Experimenting with Colour – How to use a Colour Wheel

colur wheel

I’ve been having fun this week using a colour wheel to experiment with colours for some Mandala’s that I’m making.

I thought I’d share my thoughts on how to use a colour wheel in the hope that it will help you do some experimentation too!



primary colours.png



As I’m sure you’ll remember from art class at school.  There are three primary colours;

Yellow, Red and Blue.





secondary colours2


And three secondary colours, which you make by mixing the primary colours (in equal proportions);

Orange, Purple and Green




The colours in the middle are made by mixing these primary colours with the secondary colours.  If you don’t believe me, try with some paint, its actually quite fun!! 🙂  I tried it with my left-over Scheepjes Catona yarn…!!

colour wheel catona.png

The logic of colour wheels is quite simple.

colur wheel opposites label.png
Complimentary Colours


Colours which are opposite each other are “Complimentary”.

For example Green and Red or Orange and Blue

Using these colours together will create a high-contrast and make them stand out.



adjacent colours
Adjacent Colours

Colours which are adjacent to each other are some times called harmonious colours

For example: Red and Orange or Green and Yellow

These colours will go well together simply because they are next to each other and therefore close in “tone”.

Triadic colours.png
Triadic Colours


The final set of colours that I’m considering are “Triadic colours” they are spaced equally apart on the colour wheel.

For example,

Blue, Red and Yellow  or Orange Purple and Green

Using these colours will create a vibrant mix, like for Complimentary colours


Of course, with yarn, there are so many different shades of yarn, it gets a bit more complicated.  To work out whether the colours I’m thinking of will work, I’ve tried to “group” my yarn into the colour groups above, this is useful when thinking about adjacent colours as a light green may well be next to a dark green, but they are both green!

So I found the easiest way is to organise it into colour groups.  That made it easier to see which groups were adjacent, complimentary or triadic.


And so the experimenting can begin…..

complimentary colour options.png
Some Complimentary Combinations
Adjacent colour options
Some Adjacent Colour Combinations
Triadic combinations
Some Triadic Colour Combinations

Of course, you may want to add in more than two or three colours, in which case you can think about the tone that you want to create.  For example, for my Mexican Sunshine Mandala, I wanted a vibrant feel, so I used Green, Purple and Orange (Triadic) and added in some red which was complementary to the Green.


Using the same logic, I could use blue, red and yellow (Triadic tones) with a purple to compliment the yellow…

colour option

My other tip for creating mandala’s specifically is you want a mix of light and dark shades of the colour, use just dark colours and it looks good but it doesn’t have the same “pop”….in my opinion!

Go on and give it a go! I’d love to see the colour combinations that you come up with!  Feel free to post them in the comments if you want! 🙂

Jo Out…



3 Responses

  1. Now this is interesting, this is how I chose my colours, but how you have demonstrated it is very useful, woulsnit be ok for me to share this on Knitcraft Tea on the green page to show our followers how to chose their colourway if they’re not using the original?

    1. thanks. I’m happy to hear other people do this too. I tried to keep it simple and yes I’m happy for you too link to this if it will help your folks out! 😊 i hope it does.

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