Colour Mixing – How Are Different Colours Made?

Part of Early Years Week

Did you know you only really need 4 colours to make the colours of the rainbow? If you have blue, red, yellow and white then you have everything you need! Blue, Red and Yellow are our Primary Colours, these are colours that can be mixed to make a range of different colours.

Get stuck into some messy play with the little ones while teaching them a little bit about Colour Science Theory. The wee ones will enjoy experimenting with mixing the paint and see how they can make new colours. Be sure to cover the surface and to wear an apron or old clothes as this can get quite messy!

Tip: If you are worried about making a mess, you can always squirt the paint on the paper, and then seal the paper in a large plastic baggie for finger painting without the mess!

Now watch our video to learn more.

Colour Mixing - Arts and Science - Early Years Week

Here are some colour mixing suggestions:

  • Blue and red will make purple
  • Blue and yellow will make green
  • White and a tiny bit of red will make pink
  • Yellow and red will make orange

Now that you have a whole array of beautiful colours mixed up, let’s use them!

See our activity sheet for different activities for pre-schoolers and babies/toddlers. Try out a colour wheel for the older children.

Notice how colours beside each other harmonise or ‘blend’ and how colours opposite each other contrast or ‘pop’. Once your wheel is dry you could try testing it out. Cut out the wedges, and then you can pick pairs to put beside each other and let your wee ones decide if they think they 'blend' or 'pop'.

For younger ones, why not use your paints in a butterfly paint?! You probably made these when you were little in school. They are nice because the outcome is a bit random so wee ones can enjoy the process and the surprise they get at the end.

Have a look at the pictures below, can you see which one has harmonising colours, which are the colours next to each other on the colour wheel, and which has popping colours, colours which are opposite each other on the colour wheel?

Colour Wheel
Colour Wheel
Colour Wheel

The Sunflower painting uses colours which are next to each other on the colour wheel so the colours compliments each other and are harmonious. The Pop Art colours are on the other side of the colour wheel and so will contrast to each other, meaning that the colours will pop when used together.

See our activity sheet for more details!

Some Science: Isaac Newton developed the first colour wheel in 1666 after he used prisms to split white light like a rainbow into the seven visible colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

The artists David Austen likes to play with different colours and how they work together in his art. You could try this Paper Portraits activity inspired by his work to experiment with colours yourself. Decide whether you want your portrait to be soothing with colours close on the wheel or whether you want it to be popping by choosing contrasts.

This page is part of the Early Years Week information.

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