Color Theory Resources

a second grade color wheel completed with only red, yellow and blue colored pencils

During the months of December and January, all of my students begin a journey though the land of color. Younger students will create a simple color wheel in which they must create all secondary and tertiary hues; Red, Red-Orange, Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow, Yellow-Green, Green, Blue-Green, Blue, Blue-Violet, Purple, and Magenta using only the primary colors Red, Yellow, and Blue. Older students will use this information to create more sophisticated exercises in color application such as cross-hatching with warm and cool shading. 

fifth grade color exercise worksheets

Color theory and optics are vital parts of every art student’s education up through the collegiate level! There are many wonderful resources on the web that can help enrich your understanding of color, and here’s a quick sampling of my favorites:

Causes of Color  explores color from many different angles, including the science of Optics, and explanations for color in nature.

Color in Motion is a dynamic site that includes animation, games, and activities that focus on the feelings and symbolism evoked by primary and secondary colors.

Color Theory by Worqx is slightly more text heavy, but also incredibly full of straightforward information with helpful diagrams.

This Color Mixing Game invites the player to match the hue of the bouncing ball by clicking on different colors to add. This is a great way to practice color mixing skills for painting!

It is important to note that many students do not experience color in a way that the majority of the world does, and these people are often categorized as “color-blind.” These students can participate in color theory lessons in a modified way, and have much to share with the class regarding their different visual take on the world.

Color-blindness is the inability to distinguish the differences between certain colors. This condition results from an absence of color-sensitive pigment in the cone cells of the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye. Approximately 1 out of 12 males and 1 out of 200 women are color blind. 

You can test your own color vision here!

Instant Inspiration


My weekday morning ritual, (if I've been industrious and prepped for my classes already!) is to browse my rss reader. I have a special reader set up just for school that is filled with fantastic art, technology, and educational resources.  I've pared it down to the real gems so that this experience is a way to center myself and get inspired without all of the distractions that I might find while browsing at home. 

Here are a few of the feeds that are consistently fantastic, exciting, and unexpected:

but does it float
beautiful, thought provoking visual art and design

a motley selection of scanned books spanning illustration, science, history, and some very odd offerings that defy description

now a part of the Khan Academy, Smarthistory not only has a wealth of amazing art history information, but their frequently updated video conversations are an educational way to start the day, I always learn something new (in down-to-earth language that is a joy to listen to!)

The Art of Ed 
art education-centered information that is relevant and practical. Abundant with advice and inspiration for lessons.

MoMA Videos
a diverse range of short videos that explore all forms of media

Illustration Friday
a weekly art prompt that you can browse or choose to participate in yourself

Wooster Collective
a blog featuring street art and "ephemeral" art - there's some crazy stuff here! 

Hark, a Vagrant
the web comic of Kate Beaton that pulls inspiration from literature, history, and her own life. it's hilarious, beautifully drawn (and often not kid-appropriate!)

a blog about "art and visual ingenuity" that provides many exciting ideas