How to Choose Colors – Part I

A lot of you have asked for advice about choosing colors for our adult coloring. Today, we introduce the Color Wheel. In future posts, we will cover a few of the ways to use the Color Wheel to bring harmony to our coloring.

When I flip through my finished adult coloring books, the color on some pages seems “scattered,” like on this owl I did a while ago:Choose Colors

This is probably because of my mindset when I was coloring: I was so stressed I used the “shut your eyes and grab a color” technique.

However, there are times I would like to be mindful of colors and choose combinations that are harmonious, and therefore more relaxing.

Merriam-Webster defines harmony as “a pleasing or congruent arrangement of parts.” You can find or create harmony in coloring, music, poetry, or even a wedding cake. When something doesn’t have harmony, it’s either dull (on one end of the spectrum) or frenzied (on the other end of the spectrum). Our brains might not get any stimulation from dull color combinations and have a hard time focusing on frenzied, chaotic color combinations. That is why looking at my finished owl illustration isn’t so pleasant.

Enter the Color Wheel, a tool that helps you pick color combinations (“schemes”) that will look good together (“harmonize”).

Choose Colors
Basic Color Wheel

The Color Wheel consists of 12 colors:

Primary Colors (3): Red, YellowBlue
These colors can’t be made by any combination of other colors. All other colors are based on Primary Colors.

Secondary Colors (3): Green, Orange, & Purple (aka Violet)
These colors are made by mixing two Primary Colors together. For example: Red + Yellow = Orange

Tertiary Colors (6): Yellow-Orange, Red-Orange, Red-Purple, Blue-Purple, Blue-Green, & Yellow-Green
These colors are made by combining a Primary Color and a Secondary Color. For example: Red + Orange = Red-Orange.

Artists and designers use the Color Wheel to select colors that will help them with many things, among them: communicating ideas, influencing minds, and even determining formulas (those codes on your paint chips mean something!). For example, if a designer is trying to create a sense of energy, they will use the Color Wheel to select colors from the Red, Yellow, and Orange hues.

In our next post, we will look at different ways to categorize the colors on the Color Wheel, as well as how to expand them..

On the fast track?  Want some more inspiration right now? Try these:


9 thoughts on “How to Choose Colors – Part I”

  1. Thank you
    This is very helpful.
    I am no artist but loving coloring and like to get my colors more consistent but somehow it always looks pretty good!

    1. adultcoloring101 says:

      Welcome, Carole! Glad you found this helpful. We would love to see some of your work!

  2. Madeleine says:

    Like so many other things I’m discovering “later” in life, I wish I had paid closer attention during art classes in school. Yes, that should pretty well date me — we had mandatory art, music, and gym.

    Now that I’ve found a passion for this coloring, I also find I’m sadly lacking in knowledge. So I’m very grateful for the info you provide. Looking forward to the next post!

    Thanks so much!!

    1. adultcoloring101 says:

      Madeleine, we must be the same age – I had mandatory home ec, drafting and metal & wood shop in addition to the ones you mentioned! I love re-learning all the art theory as you do, but remember to keep your coloring a playful activity. 🙂

  3. Stephanie says:

    I get so hung up on color schemes that it sometimes completely stalls me in getting started, which I know is silly over something that is supposed to be a fun stress relieving activity :-\ Next time I think I’ll start by using your ‘close your eyes and grab a color’ method! Or at least begin there and see where it takes me 🙂

    1. adultcoloring101 says:

      I think all of us colorists get hung up on the color choices. Watch for my next post on choosing colors for some tips and resources to make it a bit easier – and to get better-looking results!

    2. Samantha I says:

      This happens to me every single time

  4. Theresa C. says:

    Thank you for the Colour Wheel – I’m a newbie to adult colouring, and every hint is useful! 🙂

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