Color wheel – how to use

June 14th, 2018 / Graphics Basics

The title Color wheel – as the name suggests, it has a graphic form of a circle and is a model for visual representation of mixing and the formation of colors. Briefly speaking, it is a rainbow (continuous spectrum of white light) enclosed in a circle. The circle of colors is very useful when it comes to the choice of colors for the image or design. Selected from it fit harmoniously in the right way.

Below we can see a circle of colors and a very general division into cold and warm colors.

colorwheel Turdus Concept

Primary colors – symbolically marked in the triangle in the middle. Taking into account the historical conditions in art, we distinguish as the primary colors red, yellow and blue (we learned about such in art in elementary school). If, on the other hand, we take a subtractive color mixing theory as a criterion (calmly if you see such a concept for the first time, click here) they will be cyan, magenta and yellow. However, in the additive theory of colors red, blue and green.

Secondary colors – created as a result of mixing equal amounts of primary colors. They are orange, green and violet.

Tertiary (quaternary, etc.) colors – resulting from the mixing of primary and secondary colors.

Intermediate colors are located between primary and secondary colors on a color wheel,

Warm colors – these are derivatives of yellow, orange and red. If a shade contains, any of these colors are considered to be warm. Including purples with an admixture of red and other colors classically considered cold (an example is blue ultramarine). Therefore, the division in the figure above is symbolic. Of course, the blue color will always be colder than the orange, but it may have a warm hue. Warm colors seem to be closer to the viewer, while cold they give the impression of being further away. Such a illusion can be observed on the famous Van Gogh painting depicting his bedroom.

Cool colors – these are the colors in the spectrum of violet.

Rare hues – created by mixing complementary colors, not in a one-to-one ratio, because as we already know it would give us gray, but with the advantage of one of these two colors. Rare hues are less contrasted and more subdued.

Monochromatic colors – these are shades of one color. Like for example fifty shades of gray.

In the picture we can see a monochrome, duotone and tritone.

tritones Turdus Concept

The achromatic colors – colors that do not have a color dominant, i.e: white, black and all gray levels. How do you get them? Sufficient for this will be three basic colors mixed in the right proportions or complementary colors, about which below.

Chromatic colors – simply colored. All colors except black, white and gray.

Complementary colors – lying opposite each other in a circle of colors. After mixing them in equal proportions, we get gray (or complement each other to achromaticity). Colors look good with each other. If the color is surrounded by its complementary color, it will appear brighter and more saturated.

Other ways of choosing colors presented in the form of graphics:
  1. complementary,
  2. side complementary,
  3. double complement,
  4. analogous,
  5. split complementary,
  6. triadic colors,
  7. double complementary rectangle-tetradic,
  8. square tetradic,
  9. double split complementary pentagonal

color mixing techniques Turdus Concept

How else can we mix colors? We can add white color to them and get pastel colors (tints). Reduce their saturation by adding gray or darken by adding black. We can see these ways in the picture below. Point one is pure colors (no added achromatic colors). The two are pastels (tints). Number three point with an admixture of gray (tones), point number four with black (shades).

A few other useful terms related to this topic:

Saturation – color intensity. Saturated colors are perceived as more vivid, those with lower saturation are approaching gray.

The value is the brightness of the color.

Hue is ,quoting Wikipedia: one of the main properties (called color appearance parameters) of a color, defined technically (in the CIECAM02 model), as “the degree to which a stimulus can be described as similar to or different from stimuli that are described as red, green, blue, and yellow”

Brown color – Maybe you wonder (how I used to) where in the color wheel is brown and how to mix it. Well, it is formed by a combination of low-intensity dyes: red with green, orange with blue or yellow with purple. The brown color is often dark orange or yellow.

I hope you will find this short article useful, and will help you with pick right colors for your artwork. Share in the comments below your results and stay tuned till next week.