First Quarter Challenge – Color Schemes Using a Color Wheel

Now that we’ve looked at the basics of color and made a color wheel, what do you do with that? A color wheel is a wonderful resource for choosing a color scheme for a project. You will see many terms for different color schemes but don’t worry about all the varying language. By using this method of choosing, you’ll end up with a nice color scheme every time. And you can try a bunch of different ideas that you might not have tried before. I have found that the more I work with color, the more color schemes I come to like. I used to say that I didn’t like orange but once I started putting it into various color schemes, I find that I like it. So try a few color schemes that you wouldn’t normally use and see what you think. There are a couple of color schemes that I am not really showing here including monochromatic (using one hue with varying amounts of white and black added) and analogous. An analogous color scheme is choosing 3-4 colors that are touching along the color wheel, such as yellow, yellow/orange, orange, and red. You are more than welcome to explore one of these color schemes too.

Cutting out the Center of Color Wheel

This is a simple method for working our color schemes. Remember that I had printed off extra color wheels? Now, I cut out 5 of the centers to use to figure out my color schemes.

Making an Arrow

For the first center, make an arrow that runs from yellow to violet on the color wheel (this photo just shows the arrow without the rest of the center). This arrow will be used to figure out complementary color schemes.

Now take the arrow and put it into the center of your color wheel starting with yellow pointing at violet. These are complementary colors. These can be used for a color scheme. The other main thing you need to remember about color schemes is that you should pay attention to the proportion of each color. Using the same amount of each color make the color scheme a little boring or sometimes one color will be too powerful. Try using a larger proportion of one color compared to the other like 70% violet and 30% yellow. You can then take your arrow to show each of the colors and their complements.

Isosceles and Equilateral Triangles

Now take two of the centers and make an isosceles triangle and an equilateral triangle. (Don’t worry if you have forgotten any geometry you ever learned, it is simple.) For the equilateral triangle, the one shown on the bottom, put one point in the middle of the yellow on your color wheel, one point in the middle of the blue and one point in the middle of the red. Then just take a ruler and connect the dots to make an equilateral triangle. To make the isosceles triangle, put one point in the middle of the yellow, one in the middle of red/violet and one in the middle of blue/violet. Again, connect the dots to make an isosceles triangle.

So here are the color schemes using an equilateral triad/triangle. You just move the points of the triangle to which colors you will try in a color scheme.

The isosceles triangle gives you the most choices. This is also known as a split complementary color scheme. If you look at photos above compared to the complementary schemes, you will see that the first color is paired with the two colors on either side of its complement.

Rectangular and Square TetradsNext use two of the centers to make a rectangle and a square. I find the square easier to draw as a “diamond” in the position shown. Line it up with the yellow, red/orange, blue/green and violet. For the rectangle, line up the corners with yellow/green, yellow/orange, red/violet and blue/violet.

Here are the color schemes from the square or tetrad.

And these are the schemes possible with the rectangular tetrad. You can of course use more than four colors but I thought this was enough to get you started.  Even if you haven’t made your own color wheel yet, you could print a copy off of the internet and try this out. I’d love to see what color schemes that you try. Please join us over on the forum in our discussion about color.

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10 Responses to First Quarter Challenge – Color Schemes Using a Color Wheel

  1. Leonor says:

    What a great way to try new colour combos, Ruth! I’m sure this will come in handy to many of us (myself included) 🙂

  2. Lyn says:

    Very inspiring and educational – I’m going to have a go!

  3. Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

    So many choices, so little time! The combinations are mind boggling. Thanks for sharing Ruth.

  4. zedster66 says:

    I’m not sure I have the right colours, I might have to buy some more 😉

  5. great explanation Ruth. I really should get on with making a wheel.

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