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Colour theory for kids: Share with your little ones!

September 14, 2022 3 min read

Rainbow umbrella with sunshine and sky in background

Colour theory is an exciting concept. It is used in many areas of our life, from decorating our homes to masterful artwork in museums, and everywhere in between. Playing with colours shows us all the crazy combinations that occur when we place, overlay or mix all kinds of hues and tones.

Understanding colour theory can enhance one’s eye for art and design — plus, it’s a fun skill to explore further. In this blog post, we dive into some of the colour theory basics, suitable for teaching to your little ones as they play with art and colouring.

 

Primary Colours

The basis of colour theory comes down to three important colours, known as the primary colours: Red, Yellow, and Blue. These are three colours that cannot be created by mixing other colours. When you mix these primary colours together, they create secondary colours.

 

Secondary Colours

By mixing primary colours together, you create new colours: Orange, Purple and Green. The exact tone or hue of each secondary colour varies according to the amounts of primary colours used; this means one purple can look different to the next purple. Secondary colours work like this:

  • Red and Yellow make Orange
  • Red and Blue make Purple
  • Yellow and Blue make Green

 

Adding White and Black

Of course, not all shades of red are the same, nor all shades of orange, purple, green, and so on. One way to manipulate the colours you create is to add white or black to each shade, increasing or decreasing its brightness, respectively.

This colour theory technique may not work in practice for all mediums — for example, layering black marker over yellow marker may not have a mixing effect, whereas combining two colours of paint and stirring will demonstrate how this works.

 

Warm and Cool Colours

Another important principle of colour theory is warm and cool tones. All colours can be broken down into either warm or cool, based on its strongest hue:

  • Red, yellow and orange hue are warm tones
  • Green, purple and blue hues are cool tones

This concept can become further complicated when comparing certain shades. For example, the colour red can be either ‘warm red’ or ‘cool red’, depending on whether it contains more orange (warm) or more blue (cool).

The concept of warm and cool tones is something that many artists, designers and colour theorists study to understand and utilise in their work. These concepts are used across fashion, makeup, interior design, art, architecture, and so much more.

 

Complementary Colours

Complementary colours are two colours that lie directly across from each other on a colour wheel. They are opposite hues, containing one warm colour and one cool colour. The basic complementary colours are:

  • Yellow and purple
  • Blue and orange
  • Red and green

Beyond this, the colour wheel can be divided an infinite number of times to capture all gradients between the basic hues.

Complementary colours look beautiful when paired together, due to the natural illusion that occurs where each colour appears brighter and grabs your attention.

 

Infographic about colour theory for kids

 

Play With Colours

As you play with your Re-FUN-ableKids Colouring Sets, which colours will you notice? Do you see how pairing complementary blue and orange makes both colours pop? Can you create your own colour gradient from left to right? The possibilities are endless — and infinitely enhanced with a fun bit of colour theory knowledge.

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