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Collage Lessons: Color Wheel and Organisms

paper collage of a fish by Dawn Pedersen

I’m not going to give y’all a fancy lesson plan here, but I will share some stuff I created for collage lessons. I created these myself, and so far the unit has gone over well with my students.

Lesson One: Torn Paper Color Wheel

Students use a color wheel template to create a collage of torn paper from color magazines. This project took two 50-minute class periods for grades 6-12.


  • Color wheel template (13kb PDF file)
  • Lots of full-color glossy magazines, catalogs, mailers, etc.
  • Bottle glue or glue sticks

(no scissors!)

Art elements explored

  • Color
  • Texture

Torn paper collage gives the color wheel a very textured, layered and artsy effect. One student said, “I didn’t realize how much fun it is to tear paper!” I asked them to fill in the triangles, overlapping the edges, to show smooth transitions between color blocks. I told them that several shades of the same hue are great too. They often cooperated with each other in hunting down and identifying specific colors: “Is this red-purple?” Most students dove into this project with much enthusiasm.

My demonstration collage is below.

Collaged Color Wheel

Lesson Two: Painting with Colored Paper

In the previous lesson, students used colored paper as a sort of paint. Students create an image of an insect, fish, lizard, or flowers using the same technique. They may create their own image of one of those four categories, or use one of the templates I drew in Illustrator. They may either tear paper as before, or use scissors. I expect this project to take two 50-minute class periods for grades 6-12.


Collage Image Templates

Art elements explored

  • Color
  • Texture

My demonstration collage is below.
Collaged Color Wheel

Update 01-05-07: Student Work

Here’s a sample of my high-schoolers’ work:

Student collages

One of my middle schoolers, struck with brilliance:

student peek-a-boo

8 thoughts on “Collage Lessons: Color Wheel and Organisms

  1. I really like your site. I hope it is one that you continue to update. I plan to share it with a few friends I am trying to encourage along their “artist’s way”.

    I hope to hear more of your adventures as a teacher, as well.

    Keep up the good work and keep following your bliss.


    P.S. I love the sidewalk chalk work you have on your other site…vibrant.

  2. I am a student teacher this semester, getting ready to graduate – yeah – and I found your site while trying to come up with a new twist on the color wheel for my high school placement. Thank you!!I think they will really enjoy it! My supervising teacher’s idea of making a color wheel involves 2″ x 2″ squares! Totally OCD and controlling! I need creativity and open minds!! My kids thank you too!!

  3. I was looking for fish mosaic ideas and found your sight. Love the colors! I just had second grade experiment with blending tempera “ocean” colors to create a backdrop for a fish. Any ideas for a very bright vibrant collage/mosaic fish to put on this heavy water? I’m seeing metallic papers and glitter and lots of tiny pieces but not sure how to pull it all into a concrete idea for 7-8 year olds.

  4. I found paper mosaic squares at a teacher supply store and they are fantastic. They come in two sizes, 3/8″ and 1/2″. This online store has metallic too. The ones I got had two different colors on each piece, front and back. Probably the others do as well.

    The packages come with mosaic design templates, which may be a good place to start teaching mosaic patterning.

  5. i am a beginner of collage work. was in search of some simple yet trendy mosaic works.. ur cntemporary designed butterflies have impressed me n even metallic colours look elegant

  6. Hey love your site, it has given me some ideas for my classes, thanks.

  7. Great Collage lesson. I teach students Graphic Design and I was looking for a good Color Theory collage lesson to teach in tandem with my Photoshop color lesson. I only have half as many computers as I need so it helps to have an alternate version of the same lesson.

  8. You’re just my kind of art teacher! Innovative and spirited. Love the lesson onthe color wheel. My students all love to do collages and this is a great way to start them understanding the color wheel better, as well. I enjoy teaching all ages the magnitude of different ways collage can be created.

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