How Rainbows Are Made

A rainbow can form when both sunshine and water droplets are in the sky. Sunlight is white light, which is a mixture of all visible colors. As sunlight passes through the water droplets, it is bent and split into seven colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. You might be able to see a faint second rainbow above the main rainbow. 

Double rainbow in a sky with clouds overhead and trees down below

Do you see a faint second rainbow above the bright one? This is called a double rainbow. The upper rainbow has the colors in reverse order, so red is on the bottom and violet is on the top. 

UCAR/Sharon Clark

You can make your own small rainbow using a garden hose or water sprinkler to form water droplets in the air on a sunny day. Try keeping the Sun behind you and the water droplets in front of you. 

You can recall the rainbow colors and their order by remembering this: ROY G BIV.

The letters stand for the first letter of each color.

  • R is for red.
  • O is for orange.
  • Y is for yellow.
  • G is for green.
  • B is for blue.
  • I is for indigo.
  • V is for violet.