The Colour Wheel and Theory Tutorial 

The colour wheel and knowledge that exstends from it, is a great thing for artists to know, but a bitch to teach XD.  (Cue dread music) I can only try my hardest to make it as concise and non academic as possible while still giving you what you need (once again try.)

I guess we will start with the order of colours.

Primary Colours

It all starts with Red, Blue and Yellow, this is because from them all other colours are made, but no combination could ever make them (they are special.)

Secondary Colours

The secondary colours, Orange, Green and Purple are the result of mixing two primary colours together

Yellow and Red make Orange

Blue and Yellow make Green

Red and Blue make Purple

Tertiary Colours

Tertiary colours are formed by mixing primary colours with the secondary colour next to them. Such as Blue and green which would make Blue-Green or yellow and orange which would make yellow-orange. While all these in between Colours have their own name, I’ve always felt it better to simply state the ratio of colour, like blue-green. That way your mind is thinking about the mixture rather then a term for a colour, being colourblind this helps greatly.

(Ok I guess its time for the wheel of colour destiny.)

The Colour Wheel

The Colour Wheel and Theory Tutorial for Beginner and Advance Artists
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The colour Wheel I Originally made for my previous Website Moretoart, now I’m putting it to good use. While it’s not perfect, it does the job.

   (I created it for you to use, enjoy 🙂 

Although at first the 12 colours above may seem to be placed at random, this is not the case. Yes this colourful circle that can be picked up at any art store (which would contain more detail) is the key to colour theory and your understanding of it.

(Pretty simple so far)

WARM VS COOL on The Colour Wheel

The Colour Wheel and Theory Tutorial for Beginner and Advance Artists
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If you cut the wheel in half between Red-Purple and Yellow-Green you will end up with a warm side and a cool side
. The warm side is made of Red, Orange and Yellow, the cool side is made of Blue, Green and Purple. Warm colours are strong and energetic, where Cool colours are calming and more subtle. This difference in feel and look is usually why an artist would pick one or the other. However, you should always keep in mind that a good mixture of both warm and cool colours can give a painting more life and dynamics. So if the painting is made of warm light then the shadows should be cool, and visa versa. You’ll find this rule of opposites a lot in Colour Theory.

Keep in mind White, black and gray are considered to be neutral in colour temperature. So if you’re working on a black and white image Colour temperature obviously does not come into play.

How To Mix Black

It is said to never add black, for it will muddy your colours and do you a disserves. To some degree I find this true, however there are other ways of mixing an interesting black. All you need is two already dark and rich colours, like thalo green and alizarin crimson or Ultramarine and burnt sienna. The idea is to use deep colours that are on opposite ends of the colour Wheel.

If you don’t have those colours I find using ivory black and transparent oxide red works great. The Idea is to match Ivory black with something that is transparent yet really saturated. This way the black is tinted and still has some colour and life to it. You won’t cross this problem of A dull sunken in black with digital Painting, as you’re seeing a lit screen. But black lit by a light source can sometimes be refective and dead, especially after the paint drys. But trust me when I say these two ways of mixing black get the best results when traditionaly painting.

Quick Colour Lingo

Hue – Another name for colour

Colour Tempreture – How warm or cool the colour is

Saturation – The richness or dullness of a colour

Contrast – The difference between two colours or value

Value – The lightness or darkness of a colour

Key Colour – The dominant colour in a colour scheme

Tint – Colour plus white

Tone –Colour plus grey

Shade – Colour plus black

(I bet your attention is starting to fade right about now XD hold in there we are about half way done)

Complementary Colours

With the magic of the colour wheel you can easily find the complementary or “contrasting” colour of another. This is because they are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel.

 Some complementary colours are 
Red and green, 
Yellow and purple or 
blue and Orange. Complementary colours can also make for quite a dynamic colour scheme.

The Colour Wheel and Theory Tutorial for Beginner and Advance Artists
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How To Mix Brown

To mix Brown all you have to do is mix a primary colour with its complementary colour like red and green or yellow and purple, you can also change the type of brown by varying the types of red and greens, purple and yellows…

Saturation

saturation is what gives a value colour for if there was no saturation a colour would turn into its grey value.

Value And Value Relationship

One thing that isnt talked about enough when it comes to colour theory is value and value relationship, something that is arguably more important than colour. Say someones face is lit up by a red light, so lit up that no other colours are present, what you would be seeing is value changes in red. Take away the value changes and whats left? Just the colour red, no face (pretty Important don’t you think XD.) This is because everything we see is made up of a series of values, and how they relate to one another.

So think of Colour as an overlay for a black and white reality. Colour makes things pretty and gives you clues to what it is you’re looking at. But it is what light and shadow does to an object that dictates the value planes of a structure. It is those values that our brain translates into reality. So Colour is important, but it is secondary to values, possibly even third if I was listing an order of importance.

(Isn’t colour/art theory a bitch XD)

Monochromatic Colour Scheme

A monochromatic colour scheme is like a black and white photograph but instead of white, gray and black you could have white, blue and black as shown below. A cool colour to use in a monochromatic colour scheme is red, among other things it increases heart rate and is the colour of passion.

(on a side note, monochromatic painting is a great practice for beginners, it teaches colour value and observation.)

Monochromatic Colour The Colour Wheel and Theory Tutorial for Beginner and Advance Artists
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Analogous Colour Scheme

An analogous color scheme is made from colours that appear side by side on the colour wheel. For example, an analogous colour scheme could be blue and blue-green, blue and blue-purple, blue and green and blue and Purple (get the idea?). It’s very easy to harmonize and is naturally pleasing to the eye, go nuts.

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Triadic Colour Scheme

A triadic colour scheme is made of any three colors evenly spaced apart from each other on the colour wheel, such as red, blue and yellow, or Orange, Purple and Green. Each colour in a Triadic colour scheme tends to match in intensity, so choose a dominate colour, vary the value, and get harmonizing.

The Colour Wheel and Theory Tutorial for Beginner and Advance Artists
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A Split Complementary Scheme

This colour scheme splits the difference and becomes complementary like the other but with less tension, its suggested for beginners because it is a lot harder to mess up.

The Colour Wheel and Theory Tutorial for Beginner and Advance Artists
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Split Comlimentary Colour Wheel Scheme

Tetradic (Double Complementary) Colour Scheme

A Tetradic colour scheme is a bit more complicated than the others, but that can be expected when you use two sets of complementary colours. Although a bit harder it definitely has its place, just remember to have a dominant key colour..

Tetradic Double Complimentary Colour Theory Wheel Scheme
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(Almost there, it may be hard to get through but can you imagine what it was Like for me having to write it!! XD)

A polychromatic colour scheme

So this Is where you use all 12 colours (not recommended for beginners)

A Found Colour Scheme

There is also what I like to call a found colour scheme. A found colour scheme is the taking of colours from something like an apple, a photo, or what ever you want to grab the essence of. I find this to be a very effective method.

OK, I think I have said all I can about

The Colour wheel and Theory Madness

At least for now, THANK GOD!

Click here for a good video talking about these principals, and other things you should consider when Painting.

Click Here for a highly saturated speed painting I did.

I hope you enjoyed this Colour Theory tutorial. If you have any questions or need me to explains anything, feel free to leave a comment below. I shall do my best to get back to you:)