How to Use a Color Wheel When Painting

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Creating works of art can be much easier with the help of a color wheel. With this simple piece of equipment, you can tell what colors mix together to make secondary colors and decide what colors look best with other colors on your canvas. It takes just a few minutes to understand the fundamentals of how to use a color wheel when painting, but the results will speak volumes.

  • Get acquainted with the colors. When you look at a color wheel, you see a circle of various colors in three categories. First are the pure primary colors: red, blue and yellow. You can't mix any other colors to achieve a primary color. You find these colors equidistant from each other on the wheel. Next are the secondary colors, orange, green and purple, which you get by mixing two primary colors together. These appear between the two primary colors that form them. Last are the tertiary colors, which you get by mixing a primary and a secondary color together.

  • Find complementary colors. To use a color wheel in your painting, you'll most often want to figure out what colors work well together on a canvas and capture your eye. First, find the colors that are complementary to one another. Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel--for example, purple and yellow.

  • Keep it in the neighborhood. Another way to create a visually impressive look on canvas is to pick colors that are considered analogous. These are three colors that appear next to one another on the wheel. Red, orange and yellow are a group that exemplifies this sort of scheme.

  • Inspire your art with three different colors. Triadic colors are three colors that are equidistant from each other on the color wheel. Red, yellow and blue work well when used together in painting.

Tips & Warnings

  • Practice makes perfect when you're using a color wheel, so experiment with different hues and colors of paint until you find a look that you're happy with.

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