Learning About Color

I dug up my research regarding teaching art and looked through a tall stack of loosely bound pages to find the parts about color. Below are my findings.

Not listed is that the child should learn how to take care of the brushes, paints, markers, and other supplies related to the color classes. The child should, at first, help clean up the mess in such a way that the child is learning the best way to clean it up by himself, which he (or she) should eventually do (clean it up by in a good way, not a careless way.)


  1. Can name primary and secondary colors, if not, learn the names
    [ Color Names: Tracing, Coloring, Writing ]
  2. Introduce that red, yellow and blue are primary colors
    [ child's color wheel ]
  3. Introduce mixing primary colors to create secondary colors
    [ child's color wheel ]
  4. Explore mixing tints and shades of a color (what happens when black or white is added to a color -- the color becomes lighter or darker)

First Grade

  1. Continue with the 4 standards listed under Kindergarten
  2. Introduce cool and warm colors [child's color wheel]
  3. Introduce mixing black and white to create varying shades of gray
  4. Introduce mixing gray with a color to create tone
  5. Introduce choosing a color to express feeling (or emotion if you prefer that term)

Second Grade

  1. Continue working with everything mentioned above - some things should be mastered by now - color names and which colors are primary and secondary (for instance)
  2. Introduce intermediate colors - (We call them tertiary colors)
  3. Introduce the terms opaque and transparent. (watercolors versus tempera or acrylic paints should help with the understanding of the terms. What happens to a dry swatch of painted color when painted over with water colors and with tempera or acrylic?

Third Grade

  1. Continue working with items mentioned above.

Fourth Grade

  1. Continue working with items mentioned above.
  2. Introduce color harmonies - colors that work well together - analogous colors, complementary colors, and monochromatic colors [read].
  3. Introduce using those color harmonies (color schemes) as limited palettes when painting.
  4. Mix paints and paint a complete color wheel [Ives color wheel]

Fifth Grade

  1. Continue working with items mentioned above. By now the student ought to be getting knowledgeable about color principles
  2. Introduce combining color with line to create mood in drawings, illustrations, and paintings

Sixth Grade and Higher

  1. Continue working with items mentioned above at a higher grade level - meaning the student ought to be getting pretty good at this stuff.
  2. Assign art work - drawings, illustrations, and paintings with color principles in mind. See list for ideas

Donna Young, March 31, 2012

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