If your students are 4th grade and above, there is a really high chance they have already learned something about color. They probably already know primary and secondary colors, but its okay to start back there if you want. When teaching about color in graphic design, you need to think back about the two parts of graphic design - form and function. I split the lesson into two parts to give adequate time to each. First we will look at the form, or how to pick colors that look good. Next we will explore the function, how to use color to effectively communicate your message.
If you are just joining me, you can start from the beginning here.
Picking the Right Colors!
There are so many colors out there. While a box of crayons can give you hundreds of color choices, the computer can give you thousands! That is a lot of options for our young designers. I have watched them sit at the computer and scroll through nearly all of them. The color wheel teaches us what colors naturally look good together. There is certainly a time to break color theory rules, but we need to learn them first.
To pick a color scheme from the color wheel, you need to look at where the colors are located in relation to one another.
Complimentary - Two colors that are exactly opposite on the color wheel.
Triad - Three colors that are evenly spaced apart on the color wheel.
Analogous - Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.
Split-Complimentary - One color, plus the two colors that borders its complimentary color
Double-Split Complimentary - Take two complimentary colors, and use the four colors that border them.
Monochromatic - One color with tints or shades of the same color.
Tints - A color with varying levels of white added.
Shades - A color with varying levels of black added.
When using one of the color schemes above, you can add in tints and shades as well. This creates endless color possibilities! I showed the kids part of this video to help them see the color schemes in action. A few samples are inappropriate for our young audience, so I made a note of the time and skipped over those parts.
Next, have your student practice with the different color schemes by having them fill in this color theory worksheet. I've provided a pdf which you can print and have them complete by hand. There is also a .svg which they can fill in digitally with either Illustrator or Inkscape. If you do the digital exercise, you may also want to download the CMYK guide for the color wheel. If have the time, you can give a short lesson on CMYK vs. RGB vs. traditional paint. But I haven't gotten into that at this point with my kids.
The last activity, you can do in class or assign as homework/extra credit. Have the kids search through old newspapers, magazines or product packaging and see if they can find some designs using the color schemes that you talked about.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our color theory lesson, where we will teach the students how to communicate their message effectively using color. Subscribe via the box on the right to get it delivered straight to your inbox.
Luke and I are married and have four little munchkins that travel the world with us. I blog about living overseas, travel, kids, education and graphic design.
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