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How to Basics of Color Theory

Unleashing the Magic of Color Theory with Colored Pencils

The world of art is a symphony of colors, and mastering color theory is the key to unlocking its harmonious melodies. Among various art mediums, colored pencils stand out as a versatile and accessible tool for artists of all levels. In this blog, we dive into the colorful realm of color theory and explore how to apply its principles to level up your colored pencil creations to reach new heights.

Understanding the Basics of Color Theory

Color theory is the art and science of combining colors in a way that creates visual harmony and can evoke emotions. At its core, color theory revolves around the color wheel, a circle featuring primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

Primary Colors: These are the foundation of the color wheel and cannot be created by mixing other colors. They consist of red, blue, and yellow.

Secondary Colors: These are formed by mixing two primary colors. Orange (red + yellow), green (yellow + blue), and violet (blue + red) are the secondary colors.

Tertiary Colors: These are achieved by mixing a primary color with a neighboring secondary color. Examples include red-orange, blue-green, and yellow-violet.

Mastering the Color Wheel: A Guide to Harmonious Artistic Creations

The color wheel is a fundamental tool that artists use to create visually appealing and harmonious artwork. Understanding how to use the color wheel effectively opens up a world of creative possibilities. Let’s explore the basics of the color wheel and provide practical tips on how to apply it to enhance your artistic creations. Sometimes this tool can be viewed as a mysterious and a scary undertaking to understand- but it doesn’t have to be scary at all! So let’s talk about it!

1. Understanding the Color Wheel:

The color wheel is a circular representation of the colors found in the visible spectrum. It consists of three primary colors - red, blue, and yellow - evenly spaced around the wheel. Between the primary colors lie secondary colors - orange, green, and purple - formed by mixing two primary colors. Tertiary colors are found between the primary and secondary colors and are created by mixing a primary color with a neighboring secondary color.

2. Complementary Colors:

One of the most important aspects of the color wheel is understanding complementary colors. Complementary colors are those that are located opposite each other on the color wheel. For instance, red is complementary to green, blue to orange, and yellow to purple. When placed side by side, complementary colors create contrast and make each other appear more vibrant. Using complementary colors strategically can bring a dynamic energy and interest to your artwork.

3. Analogous Colors:

Analogous colors are groups of colors that are located next to each other on the color wheel. For example, blue, blue-green, and green form an analogous color scheme. Analogous colors create a sense of harmony and are often used to evoke a specific mood or feeling in artwork. When working with analogous colors, consider varying the value and intensity of each color to add depth and visual interest.

4. Triadic Colors:

A triadic color scheme involves using three colors that are equally spaced around the color wheel, forming an equilateral triangle. Triadic color schemes are dynamic and can create a sense of vibrancy and balance in your artwork. When working with triadic colors, you can choose one dominant color and use the other two as accents to avoid overwhelming your viewer.

5. Split-Complementary Colors:

A split-complementary color scheme is a variation of the complementary scheme. Instead of using just one complementary color, you use the two colors adjacent to its complement. For example, if you choose blue as your main color, you would use yellow-orange and red-orange as the complementary colors. This scheme offers a balanced contrast while still providing a sense of harmony.

The color wheel is a powerful tool that unlocks the secrets of color relationships, enabling artists to create harmonious and visually stunning artwork. By understanding complementary, analogous, triadic, and split-complementary color schemes, you can infuse your creations with depth, emotion, and impact. Experiment with different color combinations, and let the color wheel be your guide as you draw /paint the canvas of your imagination.

Applying Color Theory to Colored Pencils

Now that we have a grasp of the basics of color schemes (complimentary , Triassic, analogous) let's explore how color theory can be applied to enhance your colored pencil art.

Value and Intensity:

Beyond the choice of colors, understanding value and intensity is essential in colored pencil art. Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color, while intensity relates to the brightness or dullness.

Experiment with different values and intensities to add depth and dimension to your artwork. Layering colored pencils with varying pressure and blending techniques can create stunning visual effects.

Using different techniques with varying colors can also add texture and interesting bit’s throughout- by layering complimentary colors you can create shadows within your piece. For example- instead of using black on a yellow lemon, you can use purple to “brown” up a dark area. Using black could cause it to become muddy and unworkable.

Color theory is a guide, but creativity knows no bounds. As you progress into the world of colored pencils, remember to embrace your artistic intuition and take risks.

A few common terms you may hear are:

Tint- any hue+ white

Tone- any hue + grey

Shade- any hue + black

1. Color Mood and Emotion:

Colors evoke emotions and set the mood of your artwork. Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow exude energy and passion, while cool colors like blue, green, and violet create a calming and tranquil ambiance. Be mindful of the emotions you want to convey and choose colors that resonate with your message.

2. Create Your Color Palette:

Don't be afraid to experiment with different color palettes. Mix and match colors to create unique combinations that express your artistic voice. Allow your intuition to guide you in selecting colors that tell the story you want to share. Using a separate sheet of paper you should explore the mixing of colors. Sometimes the color that you see on the pencil or in the core isn’t what comes out on the paper- this is where color swatching comes in handy- so you know how your pencil will look and feel how the cores behave- which varies in each set and across each pencil itself.

Chromatics: A Symphony of Colors

Chromatics in art refers to the study and application of color theory, focusing on the use and manipulation of colors to create visually striking and harmonious compositions. Artists who embrace chromatics understand the interplay between colors, their relationships, and the emotional responses they evoke. It is through chromatics that the colors truly comes alive, transforming a simple canvas into a vibrant symphony of hues that captivate the viewer's senses.

How to Create a Chromatic Piece

To create a chromatic piece, an artist must first select a dominant color that will serve as the foundation for the artwork. This color sets the tone and mood of the piece. Next, a complementary or analogous color scheme can be chosen to enhance the visual impact and create a sense of balance. By understanding how colors interact and influence one another, an artist can strategically place colors to guide the viewer's eye and create a captivating visual journey.

As an artist ventures deeper into chromatics, experimenting with the intensity and value of colors becomes essential. Layering colors, blending, and using different techniques with various art mediums, such as acrylics or watercolors, can bring a chromatic piece to life. The use of contrast, saturation, and the subtle incorporation of neutrals can add depth and dimension, infusing the artwork with a sense of realism and emotional depth. With patience and a keen eye for color relationships, a masterpiece in chromatics can emerge, capturing the essence of the artist's creative vision.

Embracing chromatics in art is an adventure for artists who seek to harness the full spectrum of color potential. It is a journey of exploration, where artists can push the boundaries of their creativity and evoke emotions through the captivating language of colors. From radiant rainbows to monochromatic marvels, chromatics offers endless possibilities, inviting artists to draw/paint their artistic visions in hues that speak to the soul. As the artist's brush dances across the canvas, they orchestrate a symphony of colors, breathing life into their creation and leaving a lasting impression on all who view its chromatic brilliance.


Color theory is a powerful tool that empowers artists to infuse their artwork with emotion, harmony, and visual impact. As you journey through the world of colored pencils, embrace the magic of color theory and let your creativity soar. With every stroke, you'll create a canvas of brilliance that speaks to the heart and soul of your audience, but also note that you don’t have to be an expert in color theory to create beautiful work- sometimes intuition takes hold of our soul and guides us without being versed in expertise. Stay loose and stay free within your work to make it reflect who you are and how you feel- each piece is a part of you. Being rigid in art is never fun and often brings our inner creative a big dish of boredom! Information is just a key to a door when we get stuck- to help us open up to a new world of possibilities that our inner psyche sometimes doesn’t consider- so don’t be too serious, Happy Creating!

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