Sunday, 28 June 2015

Colour Theory Lesson

Hi there

I often get asked why my projects always look so fresh and the colours so vibrant....I think a lot has to do with the colour choices I make.  It is an educated choice on my part as I did art to the end of High School and continued by studying Graphic Design.

Here is colour theory in a nutshell, complete with the colours/products I used for each photo.

Your basic primary colours are red, yellow and blue.

if you mix

red + blue = purple (in reality it is not a pretty purple in my opinion, bought colours are much nicer)
yellowblue = green
yellow = red = orange

The colours created by mixing two primaries are known as secondaries.

if you mix all three primaries...
yellow + red + blue = brown or mud!

In the colour example below I have used:

The overlapping circles and large marbled square are distress stain sprays:
Salty ocean + Mustard seed + Barn door.

The two tags are Distress paint in the same colours:
Salty ocean + Mustard seed + Barn door.
Below is the diagram I use to teach colour theory to my new students.  It is an abbreviated colour wheel and is something easily remembered cos everyone can draw a triangle, put the primaries on each point and the secondary on the straight line in between!  Because opposite each primary falls its complimentary I have drawn in arrows.  Being a triangle it makes it easy to see three sides of the colour spectrum!

Clear as Mud?  I hope not!  Just be careful not to go round the corners of the triangle and mix secondaries, cos then you WILL get mud! LOL!

Stick to the straight lines and work from light to dark when mixing colours and you will be safe.

This photo depicts each side of the colour spectrum using:

Distress ink pads for the circles:
Barn door + Seedless preserves + Salty ocean
Mustard Seed + Mowed lawn + Salty ocean
Mustard seed + Ripe Persimmon + Barn door

Distress Paints for the tags:
Barn door + Seedless preserves + Salty ocean
Mustard Seed + Mowed lawn + Salty ocean
Mustard seed + Spiced Marmalade + Barn door

Here are the Distress stain sprays used on squares of Bazzil card stock and sprayed with water
The colour combos are:
Mustard seed + Salty Ocean + Cracked Pistachio
Mustard seed + Sunset orange color wash + Barn Door
Picked raspberry + Salty ocean + Purple twilight color wash
On to the Opposite or Complimentary colours... they are opposite each other on the colour wheel.
These guys look stunning next to each other.
The minute you mix them while wet, you have the chance of making mud because the secondary colour has both primaries already in it and by adding the primary colour you are mixing all three and will therefore head towards brown!

Here are the Distress spray stains on Bazzil card stock:
Red + Green =Barn door + Lettuce color wash and Polished Jade Dylusions
Yellow + Purple = Mustard seed + Purple twilight color wash as well as wild plum color wash
Orange + blue = Salty ocean and Sunset orange color wash
My final piece of help comes in the form of the printing inks we are all used to seeing in our inkjets: Cyan, Magenta and Yellow or CMYK (key = black) in the printing industry like  used for magazines and newspapers etc.
With these three colours you don't really get mud if you overlap them even when wet, unless you get them well mixed, then a grey kind of mud happens while the inks or paints are wet.
In this case I have used:

Sprays for the 3 circles set in a triangle:
Bubblegum Pink Dylusions + Spiced Marmalade Distress stain spray + Vibrant turquoise Dylusions

The straight line of Distress ink pad circles are:
Salty ocean + Mustard seed + Picked raspberry

The tag is made with Distress paint in:
Salty ocean + Mustard seed + Picked raspberry

The Bazzil card stock square is:
Bubblegum Pink Dylusions + Spiced Marmalade Distress stain spray + Vibrant turquoise Dylusions
I hope this helped you understand colour better and why things happen the way they do when you work with your inks, sprays and paints on projects.

There is a lot more I can teach about colour and how to use it, but these are the basics for now.

PS:  if you want to make your own sample swatches with the colours you have, I punched a circle out of cardboard and used my distress inks through it overlapping each colour slightly as I went.


  1. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you putting this up. Your work is awesome. Cheers!

  2. Wonderful lesson. Thank You. Good reminder on how to avoid making mud.

  3. Really helpful. Love your work. Thanks Bella. ☺

  4. Thank you - thank you - thank you! I needed this and the timing was perfect as I have been struggling with color choices.

  5. I came via your post on Facebook. I'll be honest, I understand the pictures more easily than written instructions. Your examples are brilliant! Just what I need. Ty for sharing your knowledge & I will read the written again, lol (think different products are the confusing part, in my little brain)....


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