Color Theory 101: Color Wheels

I’m often asked, “How do you pick the colors for your quilts?”

I hope this explains the process.

The Color Wheel

Primary Colors:

Any discussion of color begins with the three primary colors: Yellow, Red, and Blue. These three colors cannot be made by mixing any other colors together. They lie equidistant from each other on the color wheel.

Color wheel-primary colors
Color wheel-primary colors

Secondary Colors:

There are three secondary colors: Orange, Violet, and Green. They are made by mixing two primary colors together: Yellow and Red make Orange; Red and Blue make Violet; and, Blue and Yellow make Green. They lie equidistant from each other on the color wheel, between the two primary colors that make them.

Color wheel-secondary colors
Color wheel-secondary colors

Tertiary Colors:

There are six tertiary colors: Yellow-Orange, Red-Orange, Red-Violet, Blue-Violet, Blue-Green, and Yellow-Green. They are made by mixing one primary and one secondary color together: Yellow and Orange make Yellow-Orange; Red and Orange make Red-Orange; Red and Violet make Red-Violet; Blue and Violet make Blue-Violet; Blue and Green make Blue-Green; and, Yellow and Green make Yellow-Green. They lie equidistant from each other on the color wheel, between the primary and secondary colors that make them.

These twelve colors constitute a basic color wheel.

Color wheel
Color wheel

Additional Colors

There are three more colors to attend to. Though they exhibit no color at all, they do affect the other colors on the wheel. They are White, Black, and shades of Gray.

White, Black, and 3 shades of Gray
White, Black, and 3 shades of Gray

Tints, Tones, and Shades

Tints:

Adding varying amounts of White to colors make Tints.

I’ve added a lot of White to the colors below:

Color wheel-tints
Color wheel-tints

Tones:

Adding varying amounts of Gray to colors make Tones.

I’ve added a small amount of Gray to the colors below:

Color wheel-tones
Color wheel-tones

Shades:

Adding varying amounts of Black to colors make Shades.

I’ve added a moderate amount of Black to the colors below:

Color wheel-shades
Color wheel-shades

Now that you have a world of color at your fingertips, what will you do with them?

Next up:  Harmonious Color Combinations.

2 thoughts on “Color Theory 101: Color Wheels

  1. I’m a quilter and admire your work. Facebook is in my husband’s name, Donald Vest.
    I want to learn from your creativity.

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