Better understanding Color wheel for photography

Better understanding Color wheel for photography

Color wheel is basically a circular representation of different color hue , showing relationship between different type of color like primary ,secondary , and tertiary color. Color wheels are used extensive by many artist . From painter to photographer , a better understanding of color wheel will help you to use color more effectively in your final result. Today in this post i hope to help you understand more about color wheel and how you can use it for the better final result. Below is how a color wheel look like.
better Understanding color wheel for photography

Lets start our post with distinction between primary , secondary and tertiary colors.

Primary colors

Basically primary colors are those pure colors which are not formed by mixing any colors. Red , Yellow and Blue are the three primary color. If you remember reading Red, Green , Blue as the primary color , you are still not wrong.That would be a more of a digital primary color. But precisely for artist Red,Yellow and Blue are the three primary color.

Secondary color

So if you mix two primary color the result color would be called secondary color. As for example,

Red+ Yellow = Orange

Yellow + Blue= Green

Blue + Red – Violet

So , orange , green and violet are the three secondary colors.

Tertiary color

qcolorwheel for photographer

Tertiary color are those color which are formed by mixing primary color with secondary colors. For example

Red+ Orange= Red orange

Orange+Yellow=Yellow orange

Yellow + Green = Yellow green

Blue + Green= Blue green

Blue+ violet= Blue Violet

Red+ Violet= Red Violet

So here Tertiary color are Red orange, Yellow orange,Yellow green,Blue green. Blue voilet, Red violet.

Now that we know about three type of color primary , secondary , tertiary colors lets look into two very important color scheme commonly used in photography as well as in painting.

Analogous color


Analogous colors are also called harmonious color since they tend to create a harmony between the colors. Use of Analogous color makes your images smooths and pleasing to look at.So what are analogous color? Color that lies next to each other in color wheel are the analogous color. As for example Red-orange and Red ,Blue violet and blue. Just pick any colors  lying next to each other. They will help you to maintain smoothness in your photography or art work.

Complementary colors

Complementary colors are also called contrasting colors. They create a greater contrast in your photographs. If you ever heard anywhere of creating contrast in photography through colors then its probably with the use of these contrasting colors. The reason they are also called complementary colors because with contrast these color tends to complete each other. So what are Complementary color? Color that lies opposite to each other in color wheel are the complementary color. As for example red and green , Violet and yellow ,Blue and orange etc.

Complementary color wheel

Now that you know most of the theory part , how can you make use of this knowledge to improve your final output?

1. During post production make your self aware of the different colors already present in the image. Then you can add color by looking at the color wheel , since now you know analogous and complementary color

2. If portrait or fashion you can use color wheel to decide the color of clothes of a model with respective to the color of the background.Its up to the theme either analogous or complementary.

3.When adding light leaks or color flare in post production use color wheel for the right color.

4. You can alter the color of the clothes and color of different elements in a frame during post production according to the background for achieving the desire color scheme.

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About author

Anup Ghimire
Anup Ghimire 60 posts

Anup ghimire is a self learned Photographer/Designer and recently graduated in multimedia technologies from London metropolitan university.Traveling is something he loves the most after photography. You can see some of his photos at his facebook photography page

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