Lesson plan

Still Life with Secondary Colors

Your students will use primary and their own mixed secondary colors to paint a beautiful still life.
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Grade Subject

Students will:

  • Paint a still life using secondary colors.
  • Discuss their work and others with constructive feedback.

This art lesson corresponds to California Visual and Performing Arts Standards:

  • 2.2 Mix secondary colors from primary colors and describe the process
  • 2.6 Draw or paint a still life, using secondary colors
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that today we will make an art project of objects called a still life. We will spend time observing before and while we draw.
  • Instruct students to look at their still life arrangement quietly for at least 30 seconds and to let their eyes wander throughout the whole arrangement.
  • Tell students to think of five descriptive words or phrases about any aspect of the still life.
  • Tell students to look at the arrangement again and try to add five more descriptive words or phrases to their mental list.
  • Ask student to share their favorite two descriptive words or phrases in pairs.
(15 minutes)
  • Place your paper under document camera. Write your name on the back or bottom corner of page.
  • Define primary colors as the group of colors (red, yellow, and blue) used to make all other colors.
  • Ask students if they can guess which two colors can be mixed together to make orange.
  • Ask students to vote for which pair of colors they believe will result in orange and then mix each pair together until you arrive at the correct color.
  • Repeat this procedure to also mix purple and green.
  • Ask students if they were able to guess more accurately after practice and share how they made their guesses with a neighbor.
  • Ask students to predict and share with a neighbor what they think will happen if you add black or white to a color.
  • Demonstrate mixing shades of colors by adding a small amount of black to red to make dark red, then a small amount of white to red to make pink.
(10 minutes)
  • Pass out construction paper. Ask students to write their names on the back or bottom corner of the page.
  • Place your second sheet of paper under the document camera.
  • Quickly outline a second perspective of the still life arrangement, narrating what you see as you draw.
  • Begin painting your sample, narrating color choices as you paint.
  • Explicitly model brush cleaning between colors.
(10 minutes)
  • Instruct students to begin drawing.
  • Remind them to use all of the descriptive words or phrases they generated in the introduction in order to pay close attention to the details.
  • Put paint on palettes/plates.
  • When students have completed their drawings, instruct them to begin mixing secondary colors and painting.
  • Walk around the room observing student progress.

Support: Students having difficulty with color mixing may need a reference guide on the board (e.g., a dot of yellow + a dot of red = a dot of orange).

Enrichment: Encourage students who want further challenge to see if they can mix tertiary colors such as red-violet or blue-green.

This lesson can be completed without the use of technology; however, technology such as a document camera can be useful in demonstrating the painting technique.

(5 minutes)
  • Review student work as you walk around the room: Did students draw from observation? Did students mix secondary colors using primaries?
(10 minutes)
  • Gallery Walk: Ask students to place their work on their desks and stand up. Instruct students to walk in one direction, slowly, around the room. Instruct students not to talk during this time.
  • Come back together as a class. Ask students: What contrast of colors was your favorite? Which still life differs most from your own?

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