Saturday, December 29, 2007

Colour Theory

As I described in my last blog, I found it useful to start Junior pupils with a look at pre-historic cave painting. This lead naturally on to a discussion of how paints are made and then on to a discussion of colour theory. In primary school, some (but not all) of my pupils had completed colour circles. However, I never found the colour circle a particularly good way of explaining how colours mix, so I came up with my own system inspired from Venn diagrams. I gave my pupils an A4 photocopy of the above blank template. The Venn diagram at the top had to be filled in using just three colouring pencils, a yellow, red and a blue.

As with oil pastels, if the colours are to mix well it is important to start lightly. I told my pupils to fill in the lightest colours first, starting by filling in the yellow circle lightly, then the red and finally the blue. Then this was repeated several times until the pores of the paper became completely clogged with colour. Done in this way, the mixture which created the secondary colours worked well. (NB: If a pupil filled in the first colour heavily then, where another colour was supposed to overlap, the pencil tended to skid over the first colour and very little of the second actually stuck to the paper!)

For the middle section, pupils were also allowed to use a black and a brown pencil. In the final section pupils were allowed to use orange, green and purple pencils, simply because of the "cleaner" quality of manufactured secondary, colours compared to their own mixtures.

Note for teachers (in particular): If you wish to use copies of the above sheets, go ahead! They are copyright free for private and educational use. However, it would be nice if you would let me know if you find them useful.

The full Colour Theory lesson (and better quality images) is now available at my website ( at and the one on Cave Painting at

No comments: