The Colour Wheel


Nov 1, 2015 | ROZ MORGAN

When I teach colour I love to start with a little test.  I like to spread out a bunch of colour chips and tell everyone to put together a colour wheel with twelve colours.  I give the class 5 minutes.  Some people roll their eyes and look bored.  Not many people manage to finish it or get it right.  When it actually comes down to placing the colours in the right place on the colour wheel,  some people realize they never really thought about it.  It is harder than they think.    BUT, here’s the thing, until we understand the colour wheel and where colours sit,  it will always be harder to pick the right colour.


My helper!

I loved the greenish  gray floor and  how my dog posed so nicely for this picture. You easgle eye readers will have noticed that there are missing colours.  DO you know which ones?


QUICKLY, these are the useful things we should know about the colour wheel:

1. Colours are defined as:

Primary Colours:  Red, Yellow and Blue because they cannot be derived by mixing other colours together.

Secondary Colours are Orange, Green and Purple/Violet because they are mixed from the primaries.

Tertiary Colours (intermediate colours) are red/orange, yellow/orange, yellow/green, blue green, blue/violet, red/violet. Note that the primary colour name is always first in the colour description of a tertiary colour.  The two of the  tertiary colours are missing from my photo.

The Colour Wheel

2.  Colour Temperature:

Warm Colours are red through to yellow/ green on the colour wheel. Warm colours are considered aggressive, making a room feel smaller and cozier. If you don’t have much light in a room a warm colour can brighten a room and make it more inviting.

Cool Colours are red/blue through to green. Cool colours are considered recessive, making a room feel bigger and calmer. Cool colours work best when there is a lot of light in the room. Of course a colour specialist can contradict everything I have said by playing with value and chroma on both sides of the colour wheel. But, to begin, these are safe rules of thumb to follow. We will discuss warm and cool often in later posts and more in depth.

Warm and Cool Colours

3.  Choosing colour combinations

Complementary Colours are found directly opposite each other on the colour wheel. So red and green are complimentary as are: orange and blue, violet/purple and yellow, etc. Many artists use this technique to make certain colours pop.  Red will sing when surrounded by green.

Split Complementaries one would choose a colour and then go to its complementary and then use the colour on either side of it. Such as: yellow whose complementary is violet. You would take red/violet and blue/ violet and use it with the yellow.

Analogous Colours are next to each other on the colour wheel.



Complementary Colours

If you haven’t read Part 1, take a minute to read it if you have the time. I am always happy to receive your comments and answer questions if I can.

Need help with colour?  Call me 416-577-4944 or email me at

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