Color is an important part of visual design and communication. Knowing the basic color wheel and color theory can help create more effective and visually appealing designs. The 11 basic colors in their proper order around the color wheel are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, purple, magenta, pink, brown, and gray.
The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. They are called primary colors because they cannot be created by mixing other colors but are instead the colors that all other colors are derived from. When mixed together, primary colors make secondary colors.
Secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors together. The three secondary colors are orange, green, and violet.
- Orange is made by mixing red and yellow.
- Green is made by mixing yellow and blue.
- Violet is made by mixing blue and red.
Tertiary colors are made by mixing one primary color with one secondary color. There are six tertiary colors: red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.
- Red-orange is made from red and orange.
- Yellow-orange is made from yellow and orange.
- Yellow-green is made from yellow and green.
- Blue-green is made from blue and green.
- Blue-violet is made from blue and violet.
- Red-violet is made from red and violet.
Other Common Colors
In addition to the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, there are a few other common colors that complete the basic color wheel:
- Purple – Purple is a secondary color made by mixing red and blue.
- Magenta – Magenta is a tone of purple and a tertiary color made by mixing red and violet.
- Pink – Pink is a tertiary color made by mixing red and white.
- Brown – Brown is a tertiary color made by mixing all three primary colors together.
- Gray – Gray is an achromatic color, meaning it lacks defined color and is made by mixing black and white.
Complete Basic Color Wheel
Putting all of this together, the 11 basic colors in proper order around the color wheel are:
This sequence demonstrates how the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors are related. Starting at red, as you move around the wheel each color transitions smoothly into the next by mixing with the preceding color.
Uses of the Basic Color Wheel
Understanding these 11 basic colors and how they relate to each other is useful for:
- Creating color palettes – Using adjacent colors on the wheel results in harmonious color schemes.
- Mixing paints and dyes – The wheel shows how to blend primary colors into new hues.
- Digital design – For web, video, and image editing, the color wheel helps select cohesive colors.
- Art and fashion – Many fields use color theory principles for aesthetically pleasing results.
- Education – The color wheel is a visual aid to teach color relationships and theory.
In addition to their position on the color wheel, colors have properties such as:
- Hue – The pigment or base color.
- Value – The lightness or darkness of a color.
- Saturation – The intensity or purity of a color.
- Temperature – Colors are either warm (red, yellow, orange) or cool (blue, green, purple).
Adjusting these color properties creates different shades, tints, and tones for a wide range of color possibilities.
Psychology of Color
Color psychology considers the emotional and behavioral impact of different colors. While reactions are subjective, general associations include:
- Red – Passion, excitement, energy
- Orange – Enthusiasm, creativity, adventure
- Yellow – Happiness, optimism, intellect
- Green – Growth, balance, health
- Blue – Stability, confidence, tranquility
- Violet – Sophistication, spirituality, imagination
- Purple – Royalty, luxury, ambition
- Magenta – Compassion, empathy, devotion
- Pink – Romance, tenderness, femininity
- Brown – Rustic, dependability, simplicity
- Gray – Neutrality, practicality, wisdom
These color meanings can inform design choices in marketing, branding, interior design, and more. However, reactions are not universal and also depend on context.
The basic color wheel consists of the primary colors (red, yellow, blue), secondary colors (orange, green, violet), tertiary colors (red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet), and common colors purple, magenta, pink, brown, and gray. Arranged in proper order, these 11 colors demonstrate the relationships between hues and how colors mix. Mastering color theory concepts like the basic color wheel provides a strong foundation for effective and meaningful visual communication and design.