Art @ Home: Color Theory Challenge

What is color? In art, color is defined as an element of art that is produced when light, striking an object, is reflected back to the eye. Artists use color to express feelings and emotions, create a mood, or show something as it looks in peoples’ lives.

We can trace color being used in art to the earliest cave paintings, but one of the first times we began to think of color in an organized way was in the 17th century when Sir Isaac Newton figured out that clear light was made up of seven visible colors, red, orange yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. This understanding of the spectrum continued to evolve and develop through the years, thanks to many scientists, artists, and scholars. And, today, we are lucky to be able to create art with the aid of a color wheel.


The color wheel offers a visual reference for understanding relationships between colors, such as how the three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) combine to make secondary colors (green, orange, and violet) and tertiary colors (colors created by combining a primary and a secondary color, such as yellow-orange or blue-green).

When we are young, one of the first ways we start to connect with colors is through coloring books, which offer outlines of figures and shapes that we fill in using drawing tools like crayons and colored pencils.

You can create your own coloring pages, and challenge yourself to choose colors that show off your color theory smarts! 

Step 1: Create some coloring pages.

  • If you have a computer and printer at home, you can print off the coloring sheet we made. We created it by adding text boxes to a Microsoft Word document, an easy way to design a coloring page.
  • If you do not have a computer or printer at home, you can still create your own coloring pages. Find objects like can lids of various sizes, drinking glasses, square boxes, or flat rocks. You can trace around these objects on a blank piece of paper, arranging them however you would like. It’s easy to add stripes, too; all you need is a ruler.

Step 2: Now you’re ready to try our Color Theory Challenge. Color your pages using these color theory principles.

  • Use only primary colors: red, blue, and yellow.
  • Use only secondary colors: green, violet, and orange.
  • Use complementary color combinations. These are colors with strong contrast. Sometimes they look like they’re vibrating when they’re placed next to each other. You can find them opposite one another on the color wheel: violet and yellow, red and green, and blue and orange.
  • Do some research on your own and create your own color theory challenges. You could use only warm colors, only cool colors, sets of analogous colors (triads of colors centered on a tertiary color, such as green, blue-green, and blue), or using monochromatic colors (a group of colors derived from a single hue, such as blue, dark blue, and light blue).

We’d love to see what you create!  Tag us @ColbyMuseum on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtags #ArtAtHome and #ColorTheoryChallenge.