02. The Color Wheel


Now that you all have your materials, we can get started on getting familiar, or reacquainted, with some basic color principles. Through this assignment you’ll learn:

  1. The meaning and differences between primary, secondary, and tertiary (also known as intermediary) colors.
  2. How to use the colors you have purchased to mix colors to create the results you expect.
  3. Become familiar with your paint set and determine which colors are most difficult to mix.


Please review carefully the Color Theory Fundamentals: The Color Wheel resource page. A great deal of information is contained on that page, so we will be revisiting it for the next few assignments and the terminology listed on it will be included in our midterm. For this first module, please pay particularly close attention to the color wheel section to complete this assignment.

Primary colors are the foundation of the color wheel we be using throughout this class. These are the colors that cannot be made by mixing. (An analogy would be prime numbers in a mathematical field.)

Secondary colors are colors made by mixing two primary colors. Red and blue will give you violet, blue and yellow will create green, and yellow and red will result in orange.

Tertiary colors are made by mixing a primary, e.g. red, with an adjacent secondary color, e.g. orange or violet. It is very important that the secondary color is adjacent to the primary and you do not use another secondary across the color wheel. We will explore why that is during our complimentary color assignment.

  1. In your journal, please sketch out the largest color wheel your paper will allow.
  2. Your color wheel should include primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. Here is an example of what your wheel should look like if successful:
  3. Start with your primary colors – red, yellow, and blue – and try to make your secondary and tertiary colors from that limited palette. If you have a hard time making colors, especially purple, please don’t despair. Most of the store bought pigments we have local access to are quite impure, so it can be hard to get the planned results your are trying to achieve. Also, be prepared to use your titanium white to lighten up your blues, greens, and violets if they get too dark.
  4. Next, on your 18″ x 24″ paper, please create an artistic interpretation of the color wheel. Your design should have the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors included but should be reinterpreted in a a creative way that does not use the wheel form. The edges of your paper should be taped off so you have clean 1″ borders and your design should take up as much of the picture plan as possible.Here are some student examples for inspiration:

  5. Please post a photo your results in the comments section of our corresponding post located on the homepage, along with your thoughts on how the exercise went. (What went well? What did you struggle with? If you couldn’t mix a color and had to use one straight out of the tube, why do you think that was? Etc.)


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