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A Lesson for Kids to Learn About Monochromatic Colors

Creating many shades of green

Creating many shades of green

This is a lesson in mixing colors. Most children are aware that mixing two primary colors (Red, Blue and Yellow), yield secondary colors. Secondary colors are: Green, purple, and orange. What they don't know is how many variations of secondary colors there are.

  • Blue + yellow = green
  • Yellow + red = orange
  • Blue + red = purple

Children love this exercise because it is like a puzzle. They have to figure out how to make various shades of their chosen color by altering the amounts of each color they mix together. Using the same color but changing it slightly creates a monochromatic color scheme.

Each new color achieved gets painted into its own square in a color chart. When the exercise becomes limited by just using primary colors, black or white could then be added.

  • A tint is when white is added to a color.
  • A shade is when black is added to a color.

Adding tints and shades affect the value of the color. This is useful to learn when painting objects or people.

For students seeking an additional challenge, I set up a still life and asked them to paint it using only the colors on their color chart.

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What You Will Need to Make a Color Chart

  • White paper cut into a square
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Primary paint colors (Red, Yellow, Blue)
  • Black and white paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Water cup
  • Mixing palette
  • Rags
Creating shades of orange and utilizing the finished work for a still life in the same color family

Creating shades of orange and utilizing the finished work for a still life in the same color family

How to Make a Color Chart With Analogous Colors

  1. Use the pencil and ruler to grid the white paper square. We created 20 squares inside of our large white square.
  2. Choose a secondary color that you want to work with. (Green, Orange or Purple)
  3. Squeeze out an equal amount of the correct primary paints to make your secondary color onto a mixing palette.
  4. Mix small amounts of paint to achieve your color. Try varying the amount of dark color into light color to begin.
  5. Add in white to different shades of your color, tinting it to lighter values.
  6. Add in black to different shades of your color, shading it to darker values.
  7. Paint in each square with a different color until the entire grid is filled in.
  8. Allow to dry.
  9. With any additional time, use the grid as a reference to create an monochromatic still life.


Lina Nichol on March 09, 2012:

Thank you for your wonderful ideas. I teach a group of 5/6/7 first nations kids. We are going to try your colour theory projects as a way to comfortable with acrylic paints. Much more fun than a boring colour wheel.

Laura Spector (author) from Chiang Mai, Thailand on October 20, 2011:

Michelle, you're most welcome! I hope they have a great time with the project!

Michelle on October 20, 2011:

I need to do an Art Project with my son's first grade class on the use of color - values, tints, and shades. This sounds perfect. Thank you so much for providing this great idea!

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