Friday, August 13, 2010

How To Use A Color Wheel In Digital and Paper Crafting

- Article submitted by Sara K, Creative Team Member of A Cherry On Top.  See more articles and project ideas by visiting

A colour wheel? You're serious?

Aren't they just for people who actually went to art school or study graphic design and have to know exactly what colour is going to come out the other end of the printer?
Far from the challenges of Pantone® colours, the colour wheel is actually quite simple, though when you first start using it may seem a bit intimidating. However, when you learn the basics, mixing colours will make things so much easier!

(Colour wheel from:


Okay, you see the colours there and you know what they're called, but the little names underneath, as well as the numbers, may seem a bit confusing. So, lets start right at the beginning - like in Pre-Kindergarten.

Primary Colours - You'll have learned these early on. It's pretty straight forward - Red, Yellow, Blue. In a sense, these are "pure" colours, in that they cannot be made from other colours.

Brittany (milmomma) went with red for her inspiration in creating I Love To Travel. "For this layout I featured using red as my only primary color. I tried to stick with all red items and used black and white photos to stand out against all the red."

Jenn (Sarahwhithers) has created this gorgeous layout, Go Yellow, featuring the primary colour, yellow. She shared: "FOr this page I went with the primary color Yellow for my inspiration. And since my cat Merlin is a blonde, what better color to use with him than yellow!"

Secondary Colours - In your earliest days of art at school, you'll have learned that when you mixed two Primary colours, you'll get a secondary colour:

Red + Blue = Violet
Blue + Yellow = Green
Yellow + Red = Orange

Shannon (-Shannon-) created her beautiful page of her husband, Devin, based on the colour orange. She shared, "A great shot of my hubby. We recently did a personality test. There are four colors that represent personality types and his is Orange. What a perfect fit since I chose to do a Secondary color of Orange!"

Sara (keling) created her Make A Wish page with the colour Violet (Purple). "Purple is my step-mom's favourite colour, so a page from her 50th surprise party was a great inspiration."

Tertiary Colours - When you mix a primary colour and a secondary colour, you get a tertiary colour.

Blue  (Primary) + Green (Secondary) = Blue-Green (Tertiary)
Blue (Primary) + Violet (Secondary) = Blue-Violet (Tertiary)
Red (Primary) + Violet (Secondary) = Red-Violet (Tertiary)
Red (Primary) + Orange (Secondary) = Red-Orange (Tertiary)
Yellow (Primary) + Orange (Secondary) = Yellow-Orange (Tertiary)
Yellow (Primary) + Green (Secondary) = Yellow-Green (Tertiary)


Monochromatic Colours - When you look at one segment of the colour wheel - for example, Yellow-Green - you'll notice that there are several shades of that colour. The darker shades are on the outside and the lighter shades are on the inside. (see the numbers)

Complementary Colours - These are colours on exact opposite sides of the colour wheel - for example, Red and Green.

On this page, 8 Days A Week, Jenn (sarahwhithers) features the complementary colours blue and orange. She wrote, "This color combo has always been one of my favs so I HAD to use it!"

Brittany (millmomma) created If I Was a Triplet using blue and orange for her inspiration as well. She said, "I went with the complimentary colors blue and orange with splashes of neutrals. I love pairing blue with orange as the color wheel shows it just contrasts perfectly."

Sara (Keling) paired the complementary colours of yellow-orange and blue-violet for her page, The Diary of Anne Frank. She shared, "I knew what colours I wanted to use, but I just wasn't sure of a photo. My son is currently working his way through the Diary of Anne Frank, which he bought at our visit to the Frank house in Amsterdam, so I thought one of these lovely photos would be perfect."

In a reversal, Shannon (-Shannon-) created this self-portrait page, Imagination Out of Focus, using violet and yellow, featuring her favourite quote.

Analogous Colours - These are a series of colours located adjacent to each other in the colour wheel - for example, Blue, Blue-Green and Green.
Instead of a layout, Brittney (milmomma) created this adorable hybrid mini album of her son, Xander's first day of school. "I made this album for Grandma since she will miss her first grand-baby going to school. I left open areas to add the photos and captions. I used yellow and orange for my analogous color scheme for our reveal for this week."

Jenn (sarahwhithers) created this gorgeous page, Le'ale'a using red and red-orange. She said, "For this page I went with the analogous colors red and red-orange for my inspiration. I thought the Tiki Tiki Shake kit would be great with it's red-orange paper and elements!"

Shannon (-Shannon-) created this, Eleanor, using green and yellow-green. "This is one of our friends little puppies, Eleanor. She's so cute!! My analogous colors for this reveal are Green and Yellow Green. Turned out to be more fun to work with these colors than I thought!!"

In creating her Bunnies page with analogous colours, Sara (keling) chose blue, blue-violet and blue-green. "These colours are so calm and serene, just like the fields full of bunnies - that is until my Jonathan starts chasing after them!"

Triad Colours - These are three colours that are equi-distant from each other - for example, Green, Violet and Orange.

Split-Complementary Relationship -  One hue plus two others equally spaced from its complement - for example, Red, Blue-Green and Yellow-Green.
Laura (Art-Teacher) created this sample page, Fine Dining, using the colours violet, yellow-green and yellow-orange. "I used a split-complementary color scheme for this layout of violet, yellow-green, and yellow-orange. I also threw in a dash of red-violet. The colors fit my winery dinner theme but gave a nice splash of energy to the page. Also, I think they bring out the colors my dh and I are wearing in the photo!"

Double-Complementary Relationship - Two complementary color sets; the distance between selected complementary pairs will effect the overall contrast of the final composition - for example, Blue, Violet, Orange and Yellow.
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