Artists of all types, from painters to quiltmakers, depend on the application of the color wheel to their work. While some choose to use this tool in a very traditional manner, others employ some techniques that are more cutting edge. It is designed around the recognition of the three primary colors — red, blue, and yellow — that form the basis for all other colors and hues.
Spaced evenly around the wheel, the device also includes the representation of what are understood to be the secondary colors. Secondary colors are created by making use of the primary colors that are found on each side of the secondary color. For example, green is a secondary color and will be found on the wheel between blue and yellow, while orange will be found between yellow and red. It is understood that the secondary colors are composed of equal portions of the two primary colors involved. In between are an infinite number of percentage combinations that help to make up all the different colors and hues known today.
Standard color theory dictates that the most combinations of colors will be used in a particular fashion. For example, many painters make good use of what is referred to as the geometrical mixing method. This involves making use of the distance between any to colors on the wheel, and implementing hues and shades into the created piece of art that bring forth images that seem to be in harmony with one another. The artist will tend to base the final assortment of hues more on the actual hues of paint that are created through random combinations, although color wheels help form a basis for the actual mixing.
In a different application, quilters tend to look for contrast in the materials they use to create unique quilt designs. This process employs the use of basic color theory, which dictates that using hues that are opposite one another on the color wheel is an excellent way to create colorful and varied designs to the finished product. More structured than the geometrical mixing method, the result is nevertheless often quite appealing to the eye.
There is no one right way to use a color wheel. While it serves as a great starting point for inspiration, different artists will vary in just how much they rely upon the actual use of the wheel. While providing a basis for working out the hues, shades, and colors that will be included in the work, the artist is always free to experiment with combinations and mixes that are out of the ordinary.