shades of blue and two shades of red when I get acrylic at the craft store. I use the pink for mixing purple colors, red for warm shades.

    I can try to find the good tube of paint to tell you the brand, if you want. :)

    That's ok. I've got several tubes of the right stuff (alizarin crimson and quinacridone), just didn't bring it downstairs and into the garage where I was painting the table, but was lazy and grabbed one bottle. I'll be taking the tubes to school along with the bottle so we can compare results of how those reds are different as well as the blues. I also have a tube (liquitex) labeled primary red but it doesn't supply the "real name". I will use my "mistake" as a whole series of lessons!

    hey I think that might be the one! Liquitex!

    It says red but there's no hint of yellow in it, and it looks magenta if diluted with water on white paper or mixed with white paint.