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Watercolour Mixing

When we dilute a liquid, we make it weaker by adding water to it. The result is a dilution. You can dilute watercolour paints to different degrees to create an array of colours!

In this exploration, students use watercolour paint to investigate the effects of dilution and colour-mixing.

These activities are part of Science World’s Big Science For Little Hands program. They were developed and tested with preschool and kindergarten educators. Some of the activities are done in stations.

Mysterious Mixtures PDF from Big Science For Little Hands.

Objectives

  • Predict and observe the effects of diluting watercolour paints with different amounts of water.

  • Mix colours together and describe the new colours they create.

Materials

  • Per Student:
    a variety of watercolour paints or inks (we like Sargent Art Watercolor Magic™, available online or in art/hobby stores.)
    paint brushes, sponges, or dabber bottles (available online or on craft/hobby store)
    water
    paper

    Tip: darker ink or paint colours allow for more diluting fun

Key Questions

  • When you add more water, how does the colour of the paint change?
  • How did you get green (or orange, or purple, or brown, etc)?
  • Can you make the green (or orange, or purple, or brown, etc) lighter? How about darker?

What To Do

  1. Using one colour of paint, experiment with adding different amounts of water, then paint on paper. What happens to the colour each time?
  2. Paint colours over top of one another to see what happens when they mix.

Extensions

  • For a more systematic approach, use one dark colour of paint or ink to explore the effects of water. Then use a limited selection of colours for colour-mixing; a pinkish red, a light blue and bright yellow make a nice set of mixtures.