How to Create a Stunning Rainbow of Custom DIY Montessori Color Tablets

One of the most beautiful Montessori materials is the sets of color tablets. There is just something about the rainbow of shades sitting so neatly in the box that I find so inviting! I knew I just HAD to do my own take on them and create some DIY Montessori Color Tablets!

A pin images that reads DIY Color Tablets custom Montessori inspired homeschool materials with two image one showing a completed set of rainbow color tiles and the other showing what the tiles looked like before paint

If you have been around the blog for a while you know that I tend to take things a step or two too far. At least when it comes to rainbows…

…my DIY Montesssori color tablets are no different…

A Pin image that reads a guide to making your own custom color tablets and what NOT to do

What ARE Montessori Color Tablets?

They are simple tiles that depict colors and in a true Montessori setting you would present the color tablets in a 3 box series.

  • Box 1 would have a pair of tiles for each of the primary colors
  • Box 2 would have two tiles that have a matching shade for each color of the rainbow plus the neutrals and pink
  • Box 3 would have 7 shades of 9 different colors (ROYGBV, Pink, Brown and Gray)

Box 1 and 2 are used primarily for matching, box 3 is more about discriminating color and learning shades

The Montessori Primary Guide can give a much more in-depth guide as to what they are and how to use them properly. 

a set of blue color tablets showing a gradient from light to dark on a wood tray with moveable alphabet letters that spell out DIY color tablets

I gotta go and make things harder for myself…

As mentioned I never do things the EASY way when it comes to rainbows. I had plans for an activity using some of my other DIY toys, where I wanted the paint to match EXACTLY.

To do that I needed to pick up 3 of each of my colors. A dark, a medium or true, and a light. I didn’t want to try and custom mix the mid-tone.

a black box filled with a rainbow of paint bottles

The problem is finding that trio in each of my colors was not as easy as you might think…I kept dealing with slight changes in the undertones of one or the other and it really made getting a smooth gradient tricky.

Here are the colors that I used if you want to use them as a jumping off point! Most everything was Anita’s Acylic craft paint

a rainbow of paint bottles laid out with three shades for each color and labeled with the name of the color
  • RED/PINK – Wine, Dark Red, and Cactus Flower (decoArt Americana)
  • ORANGE – Pumpkin, Orange, Tangerine
  • YELLOW – Antique Gold, Macaroni Yellow, & Banana Yellow
  • GREEN – Hunter Green, Shamrock, & Lime
  • AQUA – Deep Blue Sea, Island Green Light Turquoise
  • BLUE – Deep Denim, Island Blue & Morning Blue
  • PURPLE – Purple Pansy, Purple, Hyacinth (this was a HARD tri to mix)
  • BROWN – Espresso Bean, Warm Brown, & Skin tone
  • GREY – Black and White
Red, orange and brown paint bottles, with each color showing three shades. A light, medium and dark
yellow, green and aqua paint bottles, with each color showing three shades. A light, medium and dark
blue, purple, and black paint bottles, with each color showing three shades. A light, medium and dark - except for black it shows just white and black

Would this have been SO much simpler had I just picked up a light and a dark for each and had them meet in the middle? Yes 100 times over, YES. It is what I strongly suggest you do if you want to attempt your own DIY Montessori color tablets. Did I listen to my own advice? No. FULL STEAM AHEAD!!!

a pin that shows a tower of color tablets all stack on top of each other with the words DIY Color Tablets across the middle

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DIY Montessori Color Tablets Supplies

A pin image that reads how to: Montessori inspired color tablets with two images. A close up of the color tablets all nestled in their divide box and all the tiles lined up next to each other

DIY Montessori Color Tablets Step one: Create the Tiles

If you look around Pinterest for DIY color tablets you will notice that plenty of people just use heavy-duty paper. I wanted something even thicker and sturdier. 

MDF seemed like the logical choice. I wouldn’t feel bad painting it, it’s relatively cheap and it would stand up to any toddler hijinx.

We bought a half sheet of MDF from Home Depot and I got more than enough tiles out of it. I linked a set of smaller sheets on amazon! I planed on using a divided tray I already had for storage so I just measured the size of my boxes and cut the tiles to size. They ended up being 2.5×4, and it’s honestly a really good size. Large enough for little hands to manipulate or sort onto but not too big where they take up a ton of room.

MDF tiles cut and sanded and ready to be painted

After they were all cut I got to sanding. Lots of sanding. I find myself sanding a lot now that I think about it. 

MDF isn’t rough, but the cutting did leave some snaggles that needed smoothing down. In addition, I wanted the edges to be chamfered. That’s fancy woodworker speak for a 45 degree routered edge. I didn’t use a router but you can bet your sweet bottom next time I will. It wasn’t had work it just took a while…

Painting is when DIY Montessori color tablets really start to take shape!

Break out your paint and pallet. Trust me on this one your color to want a pallet.

a paint palette filled with lots of shades of green

My tactic was to paint my three key colors first and then from there. One gets the darkest color, one gets the lightest and one gets the middle tone. 

Then mix some of the middle tone with just a bit of the dark for a darker mid-tone and then take the lighter tone and add just a bit of the mid-tone for a lighter mid-tone. I know it was a lot of tones just there….

If Light is 1 and Mid is 3 and Dark is 5. To get 2, mix more 1 with some 3, and to get 4, mix more 3 with a bit of 5. Does that help any?!

Remember that dark is always a stronger pigment than light so always use less dark than you think you’ll need.

Red color tablets all layed out to dry after their first coat of paint

Right now you’ll have 5 of your tiles done. Depending on what your starter trios looked like and how the gradient is coming together you will take a couple of different paths at this point. 

If the gradient feels good with the 5 tiles you have then for the last two tiles you will make an even darker by adding the smallest amount of black to your dark and some white to your lightest tone.

If it feels like there is too big of a jump in tones somewhere in your five then try custom mixing your mid-tone with the light or dark in a different ratio than you did before to see if it fills the void.

Red, Orange, and Brown DIY Montessori color tablets arranged in a gradient from dark to light
Yellow, Green, and Teal DIY Montessori color tablets arranged in a gradient from dark to light
Blue, Purple, and Gray DIY Montessori color tablets arranged in a gradient from dark to light
a close up of DIY Montessori color Tablets laid out all together similar to a blanket on a table

The biggest piece of advice here is the hardest to follow in practice

Allow your tiles to dry before you decide if you need to alter a shade. The paint will look different wet vs dry. I ended up fiddling way too much with purple and orange because I couldn’t just step back and let the paint dry!

Rinse and Repeat.

You’ll likely find that each new color offers its own new challenges if you follow this method. Thus why I urge you to not use the three tones. It needlessly complicated things by introducing a different set of undertones to deal with.

DIY Montessori color tablets neatly arranged in a wooden divided tray

DIY Montessori Color Tablets Step 2 – Seal Them

I have yet to do this step I need to. The acrylic paint that I used is transfering fairly easy and picking up odd marks. I will likely pick up some matte mod podge as I like the matte finish.

Give each side a good coating, allowing it to dry before flipping over of course, and boom there you go finished color tablets.

How we use our DIY Montessori color tablets?

You can probably think of a few color matching activities and of course, there is the arranging gradient order but if you want more details on how we use our DIY Montessori color tablets in our homeschool preschool lessons there is a post coming very soon!

DIY Montessori color tablets neatly arranged like a sun with the darkest color in the middle then the mid-tone and last the lightest

So was it all worth it?!

Are my DIY Montessori Color Tablets perfect? Not in the slightest! There are errors in gradient, errors in my beveling, errors in my painting, and already some scuffs and scratches in the paint.

DIY Montessori color tablets arranged around my DIY color wheel lazy susan

Do I still swoon over these babies and want to make more in other tones? YES! I have plans for a more mauve purple and a more orange-red, and I think a good indigo as well as a warmer brown.

DIY Montessori color tablets neatly arranged in a wooden divided tray

I also want to make a few extras of the true tones so I can make the second box and be ready for color matching activities with Bean!

a pin that reads how to make color tablets for your Montessori Homeschool Activites

Be on the Lookout for more DIY Montessori color tablets!

If you want to see how these other shades come out make sure and follow me on Instagram where I will share the finished results as well as the foreseeable frustrations when my color mixing doesn’t happen the way I want it to! lol

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