Sunday, June 12, 2016

How to Create an Animated Color Wheel: High School Art Lesson Plan

This year, I decided to try something a little new (and very challenging!) in my freshman Intro to Design class. Since our art department doesn't currently offer a motion graphics class, I added a basic animation project  - an Animated Color Wheel - to my curriculum. The combination of new concepts such as timing and key frames, plus two new programs (Illustrator and Photoshop) was overwhelming for students at times, but it was heartening to see that many who struggled with drawing and painting really succeeded at working digitally! 

Here are a few samples of their work:

The great thing about this project is that the you don’t need a lot of skill with the pen tool to create a shape that will look interesting once it is rotated and copied to form the color wheel. This provides a really nice opportunity for success without a whole lot of knowledge. The kids were always like, “WOW, THAT’S SO COOL!” after the wheel was complete. I can't claim authorship of the basic color wheel project, however. When I was a long-term sub, the teacher I was covering on maternity leave shared the project with me. It was a really wonderful idea, and I'm so thankful for her creativity and generosity!

Overall, I think the animation process was a success. Although it was not the most creative project, the primary goal was for students to understand the concept of keyframes and how basic animation worked. Many of the students simply followed the step-by-step instructions, as I did not grade this project based on creativity (see rubric below). All I was really looking for was the basic requirements of opacity change, scale, rotation, and text. That said, many of the students were quite creative and went above and beyond the requirements to create some pretty interesting works of art!

To introduce the unit, I had my students draw color wheels in their sketchbook and we reviewed some basic color theory. I also spent some time with them going over the fundamentals of using the pen tool in Illustrator. Here is a great tutorial if you need to brush up on some basics.

Step-by-step instructions:

I would definitely practice this a few times on your own so that you can figure out where the students are most likely to make mistakes – because you will have made them too! If the written instructions are too confusing, here is the video tutorial:

Grading rubric:

Common mistakes: incorrect aspect ratio, which made it difficult to compile all their final videos; forgetting to convert a layer to a smart object; confusing seconds and frames; extra time at the end of the video. Lastly, make SURE they watch their video before they submit so that they can catch any errors that they made! 

Let me know if you have any questions!