top of page

How the colour wheel can help with mixing colours using coloured pencils.

If you haven’t made a colour wheel with coloured pencils, it is a great exercise to fill a basic one in for colour mixing practice and to keep for future reference.

The colour wheel is a man-made design to lay the colours of the light spectrum out in an order and shows their relationship to each other.

Colour wheel filled in with 3 primary Polychromos coloured pencils
Colour wheel using 3 primaries

Primary Colours and their Complements

Choose three primary colours from your coloured pencil set and fill them in on the wheel and then mix the secondaries, these become the complementary colours to the three primary colours.

As the coloured pencil primaries of red and blue in coloured pencils aren’t pure pigment and contain other pigments, Ultramarine contains a bit of red, and Pale Geranium Lake contains some yellow, you may find, the violet in particular, might have a greyish tinge but don’t worry as the exercise is in the mixing and layering.

The complement to a primary colour will be a secondary colour and vice versa, for example red and green, green and red.

Then fill in the tertiary colours that lie between the primary and the secondary colours. For example, with the yellow-green lay the yellow down first, with light to medium pressure, so that the main influence is the yellow, then the blue and the same with the yellow-orange, lay down the yellow first, then the red and continue in the same vein around the wheel.

The complement to yellow-green will be red-violet, and so forth. The complement to a tertiary colour will always be another tertiary colour. The colour wheel also shows us the colours that tend to be cooler, the blues and greens and the colours that are on the warmer side are the reds, yellows and oranges. This is very helpful when designing a colour scheme for an artwork.

Colour Terms to Remember

Primary colours: Red, Yellow and Blue Secondary colours: Green, Orange and Violet Tertiary colours: Yellow-Green, Blue-Green, Blue-Violet, Red-Violet, Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange

Hue: The colour of a subject like the yellow of a lemon Chroma: The intensity of a colour, how bright or muted it is Value: How light or dark a colour is

Colour Wheel Template

Blank colour wheel template
Colour wheel template

I will attach the colour wheel template for you to download and fill in. If possible use a lightweight drawing paper for the best results if your printer will manage a slightly heavier paper. You can print two colour wheels to a page and experiment using different primary colours.

Colour wheel template
Download PDF • 39KB

Video on the Colour Wheel

Below is a short video demonstrating some of the colour mixes and how using the complementary colours can help to tone down a brighter colour.

The colours used on this colour wheel are Polychromos: Cadmium Yellow, Ultramarine and Pale Geranium Lake.

Happy drawing!



Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
Search By Tags
bottom of page