Aren't color wheels for elementary kids?
The answer is simply, no!
Every artist and creative hobbyist should have a color wheel in their tool box.
How else will you make good color decisions? Choose pleasing palettes? and Understand how to mix colors?
Here are the three reasons you should have a color wheel...
1. You will understand how to mix colors and what you will get.
Color mixing does not have to be a mystery reserved for MFA graduates.
Your color wheel is made up of the three Primary colors: Yellow, Red and Blue
Orange, Violet and Green are known as Secondary colors.
Mix more yellow into blue you get Yellow-Green, Mix more Blue into Green you get Blue-Green.
See where I am going with this? These are called Tertiary colors.
Add white to a color you make it lighter and it is called a Tint.
Add Black to a color and it makes it darker and it is called a Shade.
Colors across from each other on the color wheel are called Complementary Colors. These are wonderful combinations as they create lots of contrast when placed next to each other in an artwork. When mixed together you can use them to create brown OR this is where complementary colors are really useful, you can use a colors complement to make it darker, instead of black! Black tends to dull colors, adding very small amounts of a colors complement will darken it and make it richer. For example add a tiny bit of green to your alizarin crimson and it creates a beautiful brick red.
Colors next to each other on the color wheel are called Analogous. Usually this refers to 3-4 colors next to each other such as red, red/orange, orange, yellow/orange.
Why not just buy the color in the tube and use that? This leads to our next reason you should have a color wheel...
2. Knowing how to mix colors creates a more harmonious and pleasing color palette.
You do not have to buy every color the paint companies make. Buy a split complementary color palette. What?!
All this means is 2 yellows, 2 blues, 2 reds, magenta and white. The key is to get a cool and a warm color of each. What does cool and warm mean? Colors tend to lean towards warm - reds, or cool -blues. From this set of colors you can mix every color you will need. By all means choose a color or two like aqua or portrait pink, if there is a color you love and use all the time that can't be mixed too well with the basics. But for your oranges, greens and violets you will only need those split primary colors. Here's what I use for acrylics: Liquitex Brand Basics or Heavy Body: Quinacridone Magenta, Titanium White, Naphthol Red, Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Light Yellow, Cadmium Medium Yellow (or deep yellow), Ultramarine Blue(green shade), Phthalo Blue(red shade). I also have a black, aqua and medium magenta in my line up too.
Using a color straight out of the tube creates a painting that looks off. When you mix your own colors you automatically create more natural color harmony in your work and it will be much more pleasing to the eye. You can use colors from the tube but add a bit of one of your basic colors to it. If you use a tube of green add some cadmium yellow to it and that will also help harmonize your palette.
3. Having a color wheel will help you make good color choices.
Having that color wheel in front of you takes away the guesswork of how to mix and what to choose. It's a tool. Our work improves when we have and use the correct tools. You can look at your color wheel to help you mix colors, choose a pleasing palette and know how to lighten and darken colors. Add this indispensable tool to your toolbox and help take the mystery out of color!