Art Lesson Plan: Learning Secondary Colours


  1. Learning secondary colours

Materials needed for demonstration:

  1. Shaving cream
  2. paint powder in primary colours (yellow, red, blue)
  3. plastic sheeting (clean, old shower curtain)
  4. ream of newsprint/cheap paper/ enough for each child to do one mixing in front of them
  5. basin or sink of soapy water with old towel for drying.

Materials needed for art/follow-up reinforcement, for each group of 4-6 students:

  1. 2 each: yellow, red, blue primary colour paint mixed with water
  2. 4-6 paint brushes
  3. 4-6 large sheets of white paper
  4. newpaper to cover desks
  5. students’ writing journals
  6. chart board paper for student’s to cut to their painting width, then they write story, then cut off excess paper below their written stories
  7. scissors
  8. scotch tape to attach written stories to artwork


  1. Desks in groups of 4-6, covered in newpaper, set with three primary paints, brushes, white paper, ready for follow-up reinforcement.
  2. Teacher and students sit in circle around plastic sheeting.  Colours will be “created” along the outer edge of plastic, demonstated first by teacher, then once again by students, on throw-away paper.  In many spots along the outer edge, close to the students, small amounts of dry primary paint colour powder and mounds of shaving cream will be placed on throw-away paper.  For example, in front of every student will be small amounts of two primary paint powder colours with a small amount of shaving cream between them, on throw-away paper.


  1. Teacher asks about student knowledge of primary colours of yellow, red, and blue.  For clues, students can see the paint powder in primary colours laid out in front of them.
  2. Teacher asks for predictions on what colour will be made when yellow and red are mixed, then yellow and blue, red and blue.
  3. Teacher demonstrates each time a prediction is made, to reinforce the correct answer. (This is done for orange, purple, green.)
  4. After teacher has demonstrated secondary colour mixings, have students take turns making predictions and then mixing their two primary colours (in front of them) to ensure their prediction is correct.  I let one student demo at a time with every one watching, so it is reinforced many times before they do it themselves. (Teachers can have 4 students do it at a time, spaced around the circle, so everyone can see.  Students still get to see the demos 4-5 times then.)
  5. After lesson, students wash hands, then use three primary colours to create paintings showing secondary colours, at their desks.
  6. Cleanup:  Throw away demo papers, wipe paint off plastic, clean desk tops, hang up art work.
  7. Now, or during writing class, write about the experience, noting which two primary colours they used to make each secondary colour.  Once writing is corrected, have students reprint stories on large chart paper lines that are cut to fit the width of their paintings.
  8. Have students “sign” their paintings, like real artists.


By the end of the predicting and mixing lesson, students have a good grasp of how to make secondary colours.  Painting a picture making their own secondary colours and writing about which primary colours they used to “make” their secondary colours reinforces the concept.

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