Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How to Make a Color Wheel Gecko

The color wheel is a fundamental concept that is introduced in Grade 1 and then further discussed in later grades. So I am always interested in developing projects to help teach Color Theory.

Now Color Theory can get quite complex but we'll start with the basics.

For this project the kids make a color wheel that becomes the basis for a fun interactive painting. 

With a turn of the wheel........

......and the gecko changes color.

So let's get started and once you know the technique you can adapt this project in numerous ways.


- tempera or watercolor paint
-  2 sheets of watercolor paper
- fine sharpie
- template, (use mine or better yet come up with your own)
- scissors, pencil, eraser
- paper fastener
- glue, tape
- transparency (optional)

Take one sheet of watercolor paper and trace out the largest circle you can.  I used a plate.

Cut it out and save your scraps.

In order to spin the wheel the circle will have to stick out a little on one side.  To figure out where to place your gecko you can lay the circle on top of your other piece of watercolor paper.  Make a few pencil marks on the paper underneath so you know where that wheel will be.

 Mark in pencil the center of that wheel on both the cut circle and where it would lay on that other paper. Now hold the paper up to a bright window and make this center mark on the back as well.
 This helps out a lot later.

If you are using the template or a pattern that you have made yourself, lay this on the marked out circle on the paper.  It's hard to see in this photo so I'm leaving the wheel in place to show you.

You want the gecko to be inside that circle and you also don't want to cover up the that center pencil mark. You'll have to fiddle with your image to get it in the right place.

Trace out that pattern or just free draw in your image.

Now you want to create your window so you need to cut away that image.
Instead of fussing with exacto blades or tears from trying to make these difficult cuts I just get the kids to cut their paper in half thru the drawing.

They then can easily cut out both sides of the drawing.

We then turn the 2 sides over to the back, fit together and tape into place.  Much easier and safer.

Now let's start painting.  Get the kids to paint in the primary colors leaving white space between them.

Then start mixing the primaries together.  It's best to mix these together on a separate palette or plate and then add onto your color wheel.

Add a little water on the edges of each color so they mix a little rather than having such definite stripes.

Let dry.

Now paint in your top sheet. 

If you are pressed for time with this project you can also just use black paper, draw in some background lines with white pencil crayon and then you can skip this painting step. 

Outline your painting if you want with sharpie or black pencil crayon.  You can also outline the cut out section (older kids).

Now I like to hide the paper fastener.  In order to do this you need a scrap piece of wc paper. (remember those scraps from cutting out our wheel).

Cut a circle, square, what ever will fit.  You'll understand in a minute.  Punch a hole through it with an awl, scissors, or knitting needle and put the fastener in hole.

Now glue or tape this onto the back of your cutout sheet. (Prongs sticking up at you)
  You want it to be approximately where that center mark is that you marked out.  You don't want any of the scrap paper showing thru the window so sometimes you have to cut it to fit.

Now you could just stop at this point but if you want details on your gecko take a transparency sheet.

Lay it on the back, you'll have to poke a hole to let the fastener get thru.

Now you don't have to use a full sheet, I know transparencies can be quite expensive.  You just want to cover up that cutout.

Tape into place.

Put Color wheel face down on fastener and fold back prongs, a little loose for easy turning.

Now you can add details in sharpie right on to the transparency.

Here is a smaller one I made that does not have the transparency.

It also was cut out leaving the head and the feet on the front sheet.  This is a good option with young kids where they only have to cut out the body shape.

I added googly eyes.

You can also make these in your journals and I hope to show you those next time with more color theory.

Keep cool!


  1. This is why I love your site! My class with LOVE this! Thanks!

  2. hi, my name is andre and i love art very much.
    i just visit your blog and find out that your color wheel technic is very nice.
    i do also have a blog.
    my blog is about crafts and handmade things that maybe you also like.
    please visit my blog and leave a comment.
    perhaphs we can exchange link if you don't mind?
    i guess it will be good..

  3. Oh my, this is just AWESOME! Thanks for sharing!

  4. What a cool project! You always have the best ideas! I'm in art teacher in Colorado and I always check your blog for great ideas, thanks!!

  5. I teach a craft class in the Philippines and would love to use this idea for a craft if that is OK with you.. I'll link to you once I have photos up on my blog My girls love butterflies so I'll probably let the boys do your gecko and the girls do butterflies.

  6. JUst wanted to let you know that I posted pictures of our version on our blog at www.ilovecrafts-manila.blogspot and credited you. Thanks for all the hard work you put into this blog. You have such great ideas!

  7. What a creative lesson to teach the color wheel! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thank you for the idea! I am going to try this activity with my class and am excited to see the results!

  9. I tried this with a 7yr old and 3yr old and got great results - they loved it! I cut out the lizard for them both, and the circle for the little one, they did the rest. My 7yr old taught the 3yr old how to to the color wheel.

  10. I bought some transparencies that don't work with my printer,this will be a great way to use them. Love this project

  11. What a great project! Print shops that do large laminating sheets aften have off-cuts that they will give you, or if your school library does large sheet laminating, they also might have them - save money and recycle too : )