As a lover of color, when aspiring artists ask me for advice on how to take their work to the next level, I usually tell them to study the color wheel. Really study it. Of course it’s not a magic bullet, but I’m often surprised how many times I turn to it to help me make solid decisions about my art.
The first step in studying the color wheel is to simply internalize the primary colors. For me, it is a mantra – Red, Yellow, Blue. Red, Yellow, Blue. Red, Yellow, Blue. All the colors in the universe originate from some combination of these three primary colors.
The second step to mastering the color wheel is understanding the secondary colors. These are the three colors you get by mixing any two of the primary colors. Green, Orange, Purple. Blue and Yellow make Green. Yellow and Red make Orange. Red and Blue make Purple.
My intention here is not to teach you the color wheel. There are numerous sources out there that can explain it in depth. Such as this http://www.worqx.com/color/color_wheel.htm . I just want to stress that it is critical knowledge to any aspiring artist, and the more second nature it is to you, the quicker and more confidently you can make decisions about your art as you work.
As you learn the various relationships of different colors, like contrasting or analagous, you can use them to help focus your vision. Are you going for a bold, in-your-face statement or are you trying to acheive a peaceful, harmonious effect? Take it from me…it’s all in the color wheel. For artists, it may seem to be a simplistic tool, but then again, for carpenters, so is a hammer. But try finding a carpenter who can build a house without one.