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Color Theory Basics: The Color Wheel

By: DecoArt
July 11, 2017

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Color Theory Basics: The Color Wheel
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The basic color wheel is a collection of 12 colors which include: three primary, three secondary, and six tertiary colors.

In design, selecting color schemes for your project can sometimes be challenging. Learning the basics of the color wheel and how colors relate to one another will help you create color schemes that both make sense and are pleasing to the eye.



PRIMARY COLORS: Red, Yellow, and Blue
These three primary colors are the foundation of the color wheel. Their true color pigments cannot be created by mixing any other combination of colors. All other colors in the color wheel are derived from these three color hues.

SECONDARY COLORS: Violet, Orange, and Green
These secondary color hues are created by mixing equal parts of two primary colors together.
Red + Blue = Violet
Red + Yellow = Orange
Blue + Yellow = Green


TERTIARY COLORS: Blue-Violet, Red-Violet, Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green, and Blue-Green
In total, there are six tertiary colors. These tertiary color hues are created by mixing equal parts of a primary and secondary color together.
Blue (primary) + Violet (secondary) = Blue-Violet
Red (primary) + Violet (secondary) = Red-Violet
Red (primary) + Orange (secondary) = Red-Orange
Yellow (primary) + Orange (secondary) = Yellow-Orange
Yellow (primary) + Green (secondary) = Yellow-Green
Blue (primary) + Green (secondary) = Blue-Green

Color theory

Complementary colors are those that enhance each other. They are opposite colors and are located directly across from one another on the color wheel. The color wheel consists of six basic sets of complementary colors. The graphic above depicts four examples of complementary colors. Using these color combinations give your projects high contrast. When mixing complementary colors, you achieve a muddy, brownish-grey color. 

An analogous color scheme includes three neighboring colors. They are next to one another on the color wheel and share one dominant color (the color in the middle). These color schemes achieve a harmonious look and feel.

Now that you know the basics of the color wheel, apply your knowledge (and maybe learn a little more) by completing this painted color wheel using Americana Premium Acrylics.

Color wheel
This colorful piece will be a lovely point of reference in your craft room or home studio. BONUS: the template needed to complete is free to download!


I love the DecoArt color wheel!!! I've been stuck choosing the Munsell wheel (with its limited hues) or a RGB/CMY split primry wheel (which can't be put together in a sensaible way). DecoArt nailed it with the Americana premium color wheel as each of the 12 colors is dead on and has enough pure hues to make constant quaternary colors not having to guess if you got each succession of color right. Most other paints I've used missed along the spectrum leaving me mixing and matching brands.

Gino Fernandez

June 11, 2019

Quisiera saber si tienen oleos, trementina sin olor y aceite de linaza estoy ubicada en Colombia, me podrías dar una guía y como se piden en línea y que costos . Muchas gracias.


June 14, 2019

Hola - Desafortunadamente, no llevamos esos productos. Tenemos un distribuidor en Colombia aunque: INDUSTRIAS PICCOLO SAS CARRERA 17 # 63-84 BOGOTA, CO +575713475521


June 17, 2019

This is great! Is it available for download or purchase?

Jennifer L Walling

August 27, 2019

Hi Jennifer - We don't have a download and you don't have to purchase it, but we do have an easy print feature at the top of the article that would allow you to print or save as a PDF for later reference.


August 28, 2019

I love your colors. Would you classify Deco Art acrylic paints at least medium grade? Thank you


October 8, 2019

Hi Eveline - The grade of DecoArt paints depends on what paint line you are referring to; for instance, our DecoArt Media Fluid Acrylics and DecoArt Traditions Artist Acrylics are artist-grade, our Americana Premium Acrylics are medium-grade, and Americana Acrylics are craft quality.


October 9, 2019

Nice explanation! Just one small correction... In the opening sentence you say: "The basic color wheel is a collection of 12 colors which include: three primary, three secondary, and three tertiary colors." Actually, there are six tertiary colors (3 +3 + 6 = 12).


October 18, 2019

I'd love to see the color wheel painted using Traditions colors to create the 12 color families.

Debbie Williams

October 21, 2019

I loved the project


March 30, 2020

I love the color wheel

Spencer Neale

March 30, 2020


Kiara Martinez

April 1, 2020

the color wheel is fantastic

giselle gonzalez

April 3, 2020

the color wheel is fantastic

giselle gonzalez

April 3, 2020

The color wheels are nice.

Lawrence kanneh

April 7, 2020

The color wheel is cool.


April 8, 2020

I love colors and with just some colors you cane make alot of clors

Peyton Busby

April 22, 2020

Nice Post. It explains very well. Thanks


May 14, 2020

i love it thanks for letting me see it


September 23, 2020

i love it thanks for letting me see it


September 23, 2020

Art is so cool


October 27, 2020

Omg i totally let my daughter use this for her art at school and thanks i would totally rate 5 stars god bless you but my daughter copied the colors so i could by em thanks god bless DecoArt.

Samina Mathis

November 10, 2020

what does the color wheel meens

luxolo dikela

November 24, 2020

Hi how do I make the weel


December 4, 2020

It's well explanatory. How can I apply it, in Event Decoration?

Orenusi tunde

February 8, 2021

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