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Mystery of Colour Theory Unraveled

Colour Theory Basic

In visual arts, colour theory is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual impacts of specific colour combination. Those involved in creation and graphics design need a acute understanding of colour. Colour choices can be some of the most difficult choices to make and most find it thorny to find that ‘it looks right’ colour. Often designers base their choice of colour on what they like, yet sometimes that’s not the right way as you might have conflict with the words of your art. Basic colour theory helps you decide which colour match.

The Colour Wheel

Colour Wheel 1

The colour wheel is the base of colour theory. The first circular colour diagram was designed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666. The colour wheel is a visual representation of colours arranged according to their chromatic relationship.

The Colours

Primary Colours

Primary Colours

The primary colours are red, yellow and blue. In traditional colour theory, these are the three pigment colours that cannot be mixed or formed by any combination of other colours. All other colours are derived from
these three hues.

Seconday Colours

Seconday Colours

Secondary colours are green,orange and purple. Secondary colours are the colours formed by mixing the primary colours. These with the primaries give us the six full-strength colours of the spectrum. They are arranged (as you can see) in sequence in a circle and I’ve outlined them in black in the diagram. By mixing each colour with its neighbour, we get six more colours, called the tertiary colours.

Tertiary Colours

Tertiary Colours

Tertiary colours are: yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green and yellow-green. These are the colours formed by mixing one primary and one secondary colour. Again I’ve outlined them in black so they’re more obvious to you.

Warm and Cool Colours

The colour wheel can be divided into warm and cool colours.

Warm Colours are vivid and energetic, and tend to advance in space.

Cool Colours give an impression of calm and create a soothing impression.

How To Build A Colour Wheel

  • Colour wheel is composed by positioning the Primary colour (Red, Yellow and Blue) at equidistant along a circle.
  • Now position the secondary colours achieved by mixing two primary colours in between the primary from which the hue was created.
    • Red + Yellow = Orange
    • Yellow + Blue= Green
    • Blue + Red = Violet
  • Now we are going to add the tertiary colours in the circle. Mix any two colours and the resultant hue achieved goes in between the two colours used to achieve the result.

Colour Harmonies

Guidleline to create colour schemes

Complementary Colour Scheme

The complementary color scheme consists of two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. This scheme looks best when you place a warm color against a cool color, for example, red versus green-blue. This scheme is intrinsically high-contrast.When using this scheme, choose a dominant colour and then use its complementary colour for accents. One of the more traditional approaches for this type of colour scheme is to use one colour for the background and its complementary colour to highlight important elements. Through this approach you’ll get colour dominance combined with sharp colour contrast.

Analogous color scheme

The analogous color scheme uses colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. One color is used as a dominant color while others are used to enrich the scheme. The analogous scheme is similar to the monochromatic, but offers more nuances.Choose one color to dominate, a second to support. The third color is used (along with black, white or gray) as an accent.

Triad color scheme

The triad color scheme uses three colors equally spaced around the color wheel. This is scheme is quite vibrant and you can use unsaturated or pale versions of your hues.The triadic scheme is not as contrasting as the complementary scheme, but it looks more balanced and harmonious.

Split complementary scheme

The split complementary scheme is a variation of the standard complementary scheme. It uses a color and the two colors adjacent to its complementary. This provides high contrast without the strong tension of the complementary scheme. The split-complimentary color scheme is often a good choice for beginners, because it is difficult to mess up.

Tetradic (double complementary) scheme

The tetradic (double complementary) scheme is the most varied because it uses two complementary color pairs. This scheme is hard to harmonize; if all four hues are used in equal amounts, the scheme may look unbalanced, so you should choose a color to be dominant or subdue the colors. Attention should be paid to the balance of warm and cool colours in your design. You have two types of scheme in this Square and Rectangular.


To make your colour choices easy we have a very simple but very powerful tool to help you design your colour palettes. You can create your own schemes or browse through readymade thousands of palettes.



Hope this article has made your colour palette creation easier. If you have any questions feel free to ask us and we will do our best to help you.


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