This simple unit is designed to show young children, in a very direct way, that colours mix.
It offers a way of talking to the children about colour mixing, and describes how the activity should be arranged in the classroom to ensure good results.
- "Here is the paint. There are two different reds, two different blues and two different yellows. Here is some white. There are the two brushes. One is thick and one is thin. Here is a sponge in a tray. Here is a flat white palette for you to mix colours on. Here is some paper. To make a pink take some white paint with the thick brush and put it on the mixing palette. Now your brush is covered in white. Before we get the red wash your brush in the water. Now the brush is wet. Tap the brush on the side of the water container and then wipe it on the sponge to make it dry. Now it is clean and dry we can get some red. Mix the red with the white on the mixing pallet. Now you have made pink. Paint the pink on the paper. You can try to make other colours. Always remember to wash and wipe your brush. Don't forget: WASH and WIPE!"
Let the children experiment. Very young children may simply enjoy mixing colours and feel no need to paint them on paper. If you want to keep a record of the colours they mix make a mono-print by placing a piece of paper onto the wet , mixed colours. You may need to do this before they mix all the colours together into brown.
Show the children how much you value this work by keeping the colour mixing experiments for a display.
Talk about all the colours the children found. How about introducing the children to colour words like 'mint', 'saffron', 'turquoise'?
Complement this work with a look at colours from the world of art and design. For example, show the children a reproduction of an abstract painting that shows a wealth of different colours. Kandinsky comes to mind. Bring in colour swatches from paint manufacturers. Which colours would the children choose if they were going to repaint the classroom?
- Adapted and expanded from 'Teaching Your Children Art, A Handbook for Teachers and Parents, Early Years No. 2, Colour, Texture, Painting' Nigel Meager 1998, NSEAD. This book is a Crayola¨ product.
- Cover the tables in polythene held down on the edge of the table with masking tape. Cut the polythene to the size of each table. This is so much better for children to use than newspaper which slips and slides and gets soggy when wet. Children should wear an old shirt or an apron.
- You will need a container for water. With young or inexperienced children try using one large container half full of water for every four children. This can sit on the middle of the table. It is unlikely that children will accidentally knock over a large container and larger amounts of water will not need changing as often. It could be a rule for the younger children that the water only needs changing when it looks like cold tea. Washing the brush is a vital part of this method. It helps keep the paint in the paint pots clean. This is vital if the children are to experience mixing many bright, clear and clean colours.
- Each child should have a thick and a thin brush. As they get more used to painting in this way, children will learn to use the brushes appropriately. For example, the thin brush is useful for details and small areas of painting whilst the thicker brushes cover larger areas more quickly.
- Children will need to mix their colours on a mixing palette. Ideally this should be flat, white and plastic. For example, try the white surfaces of old kitchen units or stretch some clear polythene over some white card or board. Use as large a mixing area as possible for young children. For example, why not let them mix on a plastic or formica table top? As children get more used to mixing colours on the palette they will discover how colours can be made accidentally as one colour combines with another.
- To mix a full range of colours from the basic primary range it is likely that you will need to use two different reds, two different yellows and two different blues. White should also be available. One way to think about the colours is to choose a red that looks more violet together with a red that looks a little orange; a blue that is tending towards green together with a more purple kind of blue; and a warm orange yellow combined with one that is more lemony or citrus. Each commercial school paint manufacturer chooses different names for their colours. Look at our colour wheel in the unit, 'the basic colour wheel'. If you have to make savings, choose two different reds, two different blues and just one yellow.
- You could add black to this basic range. However, we recommend that when children are mixing colours for the first time, or if they are inexperienced, that you should leave out the black. This is because young children enjoy mixing black with everything which does not help them learn much about how to create their own colours.
- The colours will need to be in containers. Try using stable plastic pots (ice cream containers for example). However, it may be possible to buy a commercial product to contain the six to eight colours needed for this colour mixing process. Younger children will need larger paint containers. Use any water based paint that is suitable for children.
- You may wish to try the process with just three different primary colours but the range of colours children can mix will be limited.
- Children will need a rag or a sponge to wipe their wet brushes. We recommend thata large dry sponge is put on a tray and that children are encouraged to dab the wet brushes on the sponge to remove the water. Very dirty brushes may need to be wiped with a rag.
- Colour looks best on good quality paper. If you can, use a cartridge paper or something similar. If good paper is unavailable perhaps you could search out some scrap white card for painting on. Of course all sorts of different papers could be used for colour mixing experiments and colour projects.
- It may be useful to have some scrap paper available so that children can try out different colours before adding them to a colour collection or a painting.
- Look at other units that use this colour mixing process, for example, painting colours changing'.
More ideas about art connections
- You could see what happens when you don't wash and wipe! Frequently this turns out a muddy and poorly defined mess. But there are times when you might want subtle browns and dirty greys. There are times when you might want to encourage accidents and chance results. There are other times when you want to encourage control, so that your pupils can plan their work and improve their technique.
- Have you thought of showing your children Kandinsky's 'Composition VI' (1913, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf); Frank Stella, 'The Try Works' (1988, Knoedler Gallery, New York) or Gillian Ayres, 'Antony and Cleopatra' (1982, Tate Gallery, London)?
- Pupils will be excited by the colourful excitement of the Fauves (Matisse, van Dongen, Dufy and Derain) and Robert Delaunay such as, 'Windows Open Simultaneously' (1912, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice).
2 reds, 2 yellows and 2 blues ready mixed paint with white, containers for the paint, paper to paint on, one thick and one thin brush, a mixing palette, a large container for water, a sponge in a tray, an old towel, polythene to cover the tables.