Color Theory

This week we have the amazing Sarah Fuchs here with us to teach us all about color theory, what it is and how to use it to improve your art journal pages.

I remember clearly when my mum showed me, that you can mix colours. That day a whole new world opened it doors for me. I rarely ever just used watercolours the way the are, but always mixed them. In elementary school I learned about the primary colours: blue, yellow and red. I took for granted what my teacher taught me and worked with those colours since then. I often was frustrated by the dull colours I received that way but I always thought that’s the way it was.

I had to wait over 20 years for another teacher to come along and open my eyes to the real colour theory and what I learned then I want to share with you today.

Maybe this won’t be news to you, but it was clearly to me. Not red, yellow and blue are the primary colours, but magenta, yellow and cyan are. Yes, the same three colours our printers use. Makes total sense to me.

After I  knew that I was using the wrong primary colours I searched for watercolours in the right three colours, which is kind of hard, which is crazy. Magenta and yellow are easy to find, but I never found a real cyan, so I am using one with a light red touch in it.I painted with only those three colours to show you that you can mix (nearly) all of the other colours with just those three.

I started with yellow and mixed in a bit of magenta and painted a bit of it on paper, then I mixed it with a bit more magenta and more and went from top to bottom to show the different colours you can get. And as you can see near the end of that first line I got red- this still fascinates me every time.


The next line I started with magenta and mixed in cyan. Same thing happened here: I got blue. The last line I started with cyan and mixed in yellow.

Knowing this, the colour theory wheels you can find everywhere in books and on the internet are wrong- at least for watercolours (other paints sometimes mix different, but some do the same way, just try it). That’s why I painted a new one, in which you can totally see my messy artist attitude – I used a dirty cyan and that’s why it looks a bit dull, but you get the idea. I also showed you how to mix black (just use the three primary colours in equal parts together) and grey and brown (red and green- or a lot of cyan with a tad less yellow and magenta).

The colour wheel can help you to match colours on you pages:
  • warm colours work well together
  • cold colours work well together
  • neighbour colours work well together (red and orange for example)
  • opposing colours work well together (green-magenta, yellow-blue).
But honestly use whatever colours you want to and feel like, as always there’s no right or wrong in art.
GM-SarahFuchs6 (1)

I hope you are inspired now, to try mixing your watercolours in maybe a new way or just play with them a bit!

Thanks so much Sarah! Let’s all get to mixing!


  1. Clare Davis Etheridge

    What an interesting post, thanks for sharing Sarah, I love colour and this is fascinating. I want to get mixing now!

  2. Sarah Maddox

    Fascinating. Very interesting post.

  3. Maura Flood

    Wow! This opens my eyes to a new world, with magenta instead of red as one of the primary colors.