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The color wheel is an adaptation of the solar spectrum, red-orange-yellow-green-blue-violet. By wrapping the spectrum into a circle, red meets violet to form a red-violet not found in the spectrum itself. By using the color wheel, it becomes easier to understand the relationships between colors including locating a color's compliment.

Hue, Chorma, and Value … The three dimensions of color.
"Hue" is the specific name of a color, red, yellow, blue (primary colors). "Chroma", also called saturation, often called intensity, refers to a colors strength or weakness, bright or grayed. Color "value" refers to the lightness or darkness of the color, not to its intensity or to a specific hue.


Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors
The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Red, yellow, and blue are called "primary" colors because they can not be mixed from other colors. All other colors can be mixed using the three primary colors. The "secondary" colors, orange, green, and violet, are mixes of the primary colors. Colors such as red-orange, red violet, yellow-green, yellow orange, blue-violet, and blue green, are mixed from primary and secondary colors and are called tertiary colors.

Complimentary Colors
Colors directly opposite each other on the color wheel are complimentary colors, each the compliment of the other. As a color's compliment is mixed with it, it will begin to gray the color, producing a "semi-neutral". As more of the compliment is added, the mix will reach a point where they gray each other out, and neither color can be seen. This is termed "neutral". Colors placed on the outside of the circle are pure, bright colors. Semi-neutrals, colors that are somewhat neutralized or duller are placed inside the circle, and the center indicates neutral. Placing complimentary colors next to each other enhances both, making them seem more vibrant or intense.

Local Color, Tint, Shade and Tone
Local color refers to the actual, true color of an object. Adding white to a color produces a "tint", a lighter version of the hue. In the case of watercolors, a tint is made by adding water to thin the paint thus allowing more of the white paper to show through. Using black or a color's compliment to darken the color produces a "shade" of that color. "Tone" refers to the value of a color, (Color Value)

Color Temperature
Colors have a relationship to "temperature" and are said to be "warm" or "cool". This is the result of the wavelength of light that is reflected by the color. The color we see is the result of the wavelength of light reflected by the color. Infrared is on the warm side and ultraviolet on the cool side. The visible spectrum lies between the two.
If we divide the color wheel vertically through the center, splitting yellow and violet, the red, orange side is warm and the blue green side is cool. Red-orange the warmest of the warm, and blue-green the coolest of the cool.

Color Recession
Colors come forward or recede depending on their warmth, intensity and value. Warm, intense, and dark value come forward, cool, grayed and light value recede. However, recession is also affected by color keying, or what color the color is placed next to. According to Eliot O'Hara, "The law for keying a color or value is always the same, an area will vary in a direction opposite to its immediate surroundings." (The Watercolorist's Complete Guide to Color by Tom Hill.)

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