Color Wheel Circles Painting Project

Color Wheel Circles Demo 2

My Color Wheel Circles painting project is a great introduction to the color wheel and color mixing. I’ve been using this project with students for over eight years. This painting project doesn’t require drawing skill because the design is made with circle templates and ruled lines. This frees students to focus on color.

This project reinforces students’ knowledge about primary colors (red, yellow, blue) and secondary colors (green, purple, orange). It helps to have a paper color wheel for reference, but any image of a color wheel will work.

I pin up some images of Robert Delaunay’s paintings in the work area as inspiration. Delaunay painted beautiful circles within circles of prismatic color. Find reproductions of Delaunay’s work online or in an art book. Robert Delaunay was a French painter who lived and worked in Paris in the early twentieth century. You can read more about Delaunay here and here.

Painting your own “Delaunay” is surprisingly easy. Acrylic paints work well because they dry quickly and are fairly opaque, although watercolors also look great. With watercolor, just make sure adjacent colors are dry before you paint the next one (use a hair drier on low to dry the paper). Otherwise, colors may bleed into each other.

Color Wheel Circles, Demo 3
Color Wheel Circles, Demo 3

Color Wheel Circles Project Materials:

  1. Color wheel
  2. Robert Delaunay painting reproductions
  3. Paper or canvas for painting
  4. Acrylic or watercolor paints
  5. Plastic lids from round containers in small, medium, and large sizes
  6. Rulers
  7. Charcoal or pencils
  8. Water for mixing paints
  9. Palettes for painting
  10. Brushes

Color Wheel Circles Project Steps:

  1. If you are using acrylics, use charcoal to trace a variety of overlapping and concentric circles on your canvas or paper.  If you are using watercolors, do this step in light pencil.
  2. Use a ruler to divide some of the circles into halves or quarters. Stop when your composition looks complete. Trust your instincts for this step, or stop when you can’t think what else to do.
  3. Make sure you have a palette that includes primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), complimentary colors (green, purple and orange) and white.
  4. Now start mixing colors you like and painting parts of circles. Make sure you paint over the temporary charcoal lines and overlap the colors completely. Avoid leaving charcoal lines or white canvas edges.
  5. Try to use each color you mix for at least three to five shapes so that the painting is unified by repeated colors.
  6. When all your circle parts are painted, add a single color background.  A neutral color such as blue-gray would be a good choice.
  7. Step back, sign, and enjoy your “Delaunay” original.
    Color Wheel Circles, Demo 1
    Color Wheel Circles, Demo 1


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