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Color Schemes: Color Wheel Basics

Color makes a huge impact at any party or event. Why else would we deck the halls in red and green, go over the hill with black, and force our bridesmaids to coordinate their outfits. Obviously we intuitively know some colors just work for events. However there is a basis for picking out a good color scheme. That basis is the color wheel.

In this three part series I am going to show you the basic usage of a color wheel and how it works to pick out color schemes.

Primaries From Primary

Probably somewhere in elementary school you learned to mix your Play-doh®; blue and yellow make green, while, adding in red makes a greyish mess. But what does it all mean? (note if your into color theory or printing I’m not going into that type of depth here)

There are three primary colors you can use to mix and make every other color in the world! Red, Blue, & Yellow

For illustrations sake we are going to place these equally spaced on the color wheel.


‘Second’ary Isn’t a Bad Place to Be

Next we will fill in the secondary colors. Secondary colors are what we get when we mix two primary colors together. So back to our grade school Play-doh®:

red + blue = purple

blue + yellow = green

yellow + red = orange


Complementary Colors and Real Life

Now that we have our very basic color wheel filled in it is time to look at one of the most basic color schemes. Complementary colors are based on being exactly across from each other on the color wheel. In our very pared down version you can see we have three sets of complementary pairs; red & green, yellow & purple, and blue & orange.

While these are some of the most basic color schemes available, you may recognize two of them. Red & green are synonymous with Christmas while traditional yellow and purple remind us of Easter.

Tune in Thursday to take a more in depth look at picking three and four color schemes from the color wheel in Part II of this series.

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