The primary purpose of this article is to teach you about the RGB color model and RGB color wheel. Additionally, this article provides several free resources, including printable color wheel charts, blank color wheel templates, and RGB color tables. This article will also briefly touch on other ways to represent color, including CMYK, (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key) HSB (Hue, Saturation, and Brightness), and Hex (Hexadecimal).
The Color Wheel
The color wheel is a circular chart used by artists to see the relationships between colors. With the advent of computers and digital effects, the RGB (Red, Green, and Blue) color model has become increasingly important. The RGB color model is now widely used in digital media because RGB are the channels used in computer monitors and tablets. However, several others color wheel models exist, including the RYB wheel (Red, Yellow, Blue), and the RGV wheel (Red, Green, Violet).
RGB, HSB, CMYK & HEX
Red, Green and Blue (RGB)
The colors red, green and blue are even distributed across the rgb color wheel, dividing the circle into 3 portions. Red, green, and blue are known as the rgb primary colors. Yellow, green cyan, and magenta are the secondary colors. Orange, green-yellow, green-cyan, blue-cyan, blue-magenta, and red-magenta are the tertiary colors.
The colors of the RGB color model are additive, (as opposed to subtractive). This means that when colors are combined, they increase in brightness. The sum of the primary colors red, green, and blue results in white. The absence of any colors results in black. The chart below shows how rgb colors change as the three are combined. The brightness of each primary color is expressed by a number from 0 to 255.
Hue, Saturation and Brightness (HSB)
To obtain various shades of a primary color can be challenging using the RGB color model. The HSB (Hue saturation, brightness) color model is more appropriate for this.
In the HSB color model, a color is defined by its hue, saturation, and brightness. A color’s hue is its pure color, without white or black added. In Photoshop, hue is defined in degrees, ranging from 0 degrees t0 360 degrees. The hue for red is 0. The hue for green is 120, and the hue for blue is 240. Various shades of a color are created by altering a color’s saturation and brightness, both of which are defined as percents (0 to 100). Brightness represents the lightness or darkness of a color. Saturation is a color’s “degree of difference from the gray having the same lightness.” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary) The illustration below depicts the relationship between saturation and brightness for the red, green, and blue hues.
Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (CMYK)
In print media, as opposed to digital media, the CMYK color model is used. While RGB is an additive model, (primary colors become lighter as they are combined), CMYK is a subtractive color model (colors become darker as they are combined.) The CMYK model, where the K stands for “key” and means black, is used with inkjet printers.
HTML Colors & Hex (Hexadecimal Values of Colors)
HTML colors are rgb colors expressed through a 6 digit hexadecimal value. The red color channel fills the first two digits, green the second two, and blue the final two. Each channel has 256 color values. Combined, the channels create 16,777,216 unique colors. Below you will find a color wheel with both the RGB and HEX values of the 12 main color wheel colors. Click on the image to open the high resolution version of the image to save to your computer.
Red: RGB(255, 0, 0); HEX #FF0000
Green: RGB(0, 255, 0); HEX #00FF00
Blue: RGB(0, 0, 255); HEX #0000FF
Cyan: RGB(0, 255, 255); HEX #00FFFF
Magenta: RGB(255, 0, 255); HEX #FF00FF
Yellow: RGB(255, 255, 0); HEX #FFFF00
Orange: RGB(255, 128, 0) HEX #FF7000
Yellow-Green: RGB(128, 255, 0) HEX #7FFF00
Green-Cyan: RGB(0, 255, 128) HEX #00FF7F
Blue- Cyan: RGB(0, 128, 255) HEX #007FFF
Blue-Magenta: RGB(128, 0, 255) HEX #7F00FF
Red-Magenta: RGB(255, 0, 128) HEX #FF007F
Blank Color Wheel Templates
Below you will find two printable blank color wheel templates. These may be useful if you wish to create your own color wheel by hand, or for teachers teaching students about the color wheel.
In writing this article, I referred to the following webpages to verify my facts.
- Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_wheel
- W3Schools – http://www.w3schools.com/html/html_colors.asp
- Chris Chien Sketch Blog – http://chris-chien.blogspot.com/2011/10/rgb-color-wheel.html
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary – http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/saturation