Color Theory Basics: The Color Wheel

By: DecoArt
July 11, 2017

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Color Theory Basics: The Color Wheel

The basic color wheel is a collection of 12 colors which include: three primary, three secondary, and three tertiary colors.

In design, selecting color schemes for your project can sometimes be challenging. Learning the basics of the color wheel and how colors relate to one another will help you create color schemes that both make sense and are pleasing to the eye.


PRIMARY COLORS: Red, Yellow, and Blue
These three primary colors are the foundation of the color wheel. Their true color pigments cannot be created by mixing any other combination of colors. All other colors in the color wheel are derived from these three color hues.

SECONDARY COLORS: Violet, Orange, and Green
These secondary color hues are created by mixing equal parts of two primary colors together.
Red + Blue = Violet
Red + Yellow = Orange
Blue + Yellow = Green

TERTIARY COLORS: Blue-Violet, Red-Violet, Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green, and Blue-Green
In total, there are six tertiary colors. These tertiary color hues are created by mixing equal parts of a primary and secondary color together.
Blue (primary) + Violet (secondary) = Blue-Violet
Red (primary) + Violet (secondary) = Red-Violet
Red (primary) + Orange (secondary) = Red-Orange
Yellow (primary) + Orange (secondary) = Yellow-Orange
Yellow (primary) + Green (secondary) = Yellow-Green
Blue (primary) + Green (secondary) = Blue-Green

Complementary colors are those that enhance each other. They are opposite colors and are located directly across from one another on the color wheel. The color wheel consists of six basic sets of complementary colors. The graphic above depicts four examples of complementary colors. Using these color combinations give your projects high contrast. When mixing complementary colors, you achieve a muddy, brownish-grey color. 

An analogous color scheme includes three neighboring colors. They are next to one another on the color wheel and share one dominant color (the color in the middle). These color schemes achieve a harmonious look and feel.

Now that you know the basics of the color wheel, apply your knowledge (and maybe learn a little more) by completing this painted color wheel using Americana Premium Acrylics.

This colorful piece will be a lovely point of reference in your craft room or home studio. BONUS: the template needed to complete is free to download!


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