The Colour Wheel Tutorial

This is the transcript of the voice-over from the movie. This is a version of the colour wheel. It was introduced to me by Geoff White who was taught it by Victor Pasmore whilst at the Central School of Arts and Crafts.

The equilateral triangle
The design constructed from equilateral triangles. An equilateral triangle is one which has all sides measuring the same. The internal angles are all 60 degrees. One could equally construct the design using other shapes such as circles or diamonds or squares.

The construction
There are five rings to the design. I began by constructing the triangle. This can be done at any size. I copied the painting lent to me by Geoff White. The triangle was 70mm.
1 I set a 70mm square and deleted the top and two sides, resulting in a single line.
2 I rotated this 60 degrees and joined the two lines. I then joined the other two points to create the third side.
3 I then set a circle with a radius of 210mm. I placed the triangle centrally on the vertical. And placed it so that the two base points of the triangle touched the circle.
4 I then rotated the triangle by 20 degrees around the centre of the circle. This results in 18 triangles.
5 The four rings inside this are created by progressively scaling the rings by a 70% reduction from the centre of the circle. The outer ring is scaled by 70% to create the fourth ring. Then the fourth ring is reduced by 70% to create the third ring and so on.
6 A black circle is placed at the centre, this measures 6mm in diameter. And a 50% grey circle measuring 18mm in diameter is placed outside this.
7 The third ring from the centre is comprised of pure colours.
8 The first and second ring from the centre have had black added to them making them darker. The first ring has 50% black added and the second ring has 25% black added.
9 The fourth and fifth rings from the centre have had white added to them. I have done this by altering the opacity of the colour. This allows the white background to show through the colour and thereby lightening the colour. The fourth ring has 75% opacity and the fifth ring has 50% opacity.

Complementary colours
Colours on opposite sides of the colour wheel are known as complementary colours. Orange and blue are complementary colours, as are red and green, and purple and yellow.

I have used Cyan (which is a blue colour); Magenta (which is a pinky red colour); Yellow and Black (K=Key) to mix the colours. This is the CMYK colour system which is commonly used in printing.

Colour rotation
As the orange colour moves to red I have added more magenta. As the red moves to blue, cyan has been added. As the blue moves to green, yellow is added. And as green moves to yellow blue is extracted.

Colour against a white background
When viewing the colours against a white background, some stand out better than others. The purple contrasts well with the white background. Whereas the yellow is quite faint. The eye finds it quite difficult to detect subtle contrasts where a colour tone is close to the background colour.

Colour against a black background
Changing the background to black increases the contrast of the yellow to the background but decreases the contrast of the purple. These types of effects are also influenced by the media used. Colour will appear differently on a computer screen than when printed on paper.

Although colour is basic to visual communication. It is important to understand its properties and how these change through different situations such as lighting conditions. A little time studying this will benefit the designer and give a more informed basis for choosing colour.