Color Wheel Chart: What is it and How to Use it?

A color wheel is a noticeable spectrum of colors enfolded inside a circle and is of great use when explaining the subsequent effect of mixing different colors. Although you might have seen the color wheel chart, there’s a high likelihood you don’t know how it’s interpreted. If so, worry no more as this detailed article is an overview of the color wheel chart.

Having a better understanding of the color wheel chart is that it helps you better grasp the theory surrounding the color wheel. Only after you understand the relaxation between the different colors will you not be misguided when mixing colors. Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about the color wheel chart.

What Is A Color Wheel Chart?

A color wheel is a visual illustration of colors, whereby the different hues are arranged according to their wavelength. Using it, you get a geometric relationship between the different colors, and it does this by explaining to you how specific colors are connected. Knowing this will help you know the ones that might be a perfect fit together and those that won’t. With that said, there’s a need to be a lot more cautious when using the color wheel, especially when mixing primary colors as you’re designing and decorating.

Using the color wheel chart, you’ll be in a position to determine which hues blend in well together. This is made easy using the color wheel as it comes divided into 12 basic hues, and these are;

  • Three primary colors
  • Three secondary colors
  • Six tertiary colors

After understanding how to use this color wheel and its many color combinations, you’ll know which color to consider trying out.

How to Use Color Wheel Chart?

The first thing you should do before using the color wheel chart is understanding the color theory. This means going through the different hues, and here’s an overview of the different hues of colors that should be mastered before going any further.

Primary Colors

Primary colors refer to colors that can’t be created by mixing different colors. The three primary colors are blue, red, and yellow. You should essentially consider these colors as the parent colors when coming up with a design for a general color scheme. By mixing any combination of these primary colors, you’ll get a guardrail that allows you to go ahead and explore different tints, tones and shades.

Secondary Colors

These refer to the colors that are created after mixing at least two different primary colors. Such an action results in three secondary colors and these are green, orange, and purple. To create these colors, you’ll need to observe the general rule of formulating these colors, which are;

  • Yellow + Blue = Green
  • Blue + Red = Purple
  • Red + Yellow = Orange

However, the aforementioned secondary colors are only created if you use primary colors in their purest form, referred to as color’s hue.

Tertiary Colors

These colors are created by mixing primary and secondary colors and are usually a lot more complex. However, you must understand that not every color matches the secondary color to make a tertiary color. This is far from the case as some colors such as blue and orange or red or green can’t mix in harmony as the succeeding color would be slightly brown.

When mixing a primary and secondary color, you should only do so if the colors are next to each other on the color wheel. Here are the colors you should seek to mix to get the six tertiary colors;

  • Blue + Green = Teal
  • Blue + Purple = Violet
  • Red + Orange = Vermillion
  • Red + Purple = Magenta
  • Yellow + Green = Chartreuse
  • Yellow + Orange = Amber

Understanding Color Theory and Finding Complementary Colors

Now that you have a clear idea of the main colors, the next thing is understanding color theory and how to choose complementary colors. Knowing this is vital, more so on your computer, which contains a wider range of colors and not just these 12 primary colors. But before doing this, it’s essential you first understand the important color theory terms, including;

  • Hue: This refers to the color’s dominant wavelength from the existing 12 colors on the color wheel chart. All primary and secondary colors are hues. You must always consider hues when mixing two primary colors to form a secondary color; otherwise, you won’t get the secondary color’s hue.

    This will be the case as a hue contains the least amount of other colors inside it. Therefore, if you proceed to combine two primary colors with other shades, tomes, and tints, you’ll be adding more than two colors into this mixture.
  • Tone: This refers to a color that isn’t a pure hue and is at the same time not white or black. It’s a term that sparks a lot of confusion among most artists, even though it’s used so often. But when talking about tones, artists usually elaborate a color that’s been de-saturated or grayed down.
  • Saturation: This is a gauge of a specific color’s purity. You can add the color gray or a color found in the color wheel’s opposite direction to lower certain color saturation. This term is usually used when referring to colors that are created for digital use.
  • Shade: This refers to the subsequent color arrived at once you mix black to a specific hue. Therefore, shade means how much of the color black is in a particular color.
  • Tint: This is the opposite of shade and refers to what’s arrived at after adding white to a certain hue. Therefore, it’s different from shade despite many people often using these terms interchangeably as a given color can have a wide range of tints and shades.

After understanding these commonly used terms, you need to know some of the color combinations to understand color theory better.


This color combination entails the use of colors that are found adjacent to each other on the color wheel chart. For optimal effectiveness, it’s best to use a dominant color, a secondary color, plus a third accent color.


These are colors positioned in opposite directions on the color wheel chart. After combining these colors, a vibrant and contrasting vibrant effect is realized. It usually entails using a dominant color and another color to be the accent. Nonetheless, it shouldn’t be overdone, or else the paint becomes uncomfortable and jarring to your eye.


This is arrived at by using three colors that are uniformly spaced on the color wheel chart. It would be best if you aimed for optimal balance when mixing these colors to avoid overwhelming the viewer. For this color combination, you should use a dominant color and two other colors that are accents. The subsequent scheme ends up being vibrant even during low saturation.


It’s a variant of the complementary color scheme and balancing it is much simpler than the complimentary color scheme. Therefore, it’s a great starting point if you’re starting as an artist. The split-complimentary is arrived at by using a dominant base color and two complementary adjacent colors.

Color Wheel Charts

Final Thoughts

Before mixing any two given colors, you must understand color theory which is quite exciting. This will involve using a color wheel chart, and highlighted above is everything you need to know about this visual representation. Knowing this, you’re better placed to understand the primary guidelines and rules to observe when mixing different colors.

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