Introducing the Colour Wheel

Here we’ll cover the basic concepts of the Colour Wheel, and show how they work behind the scenes whilst you’re enjoying you’re favourite colouring hobby. Even if you’re already familiar with some of these ideas, we hope you’ll find this to be a useful refresher. It’s always best to start at the beginning we think!

The first job the Colour Wheel does is to show you how colours are arranged along the spectrum (Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and so on) and then identify them as Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Meaning it tells you the basic Primary colours and the effect of mixing them together to create the Secondary colours. And then the effect of mixing those Secondary colours to make the Tertiary colours.

Colour Schemes

The Colour Wheel also helps you make sense of which colours ‘go together’ and is what’s behind any harmonious colour scheme. Below we’ll look at the relationships between the different colours, and some of the visual effects you’ll get when using them together on the same page.

One simple way to create a harmonious scheme, is to choose colours that are adjacent on the colour wheel. Meaning you might use Yellow and Orange. Or Green and Blue. This is known as an Analogous Colour Scheme. Because your colours are closely related by Hue, they naturally sit next to each other without fighting too hard. You can create additional contrast here by introducing some different Shades, Tints and Tones.

Alternatively, you might go for a Complementary Colour Scheme. This involves picking colours on directly opposite sides of the Colour Wheel. These colours will directly contrast against one another, to create a strong compelling theme.

A Split Complementary Colour Scheme is when you go for the colour directly above and below the complementary colour on the wheel. This creates a really strong, impactful combination. Not for the faint hearted!

Or if you want something colourful and fun, but a little more balanced, you might try a Triadic Colour Scheme. This picks colours at regular intervals around the Colour Wheel, for a combination that is interesting and varied.

Colour Meanings

It’s also worth considering some of the ‘hidden meanings’ behind the individual colours you choose. This is something companies and advertisers spend a lot of time understanding when designing their products and packaging, as colour can have such a strong influence on our feelings and mood.


The primary colour Red is known to create strong emotions of passion, intensity, excitement and energy. It is often used to grab attention.


Next on the colour wheel, Yellow evokes cheerfulness, warmth, joy, positivity and even enhances your concentration.


Green is a peaceful colour, and is associated with nature, harmony, freshness and growth.


Finally the colour blue promotes relaxation, stability, tranquility and is even known to causes the body to release calming chemicals.

These certainly aren’t the only examples, all sorts of different associations are to be found all around the colour wheel. People have written whole books on the psychology of colour in fact. But familiarising yourself with these ideas will help when picking your scheme. It’s always worth taking a moment to think about the overall mood you’re trying to create, in terms of the types of colours you go for, and of course how they will combine. Choose wisely!