A color wheel is a wonderful tool to help make color choices because it allows you to see the relationship between colors, and to mix and match them at a glance. It is methodically arranged and comprises three color categories:
- Primary — Red, yellow and blue. These basic components are to color what prime numbers are to mathematics. They are used to create all other colors.
- Secondary — Orange, green and violet. Each of these is a combination of two primary colors.
- Tertiary — Red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green, yellow-orange, blue-green and blue-violet. These are made by combining a primary and an adjacent secondary color.
A variety of color schemes can be created with a color wheel. Depending on the desired outcome, colors can be grouped to create related, contrasting or discordant schemes.
- Monochromatic — Use of one color with varying intensities. A tint of a color is made by adding white. Adding black makes a shade. This color scheme produces a very contemporary look.
- Analogous — Use of adjacent hues, such as red, red-orange and red-violet. Designers often build color schemes around two or three related colors.
- Complementary — Combining two opposite colors, such as red and green, to create a scheme that seems brighter and more intense. Complementary colors have drastically different wavelengths and can cause optical distortions if they are placed close to each other in a work of art.
- Split complementary — A combination of three colors: any hue and the two colors adjacent to its complement, such as red, yellow-green and blue-green
- Triadic — A combination of three colors evenly spaced apart on the wheel, such as red, yellow, and blue
- Double complement — Use of two pairs of complements, such as yellow and violet, and blue and orange
- Alternate complement — Use of four colors: a triad and a complement to one of the trio, such as red, yellow, blue and violet
- Tetrad — Use of four colors evenly spaced on the color wheel: a primary, a secondary and two tertiary colors, such as red, green, yellow-orange and blue-violet