"Invent" a Color Chart




Introduction: "Invent" a Color Chart

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.

Color charts (wheels) are a way to organize information about color theory. In the art classroom, we use the color wheel for many applications: color mixing, color theory, light theory, printmaking, and the list goes on!

Students in this lesson will create or invent a system to organize 12 colors: 3 primary (red, yellow and blue), 3 secondary(orange, green and violet) and 6 intermediate/tertiary colors (yellow-green, yellow-orange, red- orange, red-violet, blue-green, blue-violet).

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Step 1: Objectives

Content Objective:Students will make a design for a color chart  that shows color relationships.

Ancillary* Objectives:
Students will learn mathematical terms for 6 and 12 sided polygons.
Students will problem solve an answer.
Students will learn about color theory, light theory and additive color theory.
Students will apply art concepts to other subject matter.

* I love using this word (ancillary) in it's proper usage- as a secondary, non-essential, subordinate objective. Side note: Sometimes arts classes are referred to as ancillary. When someone uses this expression, I am quick to reply "do you know what this word means" which they usually reply....ummm no? And then I edify. Ancillary is a horrible way to describe someone. It isn't a horrible way to describe something.

Okay. Okay, I'm off my soapbox now. Sheesh. You'd think I have to write a lesson or something!

• Primary, secondary and intermediate/tertiary colors
• Relationships between colors indicated in design
• Accurately mixed and painted colors
• Clearly labeled and spelled color names (ESL/LEP objective)
• Interpretive key

Include other color chips from environmental sources (such as fabric, magazine cuts
Show complementary colors, tints and/or shades, neutral gray

Content objectives:
ART.6.1.04- ART.8.1.04 Explore different and unusual ways of approaching two-six particular subjects.
ART.6.1.05- ART.8.1.05 Examine the environment for evidence of 2-6 art elements and 2-6 design principals.
ART.6.1.06- ART.8.1.06 Understand the purposes of art elements, design principles in the creation of artworks, and how specific principles are used to organize art elements in 2-6 visual art works.
ART.6.1.07-ART.8.1.07 Understand the expressive qualities of specific art elements and design principles in 2-6 artworks.
ART.6.1.08- ART.8.1.08 Analyze the application of specific elements and principles in 2-6 personal works.
ART.6.3.03- ART.8.3.03 Utilize vocabulary orally and in writing in 2-6 artworks

Step 2:

The first "color wheel" was invented by Sir Isaac Newton. Yes the apple guy! He split sunlight into red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, and blue beams; then he joined the two ends of the color spectrum together to show the natural progression of colors. Newton also associated each color with a note of a musical scale.

A century after Newton, Johann Wolfgang Goethe began studying psychological effect of colors. He noticed that blue gives a feeling of coolness and yellow has a warming effect. Goethe created a color wheel showing the psychological effect of each color. He divided all the colors into two groups – the plus side (from red through orange to yellow) and the minus side (from green through violet to blue). Colors of the plus side produce excitement and cheerfulness. Colors of the minus side are associated with weakness and unsettled feelings.

The current form of color theory was developed by Johannes Itten based on studies by Froebel and others. Itten was a Swiss color and art theorist who was teaching at the School of Applied Arts in Weimar, Germany or the 'Bauhaus'. Johannes Itten developed 'color chords' and modified the color wheel. Itten's color wheel is based on red, yellow, and blue colors as the primary triad and includes twelve hues. Most color theories in the art classroom are based on this model.

Step 3: Materials and Process

Basic materials:
Heavy paper or board suitable for painting
black permanent marker
paint (tempera or acrylic)


1. Review color wheel and color relationships, primary, secondary and intermediate colors
2. Review color mixing for secondary and intermediate/tertiary colors
3. Show examples of color wheels (power point).
4. Create a rough draft/ thumb nail sketch
5. Draw design on heavy paper or board and outline if needed with black permanent marker
6. Mix and paint secondary and tertiary colors

Step 4: Dodecagons and Brainstorms

12 required colors. A 12 sided polygon? (Dodecagon) Maybe three shapes repeated? Or a favorite shape? A Mandala or tesselation?

Or ???

Here are some examples I would show my students to get their brain cooking creatively.

Now if I haven't bored you to tears with the teacher stuff, here is some of the inside scoop.

I teach art to inner city middle school kids. I teach 170+ kids a day, 6 classes. Many of my students never had art in elementary school and some have had extensive experience. My classes are mixed grade level, sometimes with 6th, 7th and 8th all in one class. They are scheduled so that their core content classes are scheduled first and then everything else is dropped in where it fits and not necessarily by ability. I also have classes that are inclusion with special needs, learning disabilities and ESL (English as a second language) combined with GT and "regular" (what ever that means?)

So to cope with this, I design lessons with multiple ways to convey the information. And I usually make a teacher sample to help get a few jump started.

Step 5: Finished Work?

This step is still blank. I will insert pictures from my students when they create their masterpieces. But as it is December 22--and we're not in school and I'm doing this over my break, this step is still....blank!

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    5 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Fantastic piece - what a great exercise. I am not a student, but I am an avid painter, and I spend a lot of time thinking about color and using my color wheel.
    I have painted some color wheels to show where my paints site (and mark them), and I have also organized a sheet of paint dabs along the munsell line, which is very helpful for painting.

    Thanks for posting!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome work. I love this idea. Great incorporation of art standards and language-acquisition goals. I forget that there are art classes that aren't brought into schools from well-intentioned organizations whose pedagogical skills don't quite measure up to their enthusiasm. Good to see some craft brought to an important and too-often ancillary subject.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I really enjoyed reading this! I will be checking back after break to see what all the kids come up with. Thanks so much for sharing this! I thought it was very interesting.