The Color Wheel
In this Art Quest, you learn more about the color wheel,
prisms, hue, and value. After
you complete this Art Quest take the online quiz to test your knowledge.
Artists often use a color wheel when planning the colors
in their artworks. A color wheel is an arrangement of colors in a
You probably learned in science class that a prism separates white light
into different wavelengths so that you get a rainbow of colors. This rainbow
of colors, bent into a circle, form a basic color wheel.
Hue refers to a color’s name. No matter how light or dark a color
is, its hue is the name of the color on the outside of the color wheel.
Those names are red, red-violet, violet, blue-violet, blue, blue-green,
green, yellow-green, yellow, yellow-orange, orange, and red-orange. In
this activity you will look at several paintings and see what hues the
artists used. Let’s begin with this artwork by Miriam Shapiro.
The colors shown here are some of the main colors in Miriam Shapiro’s
artwork Kimono. Look at the color wheel. Which hue is the most
dominant in this artwork? If you guessed red, you are correct!
Some of the reds in the artwork are light and some are dark. When we speak
of the lightness or darkness of a hue, we are referring to another art
element—value. To lighten a hue, you add white. A hue that
has been lightened is called a tint. Pink is a tint of red, and peach
is a tint of orange.
You can darken a hue by adding black. A darkened hue is called a shade.
Maroon is a shade of red, and navy is a shade of blue.