Make a wonderful colour wheel


Did you know that the idea of a colour wheel was first proposed by Sir Isaac Newton (yes, the gravity guy) in the 17th century. He wrote about it in a book called Opticks, which was published in 1704. By shining a beam of light from a hole in the blind of his darkened room through a glass prism, Newton noticed that the light reflected a spectrum of colours. This is what we now call the colours of the rainbow. If a colour wheel is spun fast enough, the human eye will only see white because the colours blend together. Are you ready to make your very own colour wheel? Of course you are.

You will need:

– Large square sheet of white paper

– Pencil

– Compass

– Protractor

– Ruler

– Paint


Step 1:

Take a large square sheet of white paper and use a ruler to find the centre point. 

Step 2:

From the centre point, use the compass to draw three concentric circles. The first should have a radius of 3.5 cm. The second should have a radius of 6.5 cm and the third should have a radius of 10 cm. 

Step 3:

Take the ruler and draw a straight vertical line through the circles. Then, with a protractor, mark out segments at 30 degree intervals. You can draw these segments by eye if you like, it just won’t be quite as neat. If you like precision, use a protractor. 

Step 4:

Use the ruler and a pencil to carefully draw lines between your 12 segments. 

Step 5:

Number the segments 1-12, then label each outer section with the colour you’re going to put in it. 

1 = yellow-green

2 = green

3 = green-blue

4 = blue

5 = blue-purple

6 = purple

7 = purple-red

8 = red

9 = red-orange

10 = orange

11= orange-yellow

12 = yellow

Step 6:

Time to start painting. Try starting with primary colours first, then secondary and then tertiary colours. These colours are sometimes referred to as hues. Remember to carefully wash your brush out between each colour mix, and change your paint water often. 

Step 7:

In the second of the circular sections, create tints of each of the original hues by adding a little white.

Step 8:

In the centre sections, create shades of each of the original hues by adding a little black. 

Step 9:

And there you have it. You’ve made a beautiful colour wheel! Make sure you display it in pride of place for all to see!

Taking it further

What happens if you repeat the process using different types of red, yellow and blue? How does it effect the finished result?

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Written by John Davis