Colors Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about art, primary colors, and secondary colors.  The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Colors. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Have children look around them. What colors do they see? This movie will explore primary and secondary colors and explain how to mix colors together to create a different color, and how to make tints and shades. We recommend using plenty of hand-on activities and have children experiment with paints to explore and have fun. This movie will explore how artists can use colors to help communicate emotions and ideas or spark them in viewers.

Explain that primary colors are colors that cannot be made by mixing other colors. They are the base colors. In art, many people typically recognize red, blue, and yellow as the primary colors. With projected light (as in computer monitors), the primary colors are red, green, and blue. When working with pigments and dyes, the primary colors are considered to be cyan, magneta, and yellow.

Secondary colors are made by combining two primary colors. Review the secondary colors together: red + blue = violet, red + yellow = orange, blue + yellow = green. If possible, have children mix paints to create their own secondary colors, which will help reinforce the concepts. Tertiary colors are made by combining a primary color and a secondary color. While children may not need to know the term, they have most likely seen and used tertiary colors, such as blue-green and orange-yellow. You may want to explore different colors on a color wheel, which shows primary and secondary colors and colors in between.

The shade of a color refers to its darkness. Shades are created by starting with a color and adding black. If possible, have your children start with blue paint and add a little black paint to make a shade of darker blue. Adding even more black can make navy blue. Tints are made by mixing white and a color. Have children start with white and add red paint. What happens? They have made a tint–pink! Have them add even more white and explore what happens. Explain that a pastel is a tint that has a lot of white.

Remind your children that different colors can make people feel different emotions. Show different colors or sets of colors and have children describe how they make them feel. What emotions do reds, yellows, and oranges inspire? What do the colors remind them of? Why do people consider them to be warm colors? These colors often remind people of sunshine and fire and elicit feelings of happiness or excitement. Why do people consider blues, greens, and purples to be cool colors? These colors often remind people of water and elicit feelings of peace and calm.

Artists can use color to help communicate ideas and emotions through their work. Some children may have heard the term “feeling blue.” The color blue sometimes represents sadness. If possible, study pieces from Pablo Picasso’s blue period together. Explain that after his friend died, Picasso painted mostly in blues. What other elements of his work communicate sadness or loss? How might the paintings be different if they were in bright reds and oranges? We recommend exploring other artists’ work and examining how they use color to communicate emotions or ideas. How do some of Claude Monet’s paintings communicate feelings of peace and calm? Encourage your children to explore color and notice the use of color when they study pieces of art.