Colour Wheels

What I need most is colour, always, always - Claude Monet


We are pausing to do an exercise to reflect on the colours sheets created for this Module. In this sketchbook project you will review the colours mixed from the basic set of eight plus white and black to expand the tints and tones.


Using the three batches of painted sheets, you are to create circular spectrums to use as reference when you start to make the collage projects. We are doing it at this stage since you have only used the limited colour combinations, but it is amazing to see how the colours are altered when white and black are mixed with them to create tints and shades.

This mini project is also useful for practicing collaging with matte paint medium before we do them on the watercolour sheets.


Cut two triangular shapes from each of the basic colours, you'll be making two colour wheels in your sketchbook.

Stick them down in a circle on a double page of a large sketchbook. I use a Moleskine A4 size book but Bristol paper or cartridge paper books are also good for this purpose.

Once you have the first circle stuck down, cut out two triangles per sheet of colour that had been mixed with the white to create tints. Look closely at the sheets and cut out two different tints, one darker, closer to the original colour, and the other one to be the lightest shade of the painted sheet.

These pastel tints have become more opaque colours because of the white paint mixed in - the red has become a soft coral, the magenta is a now a Barbie pink and some of these colours are more suitable as accents because they are very bright and clean. It is important to engage with these colours and review what can be mixed with them either to tone them down to create more neutral colours, or better harmonies. It is also good to have these as reference when adding bright opaque sections to your collages.

Use matte medium to glue down the deli sheets: it is a good way to practice for the collages we will be making. To see the gluing down process please look at the live video in the Facebook group page.

Now do the same with all the colours mixed with black paint.

Arrange the triangular cutouts to create a full colour wheel. It is quite remarkable how the colours become altered, notice the magenta being almost purple, the yellow is a lovely olive colour and the blues are lovely rich colours, the ultramarine has become Paynes grey (this is how that colour is made, a mix of ultramarine blue and black) Which colours have retained a translucence? Which colours stand out, or have become toned down?

Once you have created the colour wheels, cut out squares from each colour sheet. Some will have a few tones and tints per page, cut out a maximum of two squares per page.

Start off by arranging them on your sketchbook page in sections of up to nine squares. Play around and take photos of your arrangements if you wish. Look at the colour combinations that appeal and that you can imagine yourself using in art or quilting, for an interior or maybe clothing.

The selections are still fairly limited since you have not mixed secondary and tertiary colours or neutrals, but it is also good to work with limitations. Now make the selections smaller - three to six colours per row. Don’t overthink it, put them in arrangements that appeal. You can cut a few more squares of colours you would like to add from the painted sheets, but keep it limited.

Pick your favourite colour combos and number them. What colours do you think might be missing in the arrangement? Neutrals are important to create calm sections in art and design. We will be mixing more colours in the next modules and you can elaborate on this exercise or do it again, but it is important to have some collections of the basic range, their tints and the black mixed in to create the deeper tones.


Taking time to review the colours we work with is important. Reflecting on the limited range we have at this point is also important since we will be expanding the range with more options. Practicing the technique of collaging is important since we will be starting to create collages soon, with the first collection of coloured sheets now completed.

© 2020 Esté MacLeod

© 2020 Explore Colour