Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Primary Color Triads

All colors can be mixed by simply using the three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow, as we know.  However there are a great variety of red, yellow and blue hues available to the artist and to gain an understanding of the diversity and range of those primary triads you really have to mix them. Mixing colors with a limited palette will not only give you great insight into color mixing but produce inherent color harmony.  Select three variations and experiment.

These color wheels are a triad of Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Ivory Black. I have really become fascinated with these three colors. They have become the core primary set on my palette, more often Ultramarine Blue instead of Ivory Black. I wanted to visually see this color wheel with black and the primary triad color harmony, in which..... I immediately saw Anders Zorn, Eugène Delacroix, Winslow Homer and Titian's palette. Amazing that after you familiarize yourself with the mixtures they often show up in master painters work.

A good painter needs only three colours: black, white and red. 

Draughtsmen may be made, but colourists are born.
                                                                                                          - Eugene Delacroix

Hue -pure color
Tint - hue with white
Tone- hue with gray
Shade - hue with black
Value - the lightness or darkness of a color

Explore - Question - Learn - - Enjoy, Jim


  1. The whole world of color theory really intrigues me. When I took oil painting workshops I learned how important the unified palette is to creating a painting. But with colored pencil, the mixing is not quite the same, and more variety of pencils is needed. I'm gradually adapting the theory that you describe here to my colored pencil 'palettes'.

  2. Hi Katherine
    I was fascinated by the way you chart out your colors swatches. I can see why understanding color triads are important to your technique of layering color pencil. Add in the use of transparency and it becomes a very complex and challenging medium. After viewing your site I will have to pull out that old box of Derwent’s and play with them.
    Thanks for the comment, love your work.