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Colour Wheel

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Colour Wheel
The Colour Wheel can help us understand the use of colour in art, illustration and design.
The Colour-wheel shows primary, secondary, tertiary, warm, cool and complimentary colours as used in colour theory when painting. In painting these theories apply regardless of the media.
Often called a colour-wheel, colour circle or color-wheel

It may help to read this page in conjunction with the 'Colour'  and 'Colour Mixing' pages.

primary colours of the colour wheel

Primary Colours

The three hands on the colour wheel 'clock' indicate the three Primary colours. Red, Yellow, Blue.
In theory mixing two colours together, that two of the hands on the colour wheel point at, will give the second colour, i.e. in between the two hands or pointers.
These are referred to as the Secondary colours. Yellow and Red will give an orange, as indicated. Blue and Yellow will give a green and Red plus Blue will give purple.

secondary colours of the colour wheel

Secondary Colours

This time the hands of the colour wheel 'clock' point to the Secondary colours. These are Orange, Green, Violet/Purple. The colour either side of the hand/pointer will be the colours used to make the Secondary colour as explained above.

Tertiary Colours.

If you mix a Primary colour (Red, Yellow or Blue) with it's adjacent Secondary colour on the colour wheel this will give a Tertiary colour, classed as third in order. For example if you mixed the Primary colour Yellow with the Secondary colour Orange, the Tertiary colour would be Yellow Orange.

warm colours of the colour wheel

Warm Colours

These are the warm colours of the spectrum from red through orange to yellow. You can use a small amount of a warm colour to warm the temperature of a cool colour and vice versa. The warm colours tend to come towards you, or feel closer to you, and come forward in a painting.

To see an example of this have a look at the warm colour of this painting. If you want the overall 'feel' or colour temperature of the painting to be warm, then use colours within this section of the colour wheel. An aspect to be aware of is that, the colour within a painting can affect the viewer in many ways emotionally, psychologically and mentally.

cool colours of the colour wheel

Cool Colours

The cool colours of the colour wheel tend to go away from you, or feel distant to you and recede in a painting. As with the warm colours, you can use a cool colour to change the temperature of a warm colour, just use it's opposite on the colour wheel. An aspect to be aware of is that, the colour within a painting can affect the viewer in many ways emotionally, psychologically and mentally.

To see an example of this have a look at the cool colour of this painting.

complementary colours of the colour wheel

Complementary Colours

Complementary colours are opposite each other on the colour wheel, as shown by the hands on the colour-wheel to the left. These same two colours that are opposite each other, when put side by side, contrast with each other, in the viewers eye they appear to give movement to the painting.

 To see an example of this have a look at the complementary colours used in this painting.

You can use the complementary colour, of another colour, to dull and darken the original colour instead of using black.

All design and artwork Jacqui Blackman 1999.

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