Category Archives: Color Theory

The Artist’s Color Wheel

All of you who are designers have downloaded the color wheel at least once. Let’s look at the colors that make up the color wheel and where they come from. First, we must distinguish between the RBG colors displayed on our monitors and used by Web designers and the ones artists, people who work with paints, use. the three RGB colors are red, green, and blue, but let’s set these aside for a moment and focus on the colors an artist uses. These primaries are red, blue, andgreen. They cannot be formed by mixing any other colors. Next, we have the secondary colors, which are formed when two primary colors are mixed. Yellow and red make orange. Red and blue make purple. Blue and yellow make green. So, the three secondary colors are orange, purple, and green. Finally, when we mix a secondary and a primary color we create the tertiary colors. The six tertiary colors are red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet. (NOTE: you will find color wheels on the Web that feature other tertiary colors. Remember, we are talking bout the painter’s color wheel).

The three important characteristics of a color are its hue, saturation, and value. Hue is the color itself. Saturation is the brightness, or intensity, of the color. Value is how light or dark a color is.
Here is an example of an artist’s color wheel:  Click me

A (Very) Brief Introduction to Color Theory

Today I did some research on primary, secondary, and tertiary colors for a poster I am working on. This is a very brief introduction to some of the basics of color theory. Primary colors can be mixed to create many other colors. The four primaries are red, yellow, green, and blue. If you are a human  being or a computer monitor your primary colors are red, blue, and green, which can be combined to produce over 16 million colors. If you are an artist or illustrator your primaries are red, blue, and yellow. RGB colors are additive, meaning they are mixed to create other colors. CMYK colors are subtractive, meaning amounts of color are subtracted from cyan, yellow, magenta, and black to create millions of other colors. Secondary colors are created by mixing the primary colors. The secondary colors are green, orange, and purple, if you are a painter or illustrator. Tertiary colors are formed by mixing a primary and a secondary color. If you are an artist your tertiary colors are yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, and yellow-green. I will explore color theory in greater detail in future posts. A good reference for color theory is at this website:

A Few Hexadecimal Values to Memorize

There are millions of color combinations, nevertheless, there a few it is good to know the hexadecimal values of my memory: Black, White, Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. Here they are:

Black – 000000
White – FFFFFF
Red – FF0000
Green – 00FF00
Blue – 0000FF
Cyan – 00FFFF
Magenta – FF00FF
Yellow – FFFF00
Notice the pattern here: All the color codes are combinations of White (FFFFFF) and Black (000000). That should make the hex codes for these 8 colors easier to memorize. Tod decipher a few of them: Red is 2 parts white and 4 parts black. Green is 2 parts black, 2 parts white, and 2 parts black. Blue is 4 parts black and 2 parts white. We are talking about the digital color space. This is not a guide mixing paints if you paint in oils, or watercolors, or acrylics.