My name is Erika. I'm in love with making art, collecting old things & chasing after my two kiddos. This blog is a peek into my happy accidents & plots of total world domination.


Art 101: The Color Wheel & Secondary/Complimentary Colors

Last time we talked about the primary colors and now its time to tackle the rest of the color wheel- secondary and complementary color.   My favorite things about the color wheel is that its an easy reference to figure out an exact color because a color in real life isn't just red or blue its usually somewhere in the middle. The color wheel is a great simple way to see if that color leans more warm or cool and figuring out the color that best compliments it.

A quick recap from last week is that the primary colors are red, yellow, and blue.  The secondary colors are orange, green, and violet.   A secondary color is a color that is created by mixing  equal parts with it's neighboring primary colors. Red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green, and red and blue make violet. Complementary colors are colors that when placed next to each other they create a strong contrast and they enhance each other.  Complimentary Colors are as follows red to green, orange to blue, and yellow to purple.  You want to place Red opposite green, orange opposite to blue, and yellow opposite to purple. Sounds easy right? A great art tip is that to create an easy shadow use it's complimentary color.  So if you are painting a bright red apple try mixing in some green into that shadow to make that apple really pop.

I keep two handy dandy color wheels, one I made in a one of the few art classes I took in college and the other I bought at a local art supply store.  As you can see both have been loved.  You can easily make your own color wheel and this is how you do it.  You want to draw a rectangle on a piece of paper and take out your ruler and make a dot in the middle.  Draw lines to create pieces of the pie and start filling in first with the primary and then the secondary. You can do different gradients/shades going between the colors depending on how detailed you want your color wheel but I think having a simple one is the best.

If you want to learn more about color and how they compliment each other. A really fun art exercise is that you are only allowed to paint with 2 paint colors and they have to compliment each other.  So this is your chance to do that red and green Christmas painting I know you have been itching to do :).  Sounds a little cheesy but I promise if you really want to learn about color and shadow- its the best way to really see how they work together and against each other.

Hey want to read more in this awesome non art school series click here.


Lauren said...

Oh, lovely. I love how well-worn and loved your color wheels are! I've been thinking about doing a color challenge with my photography. We set one for our students early in the camera phone class I co-taught over the past month, and I find them fun and challenging. I have a photo meet up next week. Maybe I'll give myself a color for that. Thanks for the inspiration!

The Lady Okie said...

So, earlier this week I tried to mix red and blue to make violet... but it just kept turning out gray! Any idea what I did wrong? I was thinking maybe the original shades of red and blue weren't the right ones for making violet...?

Eva said...

My primarie colours are yellow and bleu, then it's normal tha my secondary it is the green one! I love your Wheel!

Tori Dickey said...

I might just make a painting out of two complimentary colours tonight! Sounds like a lot of fun!

Tori Dickey said...

I might just make a painting out of 2 complementary colours tonight! Sounds fun thanks for the great idea!

Christine D. | The Plumed Nest said...

this is so great. this is something i know i need to spend some time with, but honestly i didn't know where to start. the where's, the why's and the how's eluded me. but what you said made something click in my brain. thanks! xo

Erin said...

This brings back so many fun memories of my dad's art studio, when he would let me raid all his good paints without objection. Learning about colors and the way they worked together was all so magical back then. xo

Megan Gray said...

Loving these Art 101 posts! I need to go back to how to clean oil paint brushes. ;)

© Erika Lee Sears