Color Theory for the Visual Artist

Color Theory is utilized by artists to create color schemes in works of art. Colors are studied and manipulated to create a variety of color combinations. Color theory brings a deeper understanding when selecting colors for inclusion in a work of art.

  1. Warm/Cool

    • Warm colors are red, orange and yellow. Cool colors are blue, purple, and some shades of green.

    Complementary Colors

    • Complementary colors come in pairs. Red and green, yellow and purple, and orange and blue are the complementary pairs.


    • Analogous colors are found by taking one color and using the color on either side of it on the color wheel.


    • Tints are made with the addition of white to a color. Shades are created by adding a darker color.


    • Split-Complement color schemes involve a color and the two colors on either side of its complement.


    • Triadic color schemes are found by drawing an equilateral triangle over the color wheel and using the colors underneath each point. Rectangular or tetradic schemes are found the same way but by using a rectangle.

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