Family Magazine

Explore Art Projects: Complementary Color Lesson

By Myjoneses
Part I:
Mini Color Theory Lesson, Complementary Colors
Color theory is a combination of terms, definitions and concepts that explain color.  The goal is to create a logical structure for color.  One concept is the color wheel, invented by Sir Isaac Newton, is a logically arranged sequence of colors.

Explore Art Projects: Complementary Color Lesson

Definitions within the color wheel are:
  • primary colors: red, blue, yellow
  • secondary colors which are the combination of 2 primary colors: red + blue = purple, blue + yellow = green, yellow + red = orange
  • tertiary colors are the combination of a primary and secondary color
You can introduce color concepts to young children first starting with the basics, naming their colors.  Once they can name and recognize colors introduce the color wheel.  Show your child the 3 primary colors and work  on naming them while they are making art.  Next introduce secondary colors and how 2 primary colors are mixed together to make each secondary color.
Build upon this for awhile and incorporate it into art making.  When working on a project ask your child to name the colors they are coloring or painting with.  See if they can remember their primary colors.  If they are using a secondary color can they tell you what 2 primary colors made it?  This is something to continually work with and incorporate into art making until they can show a solid understanding.  
Cy has been working on art projects with me for over a year, combined with a lot of time spent coloring (his favorite thing to do).  He can name his colors and tell you primary colors and how to make secondary colors.  So for our latest Hands On Art project I introduced a new concept Complementary Colors.
Explore Art Projects: Complementary Color Lesson

Complementary colors are colors that are opposite of one another on the color wheel.  Yellow and Purple, Blue and Orange, Red and Green  Show your child a picture of a color wheel, pick a color and ask them to find the one located on the opposite side of the color wheel.  
If your working with older children or just for some more information for the adults: the complementary color of a primary color is the color you get by mixing the other two primary colors together, the complementary color of a secondary color is the primary color that wasn't mixed to get the secondary color. 
For younger children under 5 or if you're just starting out with this concept keep it simple with them naming the opposite color on the color wheel.  Incorporate it into conversation while they are making art and work on a few projects that focus on complementary colors and they'll get it in no time.
Make sure and see our Hands on Art: Thankful Tree (featuring complementary hand prints) for a project idea!
Explore Art Projects: Complementary Color Lesson
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