Color Wheel



The start of our contemporary understanding of light and color goes back to Isaac Newton (1642-1726). Newton, who is known to be the first person to have a clear understanding of the rainbow, published his serial experiments in 1672. Newton made white light pass through a prism to form the colors red, yellow, orange, green, blue and purple. There are three main elements of color. Color type, saturation and value. Color type indicates the name given to colors such as blue, red and yellow. On the other hand, the saturation or chroma of a color is indicative of its purity. A decrease in purity causes the softening or opaqueness of a color. (Morton, 1995). Value indicates the relative darkness or lightness of a color. A color can be lightened by adding white or darkened by adding black. Color is also classified on the basis of its warmth. Half of the color circle consists of warm colors with the other half containing the cool colors. The colors associated with red and yellow are warm colors. These colors become prominent in any space. Cool colors are the ones associated with blue and they usually remain in the background. Visual warmth can also be affected by the intensity of a color. In general, preschool children and those just starting elementary school prefer warm colors, while older children prefer cooler colors (Engelbrecht, 2003)

color circle
primary colors

Red, yellow and blue are the primary colors in the color circle. These colors cannot be divided up into other colors visually or reduced to complementary pieces. Each primary color is different from the others, and none of them has any common properties. All other colors are formed by combining red, yellow and blue.

Green, orange and purple (violet) are secondary colors. Each secondary color is placed in a range between two primary colors. A mixture of blue and yellow forms green, red and yellow forms orange, while blue and red mix into purple (violet). Secondary colors may not create a contrast as noticeable as primary colors. Each secondary color has a common primary color. While orange and purple contain red, orange and green commonly include yellow.

secondary colors
tertiary colors

Tertiary colors are formed as a mixture of primary and secondary colors. These colors are a product of one primary and one secondary color. For example, a tertiary color is formed when orange and yellow are combined. Light affects the warmth and perception of color. Styne (1990) demonstrated that a space painted in cool colors looks larger, quieter and cooler under cold fluorescent light, while the same space painted in warm colors would appear smaller, warmer and noisier under warm fluorescent light. This is the situation in fast food restaurants. Warm colors increase appetite and stimulate noise. People want to finish eating swiftly. It is important to know these details when planning on using colors to promote learning in an environment.

Color type indicates the name given to the color, such as blue, red and yellow.


On the other hand, the saturation or chroma of a color is indicative of its purity. A decrease in purity causes the softening or opaqueness of a color.
(Morton, 1995).


Value indicates the relative darkness or lightness of a color. A color can be lightened by adding white or darkened by adding black.