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Lesson: Complimentary Color Names

July 26, 2015 | By Rachel Zink

July is Printmaking + Color Theory Month at Arts For Life! Teachers have been concentrating on a variety of lessons designed to impress upon students the very important role color has in artistic composition. In this lesson, students learn how complementary color pairs (that point to each other on the color wheel) make each other pop when placed together.


  • To learn what complimentary colors are and to use them in a work of art.
  • To gain knowledge of basic art vocabulary and concepts.


  • Watercolor paper
  • Watercolor paints
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Black Sharpie


  • With a pencil, write your name in either bubble letters or block letters in the middle of a piece of watercolor paper.
  • Outline your name with a black Sharpie marker.
  • Using a pencil and ruler, locate the center of the paper and make a light dot.
  • With the ruler as a guide, draw three lines through the dot from one of end the paper to another. When you are done you will have six sections.
  • The six background sections will be like a color wheel. Start by painting your primary colors, then fill in with your secondary colors. DO NOT paint inside the letters. ONLY paint around the letters.
  • Once the background colors are completely filled in, you can paint the inside of the letters. Paint the inside of each letter with the complimentary color that matches the background section. Go slow to make sure that you fill in each part of the letters with the correct complimentary colors.
  • Once the paint has dried, you can trace over the name with the Sharpie once more.

Tweak It!

  • Instead of using regular watercolors, try using glitter or metallic watercolors for a different effect!

Photo: Example by Mary Margaret Fulk
Lesson adapted from      

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