Hues are known technically as colours in their pure state, of which there are three primary and three secondary hues. However, colours created by mixing pure hues - such as the six tertiary colours, can also be described as hues.

Sir Isaac Newton created the first colour wheel in 1704. Today, variations on that original idea are used worldwide by artists, designers, teachers and students as a basis for discovery, learning and colour harmony. The twelve-step colour wheel of Johannes Itten is the easiest to understand and most practical to use.

12-Step Colour Wheel

The 12-step colour wheel is made up of three primary and three secondary hues, and six tertiary colours.

Primary Hues

The three primary hues are:

  • pure blue
  • pure red
  • pure yellow

Secondary Hues

The secondary hues are created by mixing two primary hues.

The secondary hues are:

  • orange
  • green
  • violet

Tertiary Colours

Each of the six tertiary colours can be created by mixing a primary hue with an adjacent secondary hue. The tertiary colours are:

  • yellow orange
  • red orange
  • red violet
  • blue violet
  • blue green
  • yellow green

Mixing Primary Hues

This diagram demonstrates how the three primary hues blend to create secondary hues.

Colour Value

Colour Value distinguishes the lightness or darkness of the pure hue.

Yellow sits highest on the value scale, reflecting the most light.

Violet sits lowest on the value scale absorbing the most light.

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