The Colour Theory Tutorial

1 year, 11 months ago 11
Posted in: Colour, Tutorials

The COLOUR Theory Tutorial

I have been dreading doing this tutorial ever since The idea of MoreToArt, (cue dread music) COLOUR THEORY!! One of the hardest and most mind numbing things in the world to explain. I can only try my hardest to make it as concise and non academic as possible while still giving you what you need (once again try)

I guess we will start with the order of colours :)

Primary Colours

It all starts with Red, Blue and Yellow, this is because from them all other colours are made, but no combination could ever make them (they are special.)

Secondary Colours

Secondary colours which are, Orange, Green and Purple are the result of mixing two primary colours together

Yellow and Red make Orange

Blue and Yellow make Green

Red and Blue make Purple

Tertiary Colours

Tertiary colours are formed by mixing primary colours with the secondary colour next to them like Blue and green which would make Blue-Green or yellow and orange which would make yellow-orange (You always state the primary colours name first followed by the secondary)

(Ok I guess its time for the wheel of colour destiny.)

Colour Wheel

Colour theory
(I created this for your use, enjoy :) )

Although at first the 12 colours above may seem to be placed at random, this is not the case, Yes this colourful circle that can be picked up at any art store (which would contain more detail) is the key to colour theory and your understanding of it.

(Pretty simple so far)


If you cut the wheel in half between Red-Purple and Yellow-Green you will end up with a warm side and a cool side
, The warm side is made of Red, Orange and Yellow, the cool side is made of Blue, Green and Purple. Warm colours are strong and energetic, where Cool colours are calming and more subtle, this difference in feel and look is usually why an artist would pick one or the other, however, you should always keep in mind that a good mixture of both warm and cool colours can give a painting more life and dynamics, so if the painting is made of warm light then the shadows should be cool (and visa versa.)

(Also white, black and gray are considered to be neutral in colour temperature )

How To Mix Black

It is said to never add black for it will muddy your colours and do you a dis-serves, i find this to be true but only with tubed black. To get an interesting black all you need to do is mix two rich and deep colours, like thalo green and alizarin crimson or Ultramarine and burnt sienna.

Quick Colour Lingo

Hue – another name for colour

Colour Tempreture – how warm or cool the colour is

Saturation – the brightness or dullness of a colour

Contrast – the difference between two colours or value

Value – the lightness or darkness of a colour

Key Colour – the dominant colour in a colour scheme

Tint – colour plus white

Tone – colour plus grey

Shade – colour plus black

(I bet your attention is starting to fade right about now XD hold in there we are about half way done)

Complementary Colours

With the magic of the colour wheel you can easily find the complementary or “contrasting” colour of another, this is because they are directly opposite each other on the colour wheel.

 Some complementary colours are 
Red and green, 
Yellow and purple and 
blue and Orange. Complementary colours can also make for quite a dynamic colour scheme.

Colour theory

How To Mix Brown

To mix Brown all you have to do is mix a primary colour with its complementary colour like red and green or yellow and purple, you can also change the type of brown by varying the types of red and greens, purple and yellows…

Value And Value Relationship

One thing that isnt talked about enough when it comes to colour theory is value and value relationship, something that is arguably more impotent then colour. Say someones face is lit up by a red light, so lit up that no other colours are present, what you would be seeing is value changes in red, take away the value changes and whats left? Just the colour red, no face (pretty Important don’t you think XD)

(Isn’t colour theory a bitch)


saturation is what gives a value colour for if there was no saturation a colour would turn into its grey value,

Monochromatic Colour Scheme

A monochromatic colour scheme is like a black and white photograph but instead of white, gray and black you could have white, blue and black as shown below. A cool colour to use in a monochromatic colour scheme is red, among other things it increases heart rate and is the colour of passion.

(on a side note, monochromatic painting is a great practice for beginners, it teaches colour value and observation.)

Colour theory

Analogous Colour Scheme

An analogous color scheme is made from colours that appear side by side on the colour wheel. For example, an analogous colour scheme could be blue and blue-green, blue and blue-purple, blue and green and blue and Purple (get the idea?). It’s very easy to harmonize and is naturally pleasing to the eye, go nuts.

(A few more colour schemes and then were done :D )

Colour theory

Triadic Colour Scheme

A triadic colour scheme is made of any three colors evenly spaced apart from each other on the colour wheel, such as red, blue and yellow, or Orange, Purple and Green. Each colour in a Triadic colour scheme tends to match in intensity so choose a dominate colour very the value and get harmonizing.

Colour theory

A Split Complementary Scheme

This colour scheme splits the difference and becomes complementary like the other but with less tension, its suggested for beginners because it is a lot harder to mess up.

Colour theory

Tetradic (Double Complementary) Colour Scheme

A Tetradic colour scheme is a bit more complicated then the others, but that can be expected when you use two sets of complementary colours. Although a bit harder it definitely has its place, just remember to have a dominant key colour..

(Almost there, it may be hard to get through but can you imagine what it was like for me writing it!! XD)

Colour theory

A polychromatic colour scheme

This Is where you use all 12 colours (not recommended for beginners)

A Found Colour Scheme

There is also what i like to call a found colour scheme, a found colour scheme is the taking of colours from some thing like an apple, a photo, or what ever you want to grab the essence of, I find this to be a very effective method.

OK i think i have said all i can about colour theory for now, THANK GOD!

if you have any questions or need me to explains anything feel free to leave a comment below and I shall get back to you.

About zombielocky

That guy that runs MoreToArt
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11 Responses

  1. i tried reading your website from my xperia x10 but it wasnt visible your website supported by mobile browsers?

    • zombielocky says:

      Sorry about that, it works on my iPhone so I just thought it would work on most other current model phones. I shal look into optimizing the site right after I finish the new tutorial :D

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