Colour Theory

Colour Theory Feature Picture

When asked about colours, most people are able to list off the 7 basic colours of the rainbow with ease.  However, there is a lot more to colours than you would think.  Through colour theory, we are able to understand the mixing of colours and visual effects that each emulate.  In this blog post, we will be discussing the basics of colour theory in regards to the types of colours, the colour wheel, as well as the emotions that are associated with the colours.  This will enable all of you designers to understand colours better and how to utilize them properly in your future designs.

Colour Categories

Primary Colours

Starting off with the basics – primary colours.  The primary colours are three different colours that cannot be made through the combination of other colours.  The primary colours consist of red, blue, and yellow.

Secondary Colours

The secondary colours, green, orange, and violet come next.  These are the combinations of coupled mixtures of primary colours.  Here are the various mixes that compose the secondary colours:

Blue + Yellow = GREEN

Yellow + Red = ORANGE

Red + Blue = VIOLET

Tertiary Colours

Lastly are the six (6) tertiary colours including yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, and yellow-green.  These are colours are mixes of primary and the nearest secondary colour on the colour wheel.

* When you are naming the colours, notice that they are called by the primary colour first then the secondary.  For example, red-orange rather than orange-red.

The six (6) tertiary colours are created by using the following combinations:

Yellow + Orange = YELLOW ORANGE

Red + Orange = RED ORANGE

Red + Violet = RED VIOLET

Blue + Violet = BLUE VIOLET

Blue + Green = BLUE GREEN

Yellow + Green = YELLOW GREEN

The Colour Wheel

Now that you understand the colour categories, it is time to put them to use and get a visual understanding by examining the colour wheel.

The colour wheel is a circle comprised of colour hues providing a visual representation of the relationship between primary, secondary, and tertiary colours (which you now can differentiate).  An understanding of what colours complement each other can be made simply by using this diagram.  There are various types of combinations that we will touch on including complimentary colours, analogous colours, triad colours, and monochrome colours.

Here we have made a colour wheel that should make understanding colour theory that much easier.  You can use this colour wheel for remembering the colour categories as well as the comprehension of colour schemes which we will explain now.


Complementary Colours

Firstly, complementary colours are colours that fall directly across from one another on the colour wheel making them opposite colours.  For example, red and green are complementary colours just like how yellow and violet are as well.  Pairs of complementary colours always include one cool tone and one warm tone which help make each other stand out more by creating a contrast.  By having two bright colours with great contrast next to one another, a natural illusion occurs in which they appear brighter. These colour pairings are thought to complete one another making them good combinations.

Split Complementary

You can also have split complementary colours which are determined by drawing a straight line down the colour wheel but rather than going to the direct opposite, you branch off to the next two colours.  An example of a split complementary could be green with red-violet and red-orange.  These colours created a split-complementary colour scheme with a subtler complement.

Analogous Colours

Analogous colour schemes are very popular and involve using the colours that fall next to each other on the colour wheel.  These colour schemes are often found in nature and hold a sense of harmony with the flow of the colours.  An example of an analogous colour scheme would be red-orange, orange, and orange-yellow.  To achieve this colour scheme, choose a colour and then the colours next to it.

Triad Colours

Triad colour schemes are found easily by looking at a colour wheel and drawing an equilateral triangle with its points in three different colours.  These colours work to complement one another well and tend to be quite vibrant. An example of a triad colour scheme would be red-violet, yellow, and blue-green.  To use these colours successfully, it is important to balance them by having one colour dominate and the others used as accents.

Monochrome Colours

Monochrome colour schemes will be the last one we discuss here.   These are achieved by taking a colour and adding black or white to it to create variants of colour.  These varying shades will appear either darker or lighter than the original colour depending on what shade is added nevertheless, the consistent base colour keeps the colours similar and ensure they match.  These colour schemes can be used when creating gradients or to create a constant theme.

Thank you for learning about colour theory basics with us! We hope you understand the categories and colour schemes better now.  If you want to learn more, head over to our YouTube channel as we made a video summarizing all of this.  Our next blog post and video will be covering the emotions associated with colours which can aid in establishing the feelings behind a business.  See you next time!

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