How to Use a Color Wheel Triad

There’s more pictures than words in this blog post to show how a color triad can be used to create a painting.


The above 8x10 pastel used the principle of 60/30/10 percent between darks and light tones. The triad colors are shown in the color wheel below. They range from the, red, blue and yellow. The complement was green and was used to gray down the reds to create a push and pull of color depths. This painting was created by using 60 percent darks -- in this case, the reds and blues. The middle 30 percent were the yellows but when yellow and red mix the oranges help fill in the middle 30 percent of the ratio of colors for this design. The purer yellows and yellows with lighter values of yellow are the 10 percent of the ratio


Below, the notan was about 1x1 inch pen and ink. It was popped out of my sketch book page that must of had eight or nine such notans. It obviously has a radiating lines composition or design with a hint of the Elle design too.


Triad Colors are Only a Starting Point

I had a friend show me how her phone WI-fi didn't build the pictures as fast as my phone so if I say the picture below or above, be patient, the pictures will build be there once you have a good signal. Oddly enough my phone and others next to her were pulling up the image so it could also be related to phone makes and models as well. At any rate, below you can see how after selecting the colors from the color wheel, I was able to block in the composition.


As you can see, above, the percentage of light to dark isn’t set yet, but the tones are there and blending of blue and yellow are making some greens just as the red and yellow of the triad is making oranges.



After mushing the colors together with my pipe insulation, I began adding darker values to get closer to the ratio desired for lights to darks -- the 60/30/10. In the process, the triad selected became more harmonious colors as they mixed on the ground.

What I Learned

  • The triad is a starting point, not the end goal.

  • From the triad, this abstract became more harmonious as the colors on each side of each color in the triad began to emerge.

  • By using the color wheel, this kept me focused in the early stages of composition since my issue is to become too garish with color at times

  • I shouldn't become so focused on the initial color that I miss opportunities to make the colors push and pull forward and back

  • Layers made this work, not a s preset idea of finished goal


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Avon Waters
Modern Artist