The Color Wheel is a chart that shows relationships between colors. There are many forms of color wheels yet the colors are always in the same orientation.



Secondary colors are made by mixing Primary colors. On the color wheel, the Primary colors are spaced apart while the color in between them shows the color created when mixed. For example, red and yellow make orange.


Red + Yellow = Orange

Red + Blue = Purple (also known as Violet)

Blue + Yellow = Green



Red  Yellow   Blue 



Green   Purple   Orange 



These are colors in between Primary and Secondary colors, such as turquoise, chartreuese, coral, yellow-orange, etc. 



Hot (warm) colors stand out the most, while cool colors are said to recede and appear dark in low light. When a red is placed next to a blue, for example, the red will most likely stand out. Hot colors are often associated with fire, happiness, intensity and excitement while cool colors are often associated with the sky, calm, nature, mystery and melancholy. Violet (purple) can be either warm or cool.



Red   Yellow   Orange   Purple



Blue   Green   Purple 



These tones match all other colors. 

Black   White   Greys   Browns



Many artists use Blue and Violet as opposed to black or grey to create darker tones. They create more vibrant tones as opposed to using black which can make colors dull.



White is added to make a color lighter. Black is added to make a color darker and duller.



Yellow is added to make a color brighter. 


Complimentary colors (also known as Opposites) are across each other on the Color Wheel. There are three things to learn about Complimentary Colors.

1 When opposite colors are placed next to each ther they make each other stand out, more so than hot and cool colors. 

2 Equal amounts of opposite colors mixed together will make brown. 

3 A small amount of one color and it’s opposite will make a darker tone. For example, adding a small amount of red to green will make olive green and adding a small amount of purple to yellow will create mustard-like yellow. 

Red - Green

Yellow - Purple

Blue - Orange



Colors next to each other on the color wheel. For example, orange and violet are analagous to red.



A color palette used in a work of art called a split complimentary is when you use the two analagous colors of the compliment of a color. For example, green, violet and orange is an example of a split complimentary color palette.






A triadic color scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel.







One color and its many shades. Artwork that only has one color (although there may many shades of the same color).



A Color Palette is a set of colors used in artwork. A Painting Palette a surface to mix colors.



Another word for color.



The main color something is. For example, an ornage is orange, but it shines in light (highlight) and takes on darker tones where the light does not fall upon it.

Another meaning for this term are the recurring colors you see in any given place. For example,at a beach you may find aqua tones in the ocean and golden browns in the sand.

Art Vocabulary



Aesthetic - The appreciation for beauty and design in our world. Having taste for a particular style.


Additive - Art like sculpture or collage where you add on 3-D elements.


Asymmetry - A composition where there are not the same things on both sides.


Atmospheric Light - When objects in the distance are faint, blurred, and bluish in color.


Background - The objects in the back of an image like a landscape.


Back stitch - sewing one stitch backward on the front side and two stitches forward on the reverse side to form a solid line


Balance and Rhythm - The way in which objects are harmoniously arranged in art, either symmetrical or asymmetrical.


Composition - Arrangement of lines, shapes, colors, etc. in a art piece.


Ephemeral - Something that lasts a short amount of time, like most street art.


Embroidery - Making decorative stitches with a needle.


Focal Point - The first spot people look at in a work of art.


Foreground - The objects in front of an image such as a landscape.


Foreshortenoing - An image where the parts of a single object appears large in the foreground and smaller in the distance. For example, a photograph or drawing of a person sitting with their feet up facing the front would appear to have large shoes and a small head.


Form and Function - Form is how well an object is designed and pleasant to the eye and how well it works for its intended purpose.


Grid / Graph - Equidistant horizontal and vertical lines.


Imagination - Creative ideas that come fromone’s brain.


Mandala - A circular design. 


Media - The word artist traditionally used for art materials.


Middle ground - The objects in the middle of an image, often a landscape.


Narrative - Art that appears to involve a story.


Negative Space - The empty space around the main shape of an image.


Organic -  Natural forms from nature.


Orientation - In art this often refers to vertical or horizontal compositions.


Ornament - Decoration often added to architecture and other physical designs.


Overlap - Something that is laid on top of another thing.


Pattern - A design that repeats itself.


Perspective - Objects in the distance seem small while closer ones are full sized.


Pictogram - A symbol that can be seen and understood quickly.


Process - A task done step by step - a series of actions that come to an eventual end.


Positive Space - The main shape of an image, like ther person in a portrait.


Proportion, Scale - The size of one thing in relation to another. For example, cups are designed to be  held by human hands.


Rhythm - Shapes that suggest patterns and movements much like music in a work of art.


Scoring - Pressing straight and curved lines into paper to make them more easily bendable.


Silhouette - The outlined shape of an object.


Spiral - A swirl that starts at the center and keeps curving outward.


Stylized - The unique style in which a particular type of art is made.


Symmetry - A composition where there are the same things on both sides.


Subject - The main objects of an image.


Subtractive - Art where you take away 3-D elements.


Symbol - A graphic image that stands for an idea.


Technique - The way in which a particular kind of art is made.


Texture - The way something feels. 


Three-Dimensional - Something with multiple sides and dimensions.


Thumbnail sketches - Small sized sketches to figure out the composition of a work of art, or a cartoon panel.


Two-Dimensional - Something that is flat.


Juxtoposition - The pairing of objects in an image.


Volume - Something with weight and mass.


Line & Drawing


Blind Contour - A drawing where you stare at an oject, not at your paper as you draw in order learn to focus.


Chiaroscuro - Artwork with intense dark and light tones.


Contour Drawing - An outline drawing, including interior lines.


Drop Shadow - A shadow cast on the ground or a table from an object under a strong light.


Gesture Drawing- A quick and loose type of drawing often of a figure.


Cropping - When an images is cuts off the side of a composition.


Diagonal - Lines that are at a slant.


Horizontal - Lines that run from left to right.


Intersecting - Lines that cross each other


Line Quality - Various types of lines such as thick, thin, dark and light, or broken, scratchy and smooth.


Observation Drawing - Drawing involving careful examination.


Parallel - Lines that run side by side each other - they do not intersect.


Reflected Light - When the shadowy side of an object has light bouncing on it from the surface it sits on. For example, a white table may lighten the shadow of an object sitting on it.


Shading (also Gradation, Tone, Value, Grey Scale) - Dark to light variations of any given color.


Sketch - A quick and loose drawing with erratic and scratchy lines done in order to render the overall shapes.


Straight and Curved Lines - The two main types of lines - it is the same in drawing as it is in writing.


Vertical - Lines that run from up to down.




Abstract - Non-representational art, of non-recognizable objects, made up of simply lines, shapes and colors.


Art Collective - A group of artists that make art together.


Assemblage - A collage using three dimensional materials. 


Collage - Artwork involving cutting, tearing and pasting.


Conceptual Art – Art based on an idea or art about art making itself.


Functional Art - Art that can also be used for everyday activities.


Installation - Art that transforms a physical space such as a room or a wall.


Kinetic Art - Art that involves movement.


Land Art - Art that uses and is created with natural materials in a natural setting like the woods or a beach.


Landscape - An image of the environment - of a place.


Mixed Media - Artwork that combines materials and genres.


Mural - A painting or installation on a wall in a public space.


Painting - Artwork involving paint.


Portrait - An image of a person (or pet).


Printmaking - Artwork that involves making multiples of one image.


Public Art - Art made and meant to be experienced by a community.


Relief - A sculpture that has a a flat back, mounted on a wall.


Representational - Art that is meant to look like a recognizable person, place or object, etc.


Sculpture - Art that can be seen from all sides and takes up space.


Still Life - An image of inanimate objects.


Stylized - Art that is recognizable yet in an abstract, cartoon-like or non-realistic manner.