Primary Colours and the Colour Wheel

What Are the Primary Colours?

Primary colours are colours that cannot be created by mixing other colours. Historically, we were taught that the primary colours were red, yellow and blue which is popularly used by artists when mixing pigments (also known as the subtractive colour model). When mixing RYB, all colours should yield to black.

However, scientifically the primary colours are said to be red, green and blue (RGB), also known as the additive colour model. This is how the human eye perceives light and when mixed together, all colours should yield to white (light), as shown in the diagram below I created.


How the human eye sees this colour is described in the below video:


Colour Harmonies


A colour scheme which uses variations of saturation / lightness of a single colour meaning they will always go well together and if often used to establish the over mood and atmosphere of the scene.  As it a single colour, it is often difficult to highlight important elements and provide contrast.


This colour scheme use colours which are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel.  Often using one dominant colour, whilst the other hues are used as contrast to help a scene appear richer.

Analogous color schemes are most often seen in nature. For example, in Autumn the leaves form an analogous sort of color scheme, turning from shades of green to shades of orange and red.


Color Wheel with triadic color scheme

Is the use of three colours equally spaced around the colour wheel.  This scheme offers a strong visual contrast whilst remaining harmonious, therefore tend to be very vibrant.

This particular method can be used to create an almost surreal appearance, for example, it is famously used as the colour scheme for Superman (Red, Blue and Yellow).


A complimentary colour scheme is made up of two colours which appear opposite each other on the colour wheel. As a result, this method offers the maximum contrast to a scene and is extremely useful when you want to add emphasis / importance to an object.

It is advised that when using a complimentary colour scheme, it is important to select a dominant colour and use its complimentary colour sparingly for accents.





One thought on “Primary Colours and the Colour Wheel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s