Colour Connections
April 28, 2016

paintings stories colour wheel

Want to explore how artists use colour? Then borrow our painted tactile diagram and audio guide to the colour wheel. It’s included in Painting Stories and our Introduction book.

The colour wheel is the name for the diagram that explains how colours work and how they are related. The colour wheel reminds artists how to mix and think about colours.

In art there are three primary colours – red, yellow and blue. Each primary colour has an opposite, or complementary, which is made by mixing the other two. These opposite colours are also known as ‘secondary’. So, just by mixing the 3 primary colours, you can get all the colours of the rainbow!


Here’s how it works

Blue’s complementary is orange – which is made by mixing red and yellow.

Red’s complementary is green – which is made by mixing blue and yellow.

Yellow’s complementary is purple – which is made by mixing red and blue.


Get arty: make your own colour wheel canvas

You’ll need –

poster paints or tubes of oil paint or acrylic paint in red, yellow and blue

some clean, dry paint brushes or sponges

several clean jam jar lids or clean empty yoghurt pots

a stretched canvas (try Hobbycraft or Wilkinson)


First, squirt splodges of each primary colour into the clean jam jar lids or yogurt pots.

Using a clean brush (r sponge) each time, one by one try these colour recipes:

Mix a big splodge of red and yellow onto a clean lid. Mix well and you should get blue!

Mix a big splodge of blue and yellow onto a clean lid. Mix well and you should get green!

Mix a big splodge of red and blue onto a clean lid. Mix well and you guessed it, you will get purple.


So, instead of having just 3 colours you now have 6!

To make it tactile – mix a bit of PVA craft glue into each color. Then mix in a different tactile element such as dried lentils or beans, small pasta or small polystyrene balls.

To create a colourful canvas, swirl circles of each colour onto the canvas – perhaps in rows of alternating colours or dot about free-style. Remember to use all your colours and think about which colours complement each other. Wait for it to dry and then hang on a wall or place on a shelf.


Find out more about how artits use colour in our Touch to See collection

Explore The Snail by Henri Matisse in Works of Art from Tate Modern

Snail collage by Henri matise

Meander over The Japanese Bridge by Claude Monet in The Magical Garden of Claude Monet

Claude Monet Japanese bridge

Bask in the yellow heat of  The Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh in Touch to See book  Camille and the Sunflowers

sunflowers website crop

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