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Split-Primary Colors


The color wheel below demonstrates each of the primary colors, yellow, red, and blue, divided into warm and cool versions of each. As a visual artist it is important to understand that each primary color can have a warm and a cool aspect.

This is visualized in the color wheel. As you can see, the yellow is divided in half, the left side the warmer version of yellow and the other side the cooler version. The warm version has more red added to it and the cool version more blue.  The other primary colors, red and blue, are also divided into warm and cool versions. The warmer red has yellow added and the cooler red has more blue.  The blue has red added to create the warmer version, while the cooler version has more yellow.

Having a good understanding of warm and cool colors can add to the emotional communication of your painting. For example, warm colors are associated with fire, sunlight, energy, and cool colors with snow, shadows, somberness. There are many opinions on the psychology of color. However, it should be recognized that different people and cultures respond differently to the same color.

From a technical standpoint, it is important to understand the use of warm and cool colors in composition.  Used correctly, the color can manipulate the eye into perceiving: perspective, distance or the closeness of objects, or forms in a painting. Cool colors recede and warm colors tend to come forward.


Mixing Colors

Armed with this basic understanding of color theory and how colors should behave, you need to roll up your sleeves and dive into the paint. The only real way to understand color is by mixing it.  The exercise below will help you gain a greater understanding of mixing color to achieve secondary colors and variations.




Create your own split primary color wheel as seen above. Use the two versions of tube paint listed for each primary color so that you will have a better understanding of warm and cool colors.  You will mix red and blue to create purples, and mix red and yellow to create oranges, and mix blue and yellow to create green.  There are also steps between the primary and secondary colors to shift the color in degrees to warmer or cooler versions.




Canvas pad, and the following tube colors of paint: Cadmium Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Red, Permanent Rose, Cerulean Blue and French Ultramarine.

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