Colour Theory – Basics



I recently decided to teach myself the basics of colour theory; I started with the colour wheel. This provides the fundamental background of colour combination and allows you to further develop techniques. In following articles we will explore other aspects of colour mixing and combination.


Keep it as simple as possible. The aim is to explore the colours and their combinations, not to make the most beautiful colour wheel ever created.  Allow for 1.5 hours.

  • A small brush (any type will do),
  • Yellow Acrylic Paint
  • Blue Acrylic Paint
  • Red Acrylic Paint
  • Canvas (canvas pad – easier and cheeper for this exercise)
  • A pencil and a rubber


…fundamental background of colour combination…allows you to further develop techniques.

The principle of the colour wheel is very simple. You start using the three basic colours; red, yellow and blue. These colours are called the primary colours and are the base and main components of every other colour. Having these three and mixing them in different quantities allows you to mix any other colour. The primary colours wheel is the one right below.


Once you have created the primary colours wheel then, we are ready to start mixing those three together to create our second colour wheel; the wheel of secondary colours. The colours sitting opposite each other in the secondary colour wheel are called complementary colours (this will be useful for creating shadows – see next article). As you might already know mixing the primary colours with each other gives you a first set of very useful colours: Orange, Green and Purple.

  • Blue + Yellow = Green
  • Red + Yellow = Orange
  • Blue + Red = Purple


The second step has now been made. We have our secondary colours filling the second wheel. Final step is to create a third colour which will be filled with the tertiary colours. As you can easily guess, mixing the primary colours in different quantities (exactly as you did for the secondary colours above) gives you greens, purples and oranges of different strength. So here you can experiment and create colours you like more by mixing slightly more blue, or a bit more yellow or maybe a bit more red? Create as many mixes you like. For the sake of this exercise I created only a couple of each combination.



A quick summary of the previous steps is here:

  • Primary colours are: Yellow, Blue, Red
  • Secondary colours are: Orange, Green, Purple
  • Tertiary colours are: The combinations of primary colours  using different quantities of each colour. Create Yellowish Green or Blueish Purple etc.


The Artist says:

28407451_1162363890564038_455176961_o“I have been passionate about painting since I remember myself. I started by just eexperimenting with colours, colour mixing and colour application. However , it’s not always easy to achieve what you want unless you know exactly what you are doing. Techniques are different for different media; colour theory though is the basis of painting and is the same for everything! I decided to teach myself the basics; and here I am sharing that with you!





Art is more fun when you meet the artists themselves! Visit THE ARTIST…


Love Sketching & Painting



2 thoughts on “Colour Theory – Basics

  1. Hi Iasonas,

    Thanks for this post.
    It is actually surprising how many people don’t know the basic of the colour and how you can make any other colour by simply mixing the primary together.

    I think it is also important to highlight the difference between primary colours used in paintings and the one used for digital images.

    Primary colours in paintings: Yellow, Magenta, Cyan
    Complementary colours in paintings: Purple, Green, Orange
    Primary colours filters for digital images: RGB= (green, green, blue)
    Complementary colour filters digital images: CMYG (cyan, magenta, yellow, green)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Valeria! I guess we start painting full of excitement and we learn how to use the colours along the way. However it is important and makes lofe so much easier if you know the basics of colour theory! Thanks for the clarification above. I ll be following a book and posting various exercises here. Please feel free to let us know of any comments.


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