The Color Wheel Explained Plus FREE Color Wheel Worksheet

Color wheel explained

Hello, friends! And welcome to our latest exciting post. This week’s topic is something you’ve probably all seen or heard of but may not have explored in detail: the color wheel worksheet.

We’ll go over a few key components of the color wheel for kids, and how to use it, including:

-        What is a Color Wheel?

-        Primary Colors

-        Secondary Colors

-        Complementary Colors

-        Tertiary Colors

-        Warm/cool Colors

-        Analogous Color Scheme

So, let’s jump right in with our first topic.  

What is a Color Wheel? 

For all types of artists of any age, using a color wheel and having basic understanding of color theory is always a good idea.

In most color wheels that incorporate primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, there are twelve colors (three primary, three secondary/complimentary, and six tertiary).

Refer to each color as a simple, hyphenated name so you can tell what the exact combinations are in order to achieve each color. By name, each color is as follows: red, red-purple, purple, blue-purple, blue, blue-green, green, yellow-green, yellow, yellow-orange, and orange.

Sometimes, colors have more common names like “turquoise” for blue-green, and “magenta” for red-violent. 


Primary Colors - Color Wheel Worksheet 

We wouldn’t have any sort of color combinations if it weren’t for the primary colors. Here on our color wheel worksheet we can see that these are the most basic colors on the wheel.

You know them as red, yellow, and blue.

Primary Colors




Fun fact: did you know that you can achieve ANY color you need from mixing red, yellow, or blue oil paint?

Because of this fact, the primary colors on our color wheel worksheet are the most powerful colors. Yellow is the brightest color on the wheel while red and blue have been known as “power colors”. That’s why fast food restaurants like McDonald’s use red and yellow in their logo ─ so you can see it from far away!


Secondary Colors 

Moving on, if you mix any two of the primary colors together (like red and blue, blue and yellow, or yellow and red) you will achieve the next set of hues: secondary colors.

The secondary colors on the color wheel worksheet are purple (red + blue), green (blue + yellow), and orange (yellow + red).

Secondary colors are also Complementary colors of the primary colors.

Secondary Colors

Complementary Colors 

Complementary colors are especially interesting because there are more scientific requirements for this category!

To easily remember which secondary color complements each primary color, just look for color that is opposite to each primary color on the color wheel.

Now we know that green is complimentary to red, orange is complementary to blue, and purple is complementary to yellow.

Complementary also means that these colors, in their complementary pairs (like blue and orange) appear brighter and more vivid than they do when they are on their own. 

Complementary Colors

Applying a complementary color in your artwork will help draw attention to that area of the art.

Which brings us to the next section of the color wheel worksheet...

Tertiary Colors

Now, don’t forget the tertiary (or intermediate) colors.

In this section of the wheel, there are six colors that bridge the gaps between primary and secondary colors. These tertiary colors are made by mixing one primary color with one secondary color (remember, they were referred to as red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green etc.)

And if the subject that you’re painting is one from nature, like a nice ocean scene, an animal, or a landscape, chances are that you’ll be using mixes of primary and secondary colors to achieve blends of these intermediate or tertiary colors.

Remember, when using acrylic paints you can achieve any color you need by mixing the primary colors!

However, the rule of complementary colors still applies here (but will be less dramatic than when using only primary and secondary colors).

Tertiary Colors

Now that our color wheel worksheet is completed, let’s look at our next set. 

Warm/Cool Colors 

Warm and cool colors can be used in your artwork to give different effects and perceptions of the story you’re trying to tell through the painting.

Warm colors span from yellow to red on the color wheel. Use these colors if you want your artwork to come forward visually, towards the viewer.

Even if you’re capturing a seemingly “dull” subject full of neutrals like various browns, you can apply a warm hue through use of warm colors (think of how everything sparkles warmly at “golden hour” when the sun is setting on a hot summer day).

And of course, opposite to warm colors you have their cool color counterparts.

These colors appear in nature on objects or scenes that are not touched by the sun. Maybe in the winter when a blue sky is reflecting its cold light. Or a forest scene where light peeking through the canopy of leaves is tinted green.

However, it’s important to remember that not all colors are absolutely warm or absolutely cool. Some can go into either category, like greens (often cool, but appear warm when against a blue background) or red-violet (“magenta”) can switch between a cool and warm color. This makes sense when you consider that red is warm and violet is often cool!

To play with depth and space within your artwork, practice using warm and cool colors to explore the effects they provide

An Analogous Color Scheme 

Finally, now that you have an understanding of all twelve colors through our color wheel worksheet, you can learn about analogous colors (adjacent colors).

These colors go together because they are right beside each other on the color wheel! It’s as simple as that.

Analogous Color

An analogous color scheme is made of three colors that “match” or go well together because they appear adjacent to each other. This may also be called a harmonious color scheme. The colors exist in harmony with one another and are like varied tones or steps to a color.

You can see harmonious colors in the wild in jobs like design, interior decorating, and fashion, because combining an analogous color scheme with an opposite or complementary color is quite pleasing to the eye!

It’s easy to do the same in art and painting. If you learn to paint in similar harmonious colors that people prefer in interior decorating, you might just sell some of your art while you’re at it!

To see a few examples of an analogous color scheme painting, check out some of Vincent van Gogh's paintings.

Free Color Wheel Worksheet 

As promised, use the link below to access our free color wheel worksheet.  

Color Wheel Worksheet

This packet included a high-level summary of what we covered in this article, along with an exercise at the end to check your understanding.  

You can also check out our complete eBook for a color wheel scavenger hunt, coloring pages and so much more.


The next time you pick up your paintbrush, consider starting with a theme or goal in mind for the painting. For example, to achieve a harmonious warm color scheme to illustrate the effects of “golden hour” on your favorite lake or city cape.

If you want to test out your skills of creating a complete color wheel, then check out our complete acrylic painting kit.  It has everything you need to get started building out your color wheel.

And don’t be afraid to refer to this color wheel worksheet for kids from time to time in order to truly grasp the concept of the color wheel and how it applies to color theory.

For more resources like this one, check out our blog here or send us a message. We always love to hear from you!

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