Making a Color Wheel

 Making a Color Wheel
Foundation Principles In Color

There are principles that apply to all forms of artistic endeavor. Every type of painting shares some basic principals (dare I say RULES???) with other mediums. Learning the foundation principles will enhance whatever medium or style in which you may be interested. Only by learning the "rules" can you learn how, when and why to break them.

The first principle I would like to explore is color. This is the easiest to use and the easiest to abuse. Too little can make for a boring work and too much, wrongly used, can make an otherwise pleasing work appear busy or even sloppy.

A good place to begin is with a color wheel. If you have one, please dig it out. If not, let's make a simple one that is easy and quick to make. You will need a plain piece of tracing paper, watercolor paper, canvas board or something similar to put it on. Canvas board is good because it is inexpensive and permanent. This can be an amazing exercise that will give you building blocks for all your work.

Please use something 8 X 10 or larger. Put a plate that is a little smaller than the work surface (hereafter called “the board”) in the center of the board & draw around it with an ink pen or permanent marker. Water-based ink is not good. Turn the board placing the long side at the top so you will have room for notes on the sides. At the 12:00 position at the top, draw a box or circle about 1” across. Repeat at 4:00 and 8:00. At the 2, 6 and 10 o'clock spots, make boxes about ¾” across. At 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 o'clock, make boxes about 1/2" across.

You will need just 5 colors in whatever medium you choose:
White (you won't need this if you are using watercolors)
Yellow - bright, clear yellow such as Cadmium Yellow Medium
Red - such as Cadmium Red or other strong clear red
Blue – Ultramarine Blue is a good, clean choice

Primary colors:
Place a smear of yellow in the 12:00 box, blue in the 4:00 box and red in the 8:00 box. Write yellow, blue or red under the appropriate box. These are the three primary colors, so called because they cannot be mixed from any other colors and all other colors can be mixed from them.

Secondary colors:
These are made by mixing equal parts of the primary colors. Mix a small amount of yellow with an equal amount of blue and put half of the resulting green in the 2:00 box, keeping the rest for later. Mix equal parts of blue and red and put half of the resulting violet in the 6:00 box. Do the same for red and yellow and put half of the orange in the 10:00 box. Label the boxes with the color names as for primary colors. Behold the three secondary colors!

Tertiary colors:
From (tûr'shē-ĕr'ē) Meaning third in place, order, degree or rank. These six colors are made by mixing equal parts of a primary and a secondary color.

To make these, we are going to:
Mix half of the secondary green with an equal part or yellow and place this in the 1:00 box. Label this box yellow green.
Mix half of the secondary green with an equal part of blue and place this in the 3:00 box. Label this box blue green.
Mix half of the secondary violet with an equal part of blue and put it in the 5:00 box. Label this box blue violet.
Mix half of the secondary violet with an equal part of red and put nto the 7:00 box. Label this box red violet.
Mix half of the secondary orange with an equal part of red and put into the 9:00 box. Label this box red orange.
Mix half of the secondary orange with an equal part of yellow an put into th 11:00 box. Label this box yellow orange.

You now have 12 beautiful colors by starting with just three primary colors!

If you mix your tertiary colors together, you will get even softer hues. By mixing any two complimentary colors (colors which are directly across the color wheel from each other) in equal parts or varying proportions, you will get various earth tones ranging from golden tones to russets to browns to black. Try a few and see for yourself. I love mixing earth tones myself instead of using paint already mixed in a tube or bottle. It gives an incredible range of tones that will blend beautifully together.

Mixing white with any of the colors on your color wheel will make fabulous tints. And mixing black will make darker shades (tones) of most colors. The biggest exception to this is when you mix black with any yellow color. You will get a green. I know you thought only blue and yellow make green, but yellow and black will make gorgeous greens that are found in nature. Be sure to make notes on the board next to colors you create about the mixtures you used to make them so you can recreate them when you want to use them.

There is way too much information to cover at one time, so we will take this up next time. The next article will include value, intensity and color schemes.

If you have questions, please visit our forum where you can exchange ideas and experiences with others interested in color mixing. You will find the link at the top of this page.

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