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Mixing Paint with the 6-Colour Colour Wheel

July 18, 2011

By Dennis Clark


6-Colour Colour Wheel


A Quick Revision of the Normal Colour Wheel


Dennis pointing out the tinting ranges

This Colour Wheel was part of Dennis’ demonstration at a Colour Mixing Workshop given at his Studio last year.

The colours used were Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow and French Ultramarine Blue.

He also emphasized that different ranges of the Colour Wheel could be made from the other various combinations of reds, blues and yellows. It is not the intention of discussing the  normal colour wheel in this lesson as it has been discussed before on this website. It has only been brought into here for you to be able to see the difference between the two.


The 6-Colour Colour Wheel

Note: This Tutorial is not a transcript of the video of the same name but rather as a supplement to it and should be read in conjunction with the 6-Color Mixing Video. So let’s start off with the colours being used. With this Colour Wheel it is possible to mix virtually any colour you will ever think of needing in a painting. So – let’s get going …….

Cadmium Red                       Warm Red

Alizarin Crimson                    Cold Red

Cadmium Yellow                   Warm Yellow

Lemon Yellow                         Cold Yellow

French Ultramarine               Warm Blue

Cerulean Blue                         Cold Blue


Here we see the 6 colours and next to each one is an indication which one of them is a warm or cold colour. It is very important to remember this information as it is extremely relevant to the colour mixes we will be going into later. The green mix is  from Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine and is here only because it is part of the rainbow spectrum.

In the cube you will see there are 3 tones or shades present: the base colour (can be any colour), the hightlight and the shadow. All three elements are necessary in order to portray the 3-dimensional colour perspective so important in showing the volume of the object being painted. 

Close-up of the green blue and the yellow cubes and their shadows.

And finally the red cubes.

This shows the 2 reds with the Cadmium Red  to the left and the Alizarin Crimson (pointer) to the right. The ring of colour mixes the pointer is on are all the mixes of the chroma (primaries direct from the tube) colours.

The pointer is indicating the shadow colour of Cadmium Red. Now, to get the shadow colour of any of the chroma colours we need to add a touch of the opposite (complimentary) colour on the colour wheel, which is green in this case. Do not add too much. The sets of colours on this ring above the chroma colours are the shadow colours for all the chroma colours.

The ring above the shadow colours contains all the greys of the chroma colours.

NOTE: This is one of the most important rings in the whole colour wheel. It is the area where a great many artists fall down on as they just do not grasp the enormity of the information.

From early in childhood we are taught that gray is made from black and white and that has stuck in the back of our minds. The logical (left) side of the brain says that is what we should use, while the creative (right) side of the brain sees all the variations of gray colours and wants to use it. However, if one is not trained, through experience and discipline, then the logical side takes over and out comes the black and  white paint to paint, say,  the shadows of the clouds.

In the center of the wheel is a black and  white gray scale. Now compare this to all the gray colours on the outer ring. These outer-ring  colours are what the eyes sees and what should be used in the painting.

Another glimpse of the Colour Wheel. We have looked at the reds and now lets take a look at the blues. Here I’m pointing to the Ultramarine Blue and below it is the Cerulean Blue. On the other side is the Cadmium Yellow and below it is the Lemon Yellow.

We are at a stage now where we can examine the real colour mixing in this picture. This is where it becomes very interesting.

For the orange mix we have used the Cadmium Red and the Cadmium Yellow and arrived at the secondary colour of Cadmium Orange. Below this is the yellow-orange and above it is the red-orange.


For the greens we have used Cerulean Blue with Lemon Yellow and arrived at the secondary cold blue greens

For the Violets we have used Ultramarine with Alizarin Crimson and arrived at the secondary lovely brilliant violets.

Look carefully at the wheel and you see that where in the 3-colour wheel there is only ONE orange mix, here in the 6-colour wheel we are able to obtain not one, but FOUR different orange mixes:

Cad Red with Cad  Yellow, Cad Red with Lemon Yellow, Crimson with Cad Yellow and Crimson with Lemon Yellow.

Similar with the other primary colours:

Cerulean with Lemon Yellow, Cerulean with Cad Yellow, Ultramarine with Lemon Yellow and Ultramarine with Cad Yellow.

Ultramarine with Crimson, Cerulean with Crimson, Ultramarine with Cad Red and Cerulean with Cad Red.

In total that gives us 4 times as many mixes as with the 3-colour wheel.   Awesome!

The Other 9 Sets of Colour Mixes.

Let’s take a look at the red-blue combinations first.

The left hand mix:

is Alizarin Crimson with Cerulean Blue with the 50/50 mix in the center as the secondary mix and then the 2 tertiary mixes on either side. Notice that  the bottom tertiary mix even has a greenish look! Also it hardly gives us a very nice purple range at all.

The Middle mix:

is Cadmium Red with Cerulean. This also does not give a n ice range of purples, rather the reddish browns at the red side.

The right hand mix:

is Cadmium Red with Ultramarine Blue. Now this combination is starting to give us the purple mixes, but a bit on the dull side. Also the red-browns at the red side.

The Yellow-Blue Combinations

On the Left:

Cadmium Yellow and Cerulean Blue. The give us the relative bright greens and blue-greens.

In the  Middle:

Cadmium Lemon and Ultramarine. Now we start coming into the greens that are suitable for landscapes and leaves.

On the Right:

Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine. I think that this is the most used combination for mixing greens. As you can see there is more to mixing greens that meets the eye. Although they are not part of this colour wheel there are still other blues that can be used for mixing greens – such as Cobalt Blue, etc.

The last set of colour mixes is the oranges.

These mixes are:

Alizarin Crimsonand Cadmium Lemon, Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Yellow and then, lastly, Cadmium Red and Cadmium Lemon.

Unfortunately, as we see here, this set has not yet been completed due to time constraints. In a way it is a good thing as now you can see how Dennis went about making these charts.

He highly recommends that you make these charts for yourself a a mixing exercise and also for the charts as reference for your paintings.

In order for you to do this he shows below a close-up of the construction lines he has used to make up the chart.

Sample for construction Lines

To download a printable pdf template for making your own charts, click HERE. (Thanks to Lloyd of Draw ‘n Paint for making the template)

Lastly the Highlight Mixes

The highlights are beautifully described and illustrated in Nolan’s Video on Colour Mixing.

To watch it click HERE

I hope you have enjoyed learning about the 6-colour colour wheel and start applying it to your own art work.

2 Responses to “Mixing Paint with the 6-Colour Colour Wheel”

  1. There is a cad. yellow light and a cad yellow medium. Does it matter which you use? The same with Cad. red light & cad. red med.

  2. Sharon, sorry for the late reply.

    No, it does not really matter which of those you use because the variations are very slight as far as the colour mixing goes. You will not be going for a very technical mixing result. All that will happen is that there will be a slight colour difference that you will most probably not even notice.

    What I find frustrating is the fact that there is often great variation of colour for the same name, say cad yellow, between the different manufacturers. Without naming names, the cad yellow of one well-known make is very much more orange than yellow.

    Can you see from this that it does not matter which of the reds or yellows you mentioned you use. Hope this clears up your concern. Good question.