Basic Color Theory: Part 1

What’s the big deal about color theory? Thank God, somebody finally asked me. I’ll tell you.

Color Wheel


That right there is a color wheel.  It shows your Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary colors.  When I picture a color wheel, my reds are to the left and blues to the right, but as long as they are in the right order, you’re golden.

The order?


That’s red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.  Why are they in this order? Well, you could really start anywhere, say with yellow and  it would be: YGBIVRO, but that’s not as easy to remember.

Why these colors?  There’s actually a reason. Let’s start with the primary colors:


Red, Yellow, Blue

They are the primary colors because they are first. Nothing can make these colors. These colors can make everything. I’m not even kidding. Okay, they can’t make white, but everything else. Boom. These are your A-Team.  The only team.


Orange, Green, Violet

Secondary. If you pick any 2 of the primary colors and mix them in completely equal parts, you will get one of these colors. Super easy. Orange: red and yellow. Green: blue and yellow. Violet: red and blue.

What about Indigo?

Ya know what? F*** indigo. No, just kidding. I’m not even sure why they kept it with the pigment colors, except it was just easier to leave it. I’d actually research this for an answer, but if you ask any questions about ROY G BIV on the internet people get real dumb. They try to act like they are super smart and anyone who uses ROY G BIV is an idiot, but they are usually answering the wrong questions. They answer questions they wished you’d asked so they look smart. They also don’t truly understand the topic at hand because they are just parroting what they read elsewhere. No one mixing paints cares about their answers. Don’t ask the internet about ROY G BIV. Trust me. Ya’ll need to stop asking Reddit about those ROY G  BIV.


So, tertiary:

Yellow-Green, Blue-Green, Yellow-

Orange, Red-Orange, Blue-Violet, Red-Violet

These colors are made up from mixing one primary and one secondary so you have more of one primary than the other.  If you want blue-green, you’d use 2 parts blue to one part yellow. Bam! Blue-green.

You just keep going from there. If you want a blue-blue-green, you’d add 3 parts blue to 1 yellow. But that’s not a tertiary color any more. It’s quaternary, but no one likes saying that word so it’s just blue-blue-green. Mmmmkay?

Where’s Purple?

There is no purple. Look at me. Violet is your purple now.

I’ll let that sink in before I really blow your mind.
Want more? I’ll have part 2 next week or check out the books below. Buying from this link supports my site.

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About Elisha

Elisha Dasenbrock is an award winning, international watercolor artist. She paints with a limited palette on claybord. Dasenbrock graduated from the American Academy of Art in 2009 and has been painting professionally ever since.