The colour wheel
The colour wheel was invented in 1666 by Isaac Newton and is made up of three primary colours; red, yellow and blue, (so it’s always a good idea to have those stocked up before you sit down and start colouring).
You only need to mix two of the primary colours together to create secondary colours. For example, if we mix; red and yellow together we get orange, blue and red together make violet, and when blue and yellow are mixed they colour green.
Moving along the colour wheel from secondary colours to tertiary colours, this is when primary colours are mixed with secondary colours and sit between the two in the colour wheel. Typically they tend to be a lighter or darker version of the two colours mixed, the colour will depend on which was the stronger one when mixed together. The naming of tertiary colours is also based on this, such as red-orange, green-blue, red-purple, and so on.
Did you know we have a handy colour wheel on our resources section, why not bookmark it for when you’re choosing your colour palette?
Ok, let’s talk about complementary colours.
This is probably the most exciting part of colour theory for us colourist! By having some knowledge of complementary colours it can save our work from ugly colour schemes and save our precious pages. When referring to our handy colour wheel we’ll be able to make the best decision for the piece at hand.
For this, it’s a good idea to start by choosing two colours, paying particular attention to one main colour, then choosing colours that support that main colour.
What are complementary colours?
These are when two colours sit directly opposite each other on the colour wheel, for example, yellow and violet, or red and green.
Why are analogous colours important?
Analogous colours are three colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel, such as red, red-purple and purple or orange, orange-yellow and yellow. Knowing your analogous colours can be helpful to create a sense of harmony in your colouring. Did you know interior designers often use analogous colours to decorate a room for this very reason?
Being careful with triadic colours
For those who don’t know, triadic colours are when three colours are equally spaced within the colour wheel if you’re not sure just image a triangle over the colour wheel to helo pick out your triadic colours. It’s good to be aware of triadic colours when colouring as often they are quite stark in contrast and can be quite dramatic, however, you can alter this by picking subdued shades from within the colour wheel for less dramatic palettes. Although for scenes like dragons triadic colours might be perfect!
Splitting complementary colours
This can be done by choosing a colour on the opposite side to it, for example, by choosing the two colours adjacent to the complementary colour you’re wanting to work with, such as blue with yellow and orange.
Splitting complementary colours tends to have a similar visual contrast as the complementary colours but has less tension. If you’re new to colouring it might be an idea work using a split-complementary palette to be on the safe side.
Want to work in one main colour?
Then working with tetradic colours might be best for you. This is when four colours are made up of two sets of complementary colours and is referred to as being double-complementary. Like the triadic colours, but imagine a rectangle has been placed over the colour wheel. The tetradic colour scheme works well if you want one colour to be more dominant than the rest of your palette.
Now to get onto tints, shade and tone
These can be useful for creating additional colours. If a colour is made lighter by adding white, the result is called a tint, if want to make a colour darker then you can create a shade of it by adding black. Similarly, if you add grey then this will create a varying tone of the original colour.
Let us know how you got on and what colour palette you’re using for the latest Mermaids Special. Remember you can share your work in our Friends of Colouring Heaven Facebook Group.