Paint a Still Life in Primary Colors Activity

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Updated on May 18, 2011

Primary colors red, blue and yellow, can be mixed to create any color in the rainbow. When they are used together in a picture without mixing them together, they create bold, eye-catching paintings. Kids will love painting shapes of objects in a still life while using strong colors showing highlights and shadows. Older kids can mix white and black into their paints creating tints and shadows for a more complex painting exercise.

What You Need:

  • White watercolor paper (11” x 17”)
  • Red, Yellow and Blue tempera paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Palette
  • Still life items (we used fruit and a bowl)
  • Clamp light
  • White and black tempera paint for older kids

What You Do:

  1. Help your child to set up a still life in the center of a table using fruit, vegetables, bottles, books, potted plants or toys. The still life should have at least three different objects in it. Use a clamp light to light up one side of the still life so highlights and shadows are visible.
  2. Place the primary color paints onto a painting palette.
  3. If your child is in grade 1 or 2, encourage him to paint each object a different primary color, looking closely at the shapes of each object. If your child is in grades 3-5, encourage her to use at least two primary colors in each object; perhaps the highlights can be one color and the shadows another.
  4. For children who are in grade 6, they are ready to begin using tints and shades. A tint is when white is added to a color making it lighter. A shade is when black is added to a color to make it darker. Add white and black to their color palette and encourage them to tint and shade their primary colors showing shadows and highlights.
Ellen Dean has worked as an art educator in Thailand since 2005, working with both children and adults. She has also been a professional artist working in painting, sculpture and photography since 1996.

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