K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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  • Colorful fruit bowl: Students learn color theory by exploring color mixing. Students will use overlapping to show simple perspective in their picture.
  • Exploring colors: The learner will develop the ability to use science process skills through exploration with primary colors.
  • Mixing colors with Little Blue and Little Yellow: This is an integrated lesson based on a French book entitled Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni. Within the lesson, students will experiment with various colors to create new colors and eventually write their own version of this story.

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • identify primary and secondary colors.
  • mix primary colors of paint to create secondary colors of paint.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

40 minutes


  • Tempera paint: red, yellow and blue (in paint trays)
  • 2 pieces of 9″x12″ white paper per student
  • Painting smocks
  • Water
  • Water containers
  • Paintbrush, 1 per student
  • Paper towel, 1 per student


Review color wheel and primary colors.


  1. Explain that students will learn to mix paint. Focus on the color wheel. Ask students which colors can be mixed together to make orange, green, and violet.
  2. Point out that yellow, red, and blue are called primary colors because you can mix them together and make other colors. Orange, green, and violet are called secondary colors because they can be mixed from two primary colors.
  3. Demonstrate mixing yellow and blue to make green, yellow, and red to make orange and red and blue to make violet. Review painting steps previously learned (wash, wipe and blot) while demonstrating color mixing.
  4. Discuss how colors on the color wheel are the same as colors in a rainbow. Demonstrate how to use the colors given as well as the colors mixed to paint a rainbow.
  5. Ask students to explain what the samples of mixed paint show (mix red and yellow to make orange, etc.).
  6. Distribute supplies. Students will practice mixing colors on one sheet of paper and then make a rainbow painting on the other sheet.
  7. Have students paint three yellow circles, then wash, wipe and blot their brushes. Next, have students add a dot of red paint to the first yellow circle and mix it together. Have them increase the number of dots in each circle each time. Help them see that different amounts of red make yellow-orange, orange and red-orange.
  8. Guide students similarly through mixing blue into yellow and mixing red into blue. Some students may need clean water before the next part of the activity.
  9. Collect the color experiments on a flat surface to dry, such as a drying rack. Have students mentally prepare to paint a rainbow by visualizing a real rainbow. Encourage students to paint the parts of the rainbow in sequence like the color wheel, beginning with red, then orange and yellow. Then have them add green, blue and violet.
  10. Explain that the class can enjoy painting lessons again if everyone helps clean up. Be sure students understand their specific tasks.
  11. Collect artwork on a flat surface to dry, such as a drying rack. Collect supplies.
  12. Compliment students on helpful cleanup.
  13. Have students verbally review how to mix orange, green and violet.
  14. Close the lesson by paraphrasing the objectives.


Assess student understanding by observing completed artwork.

Supplemental information

Adventures in Art by Laura Chapman Publisher: Davis; Teacher edition, 1998
ISBN: 0871923238


This is a good way to introduce color mixing for first grade students.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Visual Arts Education (2010)
      • Grade 1

        • 1.V.1 Use the language of visual arts to communicate effectively. 1.V.1.1 Identify tools, media and processes. 1.V.1.2 Create original art that expresses ideas, themes, and events. 1.V.1.3 Recognize that symbols, subjects, or themes are used in the works of...
        • 1.V.3 Create art using a variety of tools, media, and processes, safely and appropriately. 1.V.3.1 Use a variety of tools safely and appropriately to create art. 1.V.3.2 Execute control of a variety of media. 1.V.3.3 Use the processes of drawing, painting,...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Visual Arts Education (2001)

Grade 1

  • Goal 1: The learner will develop critical and creative thinking skills and perceptual awareness necessary for understanding and producing art.
    • Objective 1.01: Understand the purpose of the activity.
    • Objective 1.02: Uses logical sequence to complete an activity.
  • Goal 2: The learner will develop skills necessary for understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes.
    • Objective 2.01: Become familiar with additional basic art media, techniques and processes which may include: fibers - papermaking and paper weaving.