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Using the Color Wheel to Explain Pigment and Binder

How to Use a Color Wheel to Explain Pigment and Binder

Understanding the role of color is a crucial aspect of creating art at home and in the classroom. As kids learn about color in art they can become more creative, better express themselves and also improve their sensory development. Here is an engaging lesson that will get children thinking about color in more subtle and nuanced ways.

Artist, printmaker and educator, Barbara Mason, uses color wheel designs, colored with crayons, colored pencils, water-soluble markers and watercolor paints to discuss why colors are more saturated, based on the binder that holds them together when applied to paper or canvas. In addition, she will reinforce primary and secondary colors as part of this lesson.

Materials Required for Color Wheel Project

The materials required for this art activity are paper, crayons, colored pencils, water-soluble markers and watercolor paints (if available).

Learn About Color Wheels, Pigment and Binders With Barbara Video

Create your own color wheels while learning how to use them and how they work depending on the pigment and binder you are using.

Using the Color Wheel to Explain Pigment and Binder Curriculum
Blank Color Wheel to Print for Lesson

Barbara Teaches Pigment and Binder by Using a Color Wheel

Follow along with the video transcription as you watch Barbara, using a color wheel, explain pigment and binder.

Golden Road Arts is a nonprofit that offers art classes for kids so they can make the most of their own creativity. At Golden Road Arts we believe that children’s access to art is the key to reaching their full potential.

Good morning, this is Barbara Mason at Golden Road Arts. We’re going to do some really fun stuff today and teach you some things that you probably don’t know, but you’re gonna know them after today. So the first thing is you’ll notice that I am wearing my mask and Artey is wearing his mask because we both want to be very careful that we don’t catch the virus, the COVID virus and we don’t want to give it to anybody. I feel just fine but that doesn’t mean I don’t have it because you can feel fine and still have the virus and still give it to somebody else. But because I’m the only person in the room except for the camera I’m going to take my mask off while I talk to you, so I’m going to do that right now but when I leave I’m going to put it back on, because it’s very important that we don’t give the virus to somebody.

So today we’re going to talk about two special words that will be our vocabulary words: one is pigment and the other one is binder. Pigment is the color that’s in all of these different art supplies, all of these things here-they all have pigment and pigment is the color so the yellow in this crayon is the same as the yellow in this marker, and it’s the same as the yellow in this pencil, and it’s the same as the yellow in this watercolor paint, and that is called the pigment.

Then we have something that holds it together so that’s called the binder.  We’re going to put this little note on the Internet when we’re done. It tells you what’s in all these different things: so crayons what makes crayons work is wax, so you know when you draw with the crayons and you run your hand over it, how it feels kind of slippery and a little bit waxy. That’s the wax that’s the binder that holds the color in the crayons.

In the colored pencil, it’s also wax but it’s not nearly as much wax as in the crayons. It’s got a little more pigment a little less wax so it doesn’t feel quite as waxy.

Then in the marker, this is a vegetable-based binder. It’s in here because this is water-soluble. Water-soluble means that you can clean it up with water. It will dissolve in water and you could clean it up in water, and we’re using water-soluble markers because we want to be able to wash them off if we get him on anything. It might come out of our clothes and maybe not, just because the binder is water-soluble doesn’t mean the pigments are water-soluble, so you can still get pigment in your clothes that doesn’t come out even on water-soluble things. So you wanna be careful when you wear an apron when you’re working on art supplies. It’s good to do that or wear an old shirt.

The other thing we have here is a sharpie marker. Now a sharpie marker has a different binder in it.  You know when you open these sharpie markers, you can smell them.  You can smell them as soon as you open them. Those markers have the binder that’s alcohol. So that’s why it doesn’t come out of your clothes, it doesn’t come out of anything, because it’s got that alcohol base. So sharpie markers aren’t a very good thing to draw with, but we do like them for nice black lines. You can use a black crayon but the marker does better black lines.

Then the other thing we have is our watercolor paint. The binder that’s in watercolor paint is called gumarabic. Gumarabic is a resin and it comes from trees, so that’s what holds the paint together.

So the color in all of these things, that color in the paint, the color in the pencil’s, the color in the pens, and the color in the crayons, that’s the pigment. And it’s all the same in all of these things.

Now there’s another kind of paint that I don’t have here on the table that I want to talk about, it’s called tempera paint. Now we all have used tempera paint at school. It usually comes in a jar, and it’s kind of thick, easy to paint with. It used to be called years ago, egg tempera, because the binder in it originally was egg yolks. But the problem with using egg yolks is that if they sit around for a while they can have a virus in them called salmonella, and salmonella can make you very sick. It makes you just feel terrible. So they quit using tempera paint that had eggs in it, and now the base of tempera paint is a vegetable base that doesn’t make anybody sick, so it’s very safe to use.

So now what I want to talk about today, I have all these different pigments out because I want to talk about the color wheel. The color wheel is a very interesting thing. It’s made up of three primary colors and three secondary colors. The primary colors are yellow, blue and red. In most color wheels the yellow is at the top. I think that yellow, blue and red are probably friends, and they probably have played together quite a bit. When they decided to do the color wheel, yellow said I should be at the top. I’m the most important. I look like the sun.  Well blue and red laughed at yellow, and they said well, OK, you can be at the top, we don’t care, we’re friends. We will let you be at the top.  So yellow is at the top, blue is down here, and red is over here.

If you mix yellow and blue you get green. If you mix yellow and red you get orange. If you mix red and blue you get purple. So you can see that these color wheels are done with different things. This one is done with crayons. This one is done with colored pencil. You can see they look just a little bit different. We’re going to take pictures at these so you can see them. This color wheel is done with markers, and this color wheel we’re going to do is blank. So that when you see it on the Internet, you’ll be able to download this off the Internet, printed off on your printer, and you’ll be able to color it with your own crayons, or markers, or colored pencils. Remember yellow at the top, red, blue, then the secondary colors.

If you mix the two colors you’re going to get green. If you mix the yellow and the blue you’re going to get green. If you mix the blue and the red you’ll get the purple, and the red and the yellow you’ll get the orange. So we’re going to put that on the Internet and you’ll be able to print that off.  But now I have watercolor here, and I’m going to do this one in watercolor. So I have a watercolor sample for you.

So the first thing we’re going to do is the yellow, and we’re going to do that at the top, because you know yellow likes to be at the top, because it thinks it’s the most important. OK so now, I’m going to rinse my brush out between each color and then I’m gonna wipe it on my paper towel. Make sure I get the color out of it.  So now I’m gonna do the orange. I’m just gonna go right around the color wheel. These are nice bright colors, aren’t they? So for my water, I have kind of a heavy glass here. It’s good if you use something that’s kind of heavy that it doesn’t tip over as easy. Because sometimes things tip over. We don’t want water all over the place. So you notice when I’m painting, that I’m putting the brush down, and then I’m lifting it up. So that’s the way you have control of your brush when you paint. If you just take your brush and you wind it all over the place, you don’t have very much control, and pretty soon your paper is going to be a big mess. We want to keep our paper looking nice. So now we’ve got red, blue. We will do the blue next so we can make sure we keep track of what we’re doing. You notice I’m just putting a brush down, and then I’m lifting it up. Putting it down and lifting it up. That’s the way you get control of your brush. I want to fIll that whole circle in.

Now what are we gonna get if we mix the red and the blue? Are we going to get purple? Let’s see what we get here. Oh, yes this is a really nice purple. So one of the things that we have at Golden Road Art, so sometimes people give us crayons, sometimes they give us paint, sometimes they give us colored pencils, so if you don’t have those things, your teacher can ask us, and we’ll see if we can get them for you. Because we want everybody to have crayons, pencils and paint.

OK so there we have our color wheel painted with watercolor, and you notice that I’m making sure I got all the color out of my brush. So that when I rub it on my paper towel it is very clean. So here’s our sample now that has the watercolor on it, and you can see how nice these are really bright colors. So you can see the difference in the different ones. The markers are pretty dark. The paint is the darkest. The colored pencil is pretty light, and the crayon is dark, but not that dark. I think the pencil is probably the lightest. So the difference in all of these things is the amount of pigment in the binder. So the more pigment in the binder, the darker it will be. Certain colors as you grow up and you start using more art supplies, you’ll find that some of the things are very expensive, and that’s because they have more pigment. So these colors have less pigment and they’re less expensive. That’s the difference between the art supplies you use in school, and the art supplies an artist uses. It’s just more pigment.

Thanks for coming to Golden Road and we’re going to see you next time! I hope that you make a really beautiful color wheel, and that you send a picture of it to us, maybe to Artey, he would love to see your color wheel. Now I’m gonna leave. I am going to put my mask on because I’m going out of the room where other people might be, and I don’t want to make anybody sick. Thanks again for coming to Golden Road! This is Barbara Mason.

Golden Road Arts is a nonprofit that offers art classes for kids so they can make the most of their own creativity. At Golden Road Arts, we believe that children’s access to art is the key to reaching their full potential. Using simple materials usually found around the house, we explore the basics of the creative process. Together with Barbara, her sidekick Artey the art bear, and other northwest artists, we invite you to join us on our creative adventure along the Golden Road.

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A list of binders used in different types of art mediums for the free online art lesson Color wheel filled in with crayon in the pigment and binder free art lesson A color wheel filled in with markers in the pigment and binder online art lesson A color wheel filled in with colored pencils in the pigment and binder online art lesson A color wheel filled in with watercolor paints in the pigment and binder online art lesson

Artey the Art Bear holding a news for you sign about online art lessons news
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