Colour Wheel in Acrylic

Skill Level : 1 Beginner

Medium : Acrylic Painting

Subject : General

Tutor : Nolan Clark

Class Length : 2 hours 30 minutes

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Class Description

Knowing how to mix your colours correctly is a critical part of being able paint successfully in acrylic.

The best way of learning how to mix your colours is by making yourself a colour wheel.

During this class you will learn how to do just that.

Along the way you will learn how to mix the various tonal values of each colour as well as their shadow colours.

At the end of the class you will have a handy colour wheel which you can laminate and use as reference for years to come.

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Latest Reviews


Thank you so very much Nolan! This is the building block of painting in colors. I struggled with the shadows and you rightly pointed out, we never actually pay attention to them and therefore have no clue how to envision them, without shadows I don\’t think we can create depth or character. This is an extremely useful video. After making this color wheel myself I was glad that I didn\’t buy a color wheel off the shelf, not because they are expensive, but because I would never have been able to appreciate shadows at all. Thank you, you are an awesome coach!!! Cheers, D!

Dolly Mauji

Class Tutorial

Transferring the template

Use your preferred method to transfer the template to the canvas.

The three primary colours

Label the actual colours you are going to use.  The three most common colours to use in a colour wheel  are cadmium yellow, cadmium red, and French ultramarine blue.  Do note, though, that for this demonstration Nolan is using Atelier brand paints:  arylamide yellow light, French ultramarine blue, and napthol crimson)

The importance of chroma in mixing

Chroma refers to how strong or intense the color is.  Lay the primary colours down on your color wheel, then think about their chroma.  Since the red and the blue have more intense chroma, they will be mixed little by little into the yellow.

Mixing the secondary colours and tertiary colours

Once you have the first secondary colour (orange) mixed on your palette (they will be transferred to the canvas once all the colours are mixed), separate a bit to either side on the colour wheel and add more of the primary colour next to it to create a red-orange (deep orange) and a yellow-orange (mustard).

Use the same procedure to create the green, yellow-green (lime), and blue-green (turquoise) colours. Repeat for the purple, red/purple (maroon), and blue-purple (violet) colours.  Note that the chroma on the red is much stronger than the blue, so you will need to add more blue than red to get the correct purple colour.

Painting the colour wheel

Have a tub of water handy as you will be cleaning your brush between colours.
Using a soft-bristled bright bush, paint the yellow in the second stripe at the top of the wheel.  (The top stripe will be done later with the shadow colour.)

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Next, paint the top center of the circle white. Then add white to the block just above it (in the yellow column).

Starting at the bottom of the column, add a tiny bit of  yellow to the small white block.  Without cleaning your brush, pick up a bit more yellow, and paint the box above.  Do the same procedure for the next block up.  Be sure there is a distinct difference in each block from white to yellow.

Wash you brush and proceed to the next colour on the wheel.  This time you will add a bit of white to the main colour as you work your way block-by-block down the column. Wash your brush and repeat this process for each remaining column.

Examine your wheel to be sure you have a gradual progression from colour to colour.  Adjust as needed.

Adding the complementary (shadow) colours

Paint the sides with yellow and a touch of the green mix as shown and then fill and blend the centre with yellow and a touch of yellow ochre.

To create the shadow colour for yellow, mix the opposite (complementary) colour (purple) to the yellow and paint it on the top row. (Be careful not to add too much or it will turn brown.)  Then add more purple to the mix and use it as the shadow colour for purple.

Wash your brush before you paint the next shadow colour. Follow this procedure, doing each pair of complementary colours, as you proceed around the wheel.

Label the colours

Use the purest tone of each primary colour to fill in the sample box next to the label.  Add the brand and colour name for each.

Final painting

Nolan Clark

About Nolan Clark

Nolan Clark has been painting and drawing since 1996. He enjoys working in many mediums and styles, but realism is his favourite. He teaches drawing, painting as well as scratch board classes on the site.
Read more about Nolan Clark

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