The color Wheel shows the relationships between the colors. The three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue; they are the only colors that cannot be made by mixing colors together. The three secondary colors are green, orange, and violet; they are each a mixture of two primary colors. Their hue is halfway between the two primary colors that were used to mix them. On the color wheel, the secondary colors are located between the colors they are made from.
The six tertiary colors (red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green, yellow-orange, blue-green, and blue-violet) are made by mixing a primary color with an adjacent secondary color. On the color wheel, the tertiary colors are located between the primary and secondary they are made from.
Color mixing is an additive process, this means you can never subtract one color from another, you can only add colors together. Examine the table below to see how to create both secondary and tertiary colors by mixing the primary colors.
Tint, Tone, & Shade
Black, white, and gray are not true colors (or hues). They are considered to be neutral, achromatic colors.
Value refers to how light or dark a color appears. To make a color lighter in value, you would add white. A light color is called a tint of the original hue. For example, pink is a tint of red. To make a color darker in value, black is added. A darker color is called a shade of the original hue. Maroon is a shade of red.
Painting a Color Wheel
For this lesson you will demonstrate your understanding of how to mix colors by painting your own color wheel using watercolor paints. For this activity you will only be able to use the 3 primary colors plus black & white.
Print out this blank color wheel template, gather your painting supplies, and follow the directions to paint the color wheel.
- Start with the Primary colors - Paint the top circle Yellow, the bottom-left circle Red, and the bottom-right circle Blue.
- Refer to the 'Color Mixing Math' image - Start by combining 2 of the primary colors to mix a secondary color. Paint the secondary color in the square that comes between the two primary colors used in mixing. Mix and paint the secondary colors: green, orange, and violet.
- Next you will paint the tertiary colors. Start by mixing one secondary color with the nearest primary color. You will mix and paint the 6 tertiary colors in the triangles of the color wheel.
- Finally, you will paint the tint, tone, and shade for one of your primary colors. Start with one primary color; add black, add white, and add black and gray to the original hue. Paint the correct value in the diamond shapes.