What is colour theory?

If colour theory is simplified, it can be broken down into 3 parts- The colour wheel, colour value, and colour schemes. Each part of colour theory builds on the previous. Understanding each section of colour theory fully, will help you better understand its importance in the creation of art.

To help with this task, here is a resource to use:

Colour Wheel & Theory

 

The Colour Wheel

The colour wheel was developed by Sir Isaac Newton by taking the colour spectrum and bending it into a circle. If you follow around the colour wheel, you will find the same order of the colour spectrum- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo (blue-violet), and violet.

In the resource you will find a 12 piece circle to print, or create a circle by hand with 12 equal sections ready to add your colours.

The colour wheel is made up of three different types of colours – Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary.

The primary colours are red, yellow, and blue.

They are called primary for a couple of reasons.

First, no two colours can be mixed to create a primary colour. In other words, primary colours can only be created through the use of natural pigments.

Secondly, all other colours found on the colour wheel can be created by mixing primary colours together.

The secondary colours are orange, green, and purple.  Secondary colours are created by mixing equal parts of any two primary colours.

Yellow and blue will give you green.

Red and blue will create purple (violet).

Red and yellow will give you orange.

Tertiary colours are created by mixing equal parts of a secondary colour and a primary colour together.

There are six tertiary colours- red-purple, red-orange, blue-green, yellow-green, blue-purple, and yellow-orange.

Notice that the proper way to refer to tertiary colours is by listing the primary colour first and the secondary colour, second.

Colour Theory: Colour Values

The second part of colour theory deals with colour values.  Value is the darkness or lightness of a colour.

Adding white to a colour produces a tint…

Adding black produces a shade…

 

Colour Theory: Colour Schemes

Monochromatic- literally means one (mono) colour (chroma).
This colour scheme is made up of one colour and its shades and tints.

Analogous colours are colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel.  Analogous colours can be dramatic. Eg. Blue, blue-green, green, and yellow-green; red, red-purple, purple, blue-purple. They also produce harmony.

Complementary colours– are colours found directly across from each other on the colour wheel.  Complementary colour scheme provides strong contrast.  Eg. Blue and orange, red and green, yellow-green and red-purple.

There are many others, but if you learn the basics and look out for them in artists’ works, you will start to notice how the choice of colours and colour schemes impacts the art you are viewing. In time, you can apply colour schemes to create effects and atmospheres are you hoping to create within your paintings.

 

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