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What are tertiary colors for kids?

What are tertiary colors for kids?

Tertiary colors are an important concept for children to learn in art class. They allow kids to mix and create a wide range of new colors by combining primary and secondary colors. Understanding tertiary colors helps children develop color theory skills and gives them more options when painting, drawing, or doing other creative projects. This article will explain what tertiary colors are, provide examples, discuss how they are made, and highlight their role in art and design.

What Are Tertiary Colors?

Tertiary colors, also known as intermediate colors, are made by combining a primary color with a secondary color. The primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. The secondary colors are orange, green, and purple. When you mix a primary color with a secondary color, you get a tertiary color as a result.

For example, if you mix red (primary) with orange (secondary), you get red-orange. If you mix yellow (primary) with green (secondary), you get yellow-green. There are six main tertiary colors:

Red-orange Yellow-orange Yellow-green
Blue-green Blue-purple Red-purple

These are created by combining the primary and secondary color next to each other on the color wheel. Tertiary colors have qualities of both the primary color and secondary color used to make them.

Examples of Tertiary Colors

Here are some common examples of tertiary colors:

– Red-orange: Vermilion, coral, salmon, peach
– Yellow-orange: Amber, goldenrod
– Yellow-green: Chartreuse, lime green, spring bud
– Blue-green: Aquamarine, turquoise, teal
– Blue-purple: Periwinkle, lavender
– Red-purple: Raspberry, fuchsia, magenta

When looking at these tertiary colors, you can see qualities of both the primary and secondary colors that make them up. For example, spring bud is a vibrant yellow-green with qualities of both yellow and green. Vermilion is a reddish-orange reminiscent of both red and orange.

How to Make Tertiary Colors

Making tertiary colors is a fun, hands-on activity for children to try. All you need are some basic art supplies:

– Primary color paints or markers (red, blue, yellow)
– Secondary color paints or markers (orange, green, purple)
– Paintbrushes or something to blend colors
– Paper, canvas, or other surface to paint on

The first step is to select one primary color and one secondary color to mix. For example, you might choose blue (primary) and orange (secondary).

Next, add a small amount of each color onto your paper or canvas, leaving space between them. Make the amount of paint roughly equal.

Then, use a brush or other tool to slowly blend the two colors together in the middle. Mix until you achieve an even tertiary color between the two original colors.

Repeat this process combining different primary and secondary color pairs to create all the tertiary colors. Adjust the ratios to make different hues and shades. This color mixing activity lets kids see first-hand how the tertiary colors are created.

The Importance of Tertiary Colors in Art

Learning about tertiary colors helps children develop stronger color theory and painting skills. Here are some key benefits tertiary colors provide for young artists:

– Expands their palette – With only primary and secondary colors, children are limited in the hues they can create. Mastering tertiary colors vastly expands the range of colors available for use in their artwork.

– Allows subtle color variations – Tertiary colors provide nuanced gradients between the more basic primary and secondary colors. This helps children learn to add dimension, depth, and realism to their artworks.

– Teaches color relationships – Mixing primary and secondary colors helps children understand how the colors on the color wheel are interconnected. This provides a stronger foundation in color theory.

– Improves blending abilities – Creating tertiary colors helps children gain experience purposefully blending colors together. These are important techniques for painting, color pencil drawing, and other media.

– Enhances creativity – With more color choices available on their palette, children can make more creative decisions about color combinations for their artwork.

Tertiary Colors in Design

Beyond painting and drawing, tertiary colors also play an important role in design fields like interior decorating, graphic design, fashion, and more. Here are some examples of how tertiary colors are used in design:

– Interior decorating – Tertiary colors like sage green, taupe, and sand add subtle, sophisticated accents to home decor. Soft tertiary colors help rooms feel inviting and cozy.

– Logo design – Companies often choose tertiary colors for logos to stand out while still feeling professional. A blue-green hue might represent an ocean-related business, for example.

– Fashion – Runway designers frequently incorporate tertiary colors into their seasonal color palettes. Magenta, peach, and mint give fashion styles a fresh, modern, on-trend feel.

– Website design – Web designers may pick a tertiary shade like slate blue as a complement to the primary site colors. This adds visual interest while maintaining branding.

– Product design – On product packaging, using a tertiary color like lemon-lime green can grab consumer attention on store shelves.


Introducing tertiary colors helps young children advance their understanding of color theory. By mixing primary and secondary colors, kids can access a wider array of hues for artistic experimentation and self-expression. Tertiary colors teach important skills like color blending and relationships. Beyond the art classroom, tertiary colors also enliven and accentuate visual designs around us. Equipping children with knowledge of these intermediate hues provides a useful foundation for their future artistic journeys.