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By mixing two primary colours, a secondary colour is created. ... This painting has complementary colours and their values - blues and oranges. ...

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Colour Theory

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Colour Theory

Colour Wheel

Colour Values

Colour Schemes


The Colour Wheel

The colour wheel fits together like a puzzle - each colour in a specific place. Being familiar with the

colour wheel not only helps you mix colours

when painting, but in adding colour to all your art creations.

primary colours
Primary Colours

Primary colours are not mixed from other elements and they generate all other colours.

  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Blue
secondary colours
Secondary Colours

By mixing two primary colours, a secondary colour is created.

  • Orange
  • Green
  • Purple
intermediate colours
Intermediate Colours

Intermediate, or Tertiary, colours are created by mixing a primary and a secondary.

  • blue-green
  • blue-purple
  • red-purple
  • red-orange
  • yellow-orange
  • yellow-green
neutral colours
Neutral Colours

The principles of colour mixing let us describe a variety of colours, but there are still many colours to explore. The neutral colours contain equal parts of each of the three primary colours. Black, white, gray and sometimes brown are considered "neutral”.


Colour Values

Colour values are the lights and darks of a colour you create by using black and white (‘neutrals”) with a colour. This makes hundreds of more colours from the basic 12 colours of the wheel.

  • white + colour = tint
  • colour + black = shade

Tints are lightened colours. Always begin with white and add a bit of colour to the white until the desired tint is obtained. This is an example of a value scale for the tints of blue.


Shades are darkened colours. Always begin with the colour and add just a bit of black at a time to get the desired shade of a color. This is an example of a value scale for the shades of blue.


Colour Schemes

Colour Schemes are a systematic way of using the colour wheel to put colors together… in your art work, putting together the clothes you wear, deciding what colours to paint your room…..

monochromatic, complementary, analogous, warm and cool.


“Mono” means “one”, “chroma” means “colour”… monochromatic colour schemes have only one colour and its values. The following slide shows a painting done in a monochromatic colour scheme.

This non-objective painting has a monochromatic colour scheme - blue and the values (tints and shades) of blue.

Complementary colours are opposite on the color wheel provided a high contrast - if you want to be noticed wear complementary colours!


The analogous colour scheme is 3-5 colours adjacent to each other on the colour wheel. This combination of colours provides very little contrast.

Analogous colours are illustrated here: yellow, yellow-green, green and blue-green.

Warm colours are found on the right side of the colour wheel. They are colors found in fire and the sun. Warm colours make objects look closer in a painting or drawing.


Cool colours are found on the left side of the color wheel. They are the colors found in snow and ice and tend to recede in a composition.


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