The colour wheel was invented in 1666 by sir Isaac Newton - it is the basis of all colour theory.
A Colour wheel is broken up into 12 separate hues. Each of these hues are categorised into one of three further groups primary, secondary or intermediate tertiary.
Primary colours are red, blue or yellow. These colours cannot be made by mixing other colours together,
Secondary colours are purple, orange and green these colours are made by mixing two of the primary colour in equal parts. Green (blue and yellow) purple (red and blue) orange (yellow and red).
The final six hues are categorised into the section called intermediate or tertiary. These colours are made through unequal mixing of primary and secondary colours which lie next to each other on the wheel.
The six intermediate colours are classed as red-orange, red-purple, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-purple and blue-green
You may be wondering where colours such as white, black and grey fit into a colour wheel?
These colours are used as mixers.
Tints are when hues are mixed with white to make lighter hues
Shades are when hues are mixed with black to make darker hues
Tones are when hues are mixed with grey to make saturated hues
Complementary colours are those on the opposite side of the wheel to each other. These colours result in great contrast; however, they can easily overpower each, they are great to use when you want something to stand out.
Using the wheel above we can see examples of colours that are complementary are
Analogous colours are colours that lie side by side of each other on the colour wheel. Analogous colours work in harmony with each other because there is always one colour which is the common factor between either one or two hues, they are also very pleasing to the eye– analogous colours are anything between two and four colours next to each on a colour wheel.
Examples of analogous colours are blue-green, blue, blue – purple and purple.
analogous colours can consist of a primary and one secondary colour but never two primary colours
Triad colours are colours are three colours which are equally spaced out on the wheel, if a line was drawn between each of these colours it would form into an equilateral triangle. Triad colours can be quite vibrant, and to use them successfully they need to be evenly balanced – one colour should be the main and the other two for the accent.
Because there are 12 hues on the wheel than to work out the triad colour you need to start with a main colour and pick the fourth one from that and then the fourth colour around
Using the colour wheel, we can see that red-orange, blue-purple and yellow-green are examples of triad colours
Split complementary colours are a variation of complementary colours it uses one base and two secondary colours. split complementary colours are an ideal base for beginners when working with a colour wheel for the first time as it is difficult to get wrong.
Examples of split complementary colours are
Red, orange and blue- green
The final way I will explain using a colour wheel is tetradic – four colours arranged into two complementary pairs. There can be many variations of this colour schemes however it is important to pay attention to cool and warm colours.
Examples of tetradic colours are blue, yellow-green, orange and red-violet.
I hope this blog post is a good base when you are picking colours for projects that uses two or more colours.