Do you know the color wheel? Did you ever wonder how to use color more effectively in you creations? Does your creation invoke in the viewer the response you intended? These are the questions I will answer in this weeks blog post.

1. The color wheel basics.

The color wheel can be separated into cool tones and warm tones. Your cool tones are the greens and blues. The warm tones are yellows, oranges and reds. Neutral colors are browns, tans, gray or black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Cool colors and their effect.

Cool colors have a calming effect on the viewer. If used alone, it can feel cold or impersonal. Try mixing in some colors of the neutral or warm color palette.

3. Warm colors and their effect.

Warm colors have an exciting effect. If used alone, it can overstimulate. Try mixing in some colors of the neutral or cool color palette.

4. Neutral colors and their effect.

Neutral colors are great for mixing with the warm or cool palettes and work good for backgrounds.

5. Colors and tint, tone and shade.

If you mix a color with white, it is called a tint. Mixed with a neutral color we call it a tone. And if you use a color and black it is a shade.

6. Using the color wheel in your creations.

It’s a good idea to print out a color wheel and have it in front of you when you plan your work. This makes choosing the colors much easier. Think about which reaction you want to invoke and go from there.

7. Use a limited color palette.

Using a lot of colors at the same time can have a negative effect on the photo or painting. The viewer will not know which element in your creation is your main subject. Keep it simple to create a stronger picture or painting.

8. Use colors in shades or highlights.

Rarely are highlights just tints (mixed with white) or shades (mixed with black). Mixing highlights with color and shades with color can create a more dynamic output.

9. Color temperature and how to use it.

The color temperature changes during the day. Thus the same image would look different during different times of the day. It would invoke a different response in the viewer. In the morning the light will have a reddish hue. Midday there is no noticeable color bias. In the evening the reddish hue returns.

10. Low and high color contrast.

Colors that are at adjacent areas of the color wheel create a calming effect. This is called low color contrast. If you have colors on opposite ends of the color wheel it adds drama. This is the high color contrast. If a picture or painting has a low color contrast, you will need to feature compositional elements to make it work successfully. The response to it will be rather through the composition that through the color itself. If using a high color contrast make sure the main subject has the color rather than it’s surrounding. In a high color contrast the emphasis is on the color rather than on the composition.

See the blog post about composition to learn more about it:  https://anikamcfarland.com/how-to-use-composition-in-art-and-photography-in-10-simple-steps/

Conclusion.

Color is a simple way to make your creation more successful. Here is the list once more:

  1. The color wheel basics.
  2. Cool colors and their effect.
  3. Warm colors and their effect.
  4. Neutral colors and their effect.
  5. Colors and tint, tone and shade.
  6. Using the color wheel in your creations.
  7. Use a limited color palette.
  8. Use colors in shades or highlights.
  9. Color temperature and how to use it.
  10. Low and high color contrast.

Don’t forget to practice. A good idea is also to study your favorite creative person and see how they used color.

Comment below with how you used the color wheel this week.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “How to use the color wheel in 10 simple steps”

  1. Great primer! You don’t specify in #9 how to use color temperature; do you mean it is used to suggest the time of day for a piece?

    I’m a total amateur remembering what I learned in high school commercial art, but yesterday I gave feedback to someone working on branding her business. Her palette (all cools and neutrals) didn’t communicate the whole massage she wanted. She agreed and added a warm accent. Color wheel ftw!

    1. Dorothy, thank you for your comment. Yes. The color temperature can suggest the time of day for a piece and if you are doing photography vs art then taking a picture at different times of day gives a different impression on the picture.

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