What Is the Color Wheel?

The color wheel is a diagram used as a visual aid to choose colors when painting, picking a wardrobe, doing interior design or other tasks that require the use of color. By looking at the color wheel, a person can easily see how colors relate to one another.

The color wheel helps to organize colors in a logical pattern to create a pleasing and engaging image or setup. In art, it's important to create an image that neither understimulates or overstimulates the viewer, and the best way to do that is with proper use of color. Color wheels are traditionally arranged by primary, secondary and tertiary pigments.

The three primary pigments are red, yellow and blue. These pigments cannot be formed by mixing anything else together. Secondary pigments such as orange, green and purple form by the mixing of primary pigments, while tertiary pigments occur with the mixing of secondary colors.

Some of the most common color schemes enabled by the color wheel are complementary, split complementary and analogous. Complementary colors lie exactly opposite one another on the color wheel and draw the eye the most effectively. Examples are red/green, blue/orange and yellow/purple. Split complementary colors use one color and the two next to its complement. Analogous colors exist side-by-side on the wheel.