Color Wheel: Learn about Complementary Colors

No matter what type of painting or other color technique you wish to work with, it’s important to understand and create a color wheel, and learn about complementary colors.
You may have heard the term “complementary” before, but did you know that there are many other forms of complementary elements in an image, beyond just colors? – Read more about this later in the article.

The Three Primary Colors

A primary color is a color that is not mixed from any others. The primary colors are also called basic colors.
The three colors are red, yellow, and blue. From these three colors, you can theoretically mix all others.

If you want a calm image, you can advantageously choose two primary colors and omit the third. Think, for example, of an ocean and sky scene, primarily consisting of blue. If you add yellow from the sun to the sky, you’ll create a serene image, while adding red to the picture will evoke a stronger sense of unsettled weather.

The Three Secondary Colors

A secondary color is mixed from two primary colors. For secondary colors, equal parts of the two primary colors that form the color are used.
The three secondary colors are orange, green, and purple.

Tertiary Colors

When mixing a tertiary color, it involves using more of one primary color than the other. An example is orange, which is formed from red and yellow. If you want a more reddish orange, you’ll mix unequal parts of yellow and red, with a dominance of red.

Color Wheel – Color Wheel

A color wheel is the term for a specific graphical representation of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. Some use the term “color wheel,” and in English, it’s also called a “color wheel.”

You should try making your own, and for this purpose, you can either use a compass to divide a circle into 12 sections or use a template. The advantage of making your own is that you can create it on high-quality watercolor paper, allowing you to practice blending colors and filling sections. Therefore, it’s recommended to produce your own color wheel.

Explaining the Color Wheel

In the central triangle, you can see the three primary colors, while the hexagon surrounding it is filled with secondary colors. The secondary color you see is formed by the two adjacent primary colors.

Notice that the “corners” of the color fields in the center point to fields in the circle. Usually, we only consider the circle itself in a color wheel, but the above illustration is perfect for beginners.

The fields that none of the inner corners point to are tertiary colors. If we look at the top and start with the yellow primary color, the color to its right is still mostly yellow, but with a bit of red added. This creates a yellow-orange – which is a tertiary color.

The next field is orange, making it a secondary color. The following field, red-orange, has more red than yellow, making it tertiary as well.

You can certainly create a color wheel with many more tertiary colors, but a wheel with 12 fields illustrates the principle effectively.

Color Wheel Template

Download your color wheel template for free here.
(Right-click on the image that opens and select print or save it to your computer).

What Can You Use a Color Wheel For?

As mentioned, creating a color wheel is a beneficial exercise. It familiarizes you with how your colors blend, as you only use the three primary colors to mix all others. If you paint with low-quality paint, it will become evident in your color wheel. The colors will appear muddy. Cheap children’s paints tend to turn brown when mixed.

A color wheel also helps identify which color is complementary to another. You can read more about this below, but the principle is that you find the complementary color by looking at the opposite color in the ring. So, the complement to yellow is purple, directly opposite on the wheel.

Complementary Colors

A complementary color is the color opposite the color on the color wheel.
If you remember the primary colors and how secondary colors are mixed, finding complementary colors is easy. The complement to a primary color is, in fact, a mix of the other two. Therefore, the complement to red is green, as green is mixed from blue and yellow. The complement to orange is blue because orange is mixed from red and yellow.

How Can You Use Complementary Colors?

Nature is wonderful, and it actually produces many fascinating phenomena. One of them is that a shadow contains the complementary color of an object. This can be useful when working with colors, giving the dark shadow a touch of complementary color.

Another advantage of complementary colors is that they make adjacent colors appear stronger. You can almost achieve a 3D effect by painting a motif on top of its complementary color.

If you want a tranquil image, you can tone down the complementary colors – referring to the advice above about working with only two primary colors in a calm image.

The Power of Colors – Light Reflection

When we use colors, it’s not enough to know about how they blend and complement each other. We also need to understand how much light they reflect. If we don’t consider how much light, for instance, yellow reflects compared to purple and blue, we will struggle to create a balanced image. Just as we need to understand composition in general.

The reflection of colors’ light is also a kind of complement that adds a significant effect to the finished artwork.

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