Understanding Colour Theory | Coloured Pencil TipsNov 03, 2023
Having a good understanding of colour theory is so important when it comes to working with coloured pencils, but once you start dealing with split complementary and triadic colours, well it can all get a bit confusing! So let’s put it into some simpler terms…
The Colour Wheel:
Now I don’t do anything technical with numbers or anything like that, but I find colour wheels really helpful little tools. I’ll link the ones I use here as they’re really helpful and come in a pack of two, which is great for when I inevitably lose one!
So the ones I use are double-sided and the side that I use most often shows you the complementary, split complementary and triadic colours, which is really useful if you’re trying to find colours that will work well together. For example, if you’re trying to decide on branding colours for your business, you can easily see which colours are going to look good together.
Using the Colour Wheel:
So as an example, if I’m drawing a golden retriever and I want to add a bit of a shadow, perhaps around the ears or in the muzzle area, I need to be careful of what colour I am going to use to layer over the top to create that shadow. Golden retrievers have some orangey tones in their fur and if you use your colour wheel to look at the complementary colour to orange you will see that it’s blue. Now normally the complementary colour would be a good choice to layer over to create shadows but this is where your knowledge of colour theory needs to come in. Orange is very yellow-based and if you layer yellow with blue you’re going to get green. In this situation, you would then look at your split complementary or triadic colour choices to find a better option, and for orange, the triadic option of violet works really well. If you want to see a video of me talking through this and showing you it on the wheel, watch the video at the top of this page. This is something you will get more familiar with through trial and error, but if you’re ever working on a piece and feel unsure, you can always practise layering your colours together on a spare piece of paper, to see how they mix.
I completely understand that colour theory can sometimes feel a bit confusing, but these colour wheels are a great tool to add to your toolkit to help increase your confidence, and you’ll now hopefully have a better understanding of how they work and colour theory. If you’re looking for more guidance on colour theory, you can download my free PDF guide here, and if you’re looking for some more helpful tips, make sure you watch the video at the top of this page!
Ignite by Bonny Snowdon
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