Color Wheel

Color Wheel

The Color Wheel – Put It to Work For You!

color wheel

Color Theory can be made out to be a very complicated and hard thing to figure out but if you have a color wheel and some basic knowledge to start the rest will come quite easily over time

The Color Wheel

First of all If you have never seen a one(right) then you will want to start there. This is the simplest way to start using color effectively in your art work.

You can pick one up at any art store in any size from portable to classroom sized and some are very useful allowing you to spin it to find what color you would get if you mixed certain ones together.





Types of Color

Color Harmony

Color Temperatures



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Three Types Of Colors

There are three types of colors: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary.

Primary Colors: Red, Yellow and Blue - These colors are the only colors that cannot be mixed or formed by any other colors. All colors come from these three.

Secondary Colors: Green,Purple, Orange - These colors are made from mixing the primary colors together.

Tertiary Colors: Yellow-Orange, Red-Orange,Red-Purple,Blue Purple,Blue-Green,Yellow-Green - These are made from mixing a Secondary and a Primary color together.

all colors

Tip: On the color wheel look at a primary color and directly across from it on the opposite side will be the secondary color,which also is that colors complementary color. Complementary colors always work well together hence the name.

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Color Harmony

When using color it is always best to try and create color harmony, which is a fancy way of saying the colors work well together or are pleasing to the eye. Here are some basics.

Using complementary colors

a lot of the masters used these and they are very effective. They work very well when creating shadows in a piece because they make the other colors stand out more and create good contrast.

Using analogous colors

These are going to be any three colors that sit next to each other on your color wheel. This will create a piece that is generally one color. One color may tend to stand out a little more than another because of a colors warmth or coolness - I'll elaborate more on that later - but generally it will have the same overall hue.

Using nature as your palette

If you've ever heard of using nature's color palette then this is what they mean. Look around at nature and you will find just about every possible color combination you could imagine. These are naturally occurring and are great to learn from.

Using nature and observing the colors in it is one of the easiest ways to create color harmony because the colors are already harmonized. If you take your color wheel outside and compare the colors you will likely find that most are variations of the first two methods above.

Again these are just a few of the basics to get you started thinking about color. Once you get the hang of these you will undoubtedly find that there are unlimited possibilities with color variations and combinations.

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Color Warmth and Coolness

color-wheel-warm-cool-1Looking at the color wheel you will find that it is divided down the center into two groups.

  • Right side: Red Orange and Yellow (warm)
  • Left side: Green, Blue and Violet (cool)


This gives them a clear association such as fire and water. The most important aspect of warm and cool colors especially when painting landscapes is that cool colors tend to recede which makes them perfect for elements of your design that are in the background. Warm colors tend to advance and seem more dominant making them great for elements of your design that need to stand out.

Tip: Even though there are the obvious visual aspects of warm and cool colors all colors tend to have a warm and cool value. You could have a warm blue and a cool red. Learning which colors have a tendency to be warmer or cooler comes with time but you can make this broad assumption -if it looks a little bluer its cooler if it looks a little more red its probably warm. This is a very broad assumption and you may only know when you actually use the color whether it's on the warm side or not, however in time you will learn.

This was just the tip of the color iceberg and a few techniques for using your color wheel effectively. Like all things it takes practice to learn different aspects of a particular skill. Using color is a skill but with time you can and will master or at least become proficient with using it. Maybe even to the point where you trash the color wheel all together!

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