Make a Creative Color Wheel Design from Scratch

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Creating color wheels are great practice for color mixing, as well as if you’re a beginner wanting to understand color theory. If you want to take it up a step and have a little bit more fun, consider making your own creative color wheel!

They can be in any shape or design you’d like; from something simple to a beautiful complex design.

For this tutorial, I decided to do a star design with some negative(white) spaces inside of it. If you’d like to follow along, here’s a list of the supplies you’ll need:

watercolor supplies to create a color wheel
  • Watercolor Paper*
  • Watercolor Paint – you’ll need at least 3 primary colors (red, yellow, blue).
  • Paint palette – you only really need this if you’re using watercolor paint from tubes, so you have somewhere to put the paint onto.
  • Flat Brush – the size depends on how big you will be making your color wheel. This color wheel I made was about 7″ in diameter, and I used a 1/2″ flat brush. A 1″ flat brush can work well too.
  • Water container – possibly more than one. You’ll want to get your brushes really cleaned off good when you’re selecting a new color! I have a container that has 3 separate sections, which was perfect(one for each primary color!).
  • Paper towels – for absorbing excess water from your brush or the paper.
  • Ruler
  • Protractor
  • Pencil & Eraser
  • Black Marker
  • Masking Fluid
  • And an old Brush you don’t care about for the masking fluid. I also used an plastic lid for a palette for it.

*If you don’t know what type of supplies to get, I go into details here on watercolor supplies, what kind to use and buy.

For this tutorial I’m using 9×12″ Arteza watercolor paper, Daniel Smith set of 6 Essential watercolor tubes(they are Pyrrol Scarlet, Quinacridone Rose, Hansa Yellow Light, New Gamboge, Phtalo Blue, and French Ultramarine), Faber Castell Black brush art pen(size B), and Winsor & Newton Masking Fluid.

Making the Star Shape

Normal color wheels are divided into 12 parts, one section for each color. But when creating your own shape, you really can do whatever you’d like. So to make drawing this out a bit easier, I decided to make it an 8 pointed star.

First, decide how big you want the star on the paper. I’m using 9×12″ (22.8 x 30.5 cm) paper, so I figured that leaving an inch border on either of the short sides would look nice. So I made the longest sides of the star 7″ (17.8cm) across in diameter.

Drawing in the main lines

  1. Find the center of your paper using a ruler, and make a mark there. *Draw the following lines lightly, not too dark, as you’ll be erasing parts of them out in later steps.
  2. Draw a horizontal line, 7″ long, leaving one inch on either side of the paper for a border.
  3. Draw a vertical line, 7″ long. There will be a larger border on the top & bottom of the paper if you’re using the same size paper as I am. You’ll now have a cross shape.
  4. Next, using a protractor, mark out the half way points in between the lines you just drew to create an X shape. If you line up the protractor correctly with 90 degrees being on the vertical line, you’ll make 2 marks-one at 45 degrees, the other at 135. Flip your protractor around if you’re using a semi-circle type, and make those marks again on the bottom side.
  5. Use your ruler again to connect and draw those diagonal lines in to form an X shape. Remember the lines are 7″ long in total from end to end. From the center of the paper to the edge of the line it will be half that value, at 3.5″.
  6. These long 7″ lines are the “Main” Lines.

Drawing in the secondary lines

  1. Next, using your protractor again, mark divisions in the middle of each of the lines you have on the paper. They will be at 22.5, 67.5, 112.5, and 157.5 degrees for the top half of the star.
  2. Make these marks on the bottom half of the star as well, so that there is a mark opposite each other.
  3. Use a ruler to connect the opposite ends of these lines. This time however, these lines will be shorter, at only 5″ long. So 2.5″ on each side from the center of the star.
  4. These shorter 5″ lines are the “Secondary” Lines.
drawing your main and secondary lines to form the star for your color wheel.
*I’ve darkened in the lines so you can see them better on the computer, but in reality they are drawn a lot lighter.

Connecting the lines to form the large star shape

Next, connect all the ends of the lines you just made to form the star. Use a ruler to keep them neat and straight.

large star shape with lines

Drawing the smaller star shape

  1. On all of the longer “main” lines, use your ruler and make a mark 2″ from the center of the star.
  2. On all of the shorter “secondary” lines, make a mark 1.5″ from the center.
  3. Connect those marks to form a smaller inner star shape.
drawing in the inner star shape

Drawing the final star shape

  1. On all of the long “main” lines, use your ruler and measure one inch from the center of the star and place a mark.
  2. Connect these marks with 1.5″ marks you made when creating the smaller star shape on the “secondary” shorter lines .
  3. Erase the lines on the inner diamond spaces.
Final star shape drawing for your creative color wheel.
Top: connecting the marks to form the final inner star shape. Bottom Left: erasing the lines inside the diamond shapes. Right: Final drawing!

Using the Masking Fluid

We’re going to mask over parts of the image that we want to remain white, so the paint won’t touch it and it’ll be easier to blend the colors without worry. Remember to only use your old brush for this! The masking fluid is not kind to brushes ๐Ÿ™

  1. Put a little of the masking fluid on a palette using your brush or whatever tool you’d like.
  2. Put some on your brush and fill in those inner diamond shapes. The ones you erased the lines inside of.
  3. Then also place some masking fluid around the entire outer star shape.
using masking fluid

Painting the color wheel

Yay, finally we’ve made it to the fun part, painting in your creative color wheel design! ๐Ÿ™‚

As I mentioned above, I’m using a set Daniel Smith watercolor tubes for this piece. The colors are in clockwise order starting from the top of the star: Pyrrol Scarlet, New Gamboge, Hansa Yellow Light, Phtalo Blue, French Ultramarine, and Quinacridone Rose. So I have 2 reds, 2 yellows, and 2 blues.

You can create this with just 1 red, yellow, and blue too. I wanted to see what all 6 of these colors would look like together in a bigger color wheel however, since I already did smaller watercolor color wheels with the individual colors.

If you use more than 3 colors, just make sure that they follow the circle from warms values to cool. Put them together in “rainbow order”. For example, I started with Pyrrol Scarlet, which is a warmer red(going on the red-orange side), then New Gamboge which is a slightly orange yellow, etc…

  1. Plan out your colors and where they will go on your color wheel. Put them in order as if they were in a rainbow.
  2. Since I’m using tubes, I decided to put a little dab of paint on each spot on the color wheel that I want the paint to go. You don’t have to do this, but it can be helpful to keep you on track. If you’re using pans you can put a tiny bit of color in each spot, or just use a light pencil mark.
  3. Start adding water to your brush and blending your first colors.
  4. Go back and forth adding more color to your brush as needed, or more water. Use the paper towel to dab excess water or paint off.
  5. Make sure you clean your brush off good before starting on a new color! You want the color to be the most pure in the spot it starts off in, then blend it with the color next to it. Always clean your brush off in between!
painting in your color wheel shape and blending colors
Painting in the color wheel design

Final Steps

Lastly, we’re going to use a black marker(ideally it would be waterproof) to go over the lines again to make them nice and visible, and remove the masking fluid.

  1. Using your ruler, draw with the marker over your main and secondary lines.
  2. Next, we get to remove that masking fluid! Use your finger, and gently rub the masking fluid off. Be care around the parts that have the marker on them. I made the mistake and didn’t realize that because it’s rubber, the marker was more liable to come off and rub a bit on my paper ๐Ÿ™ Luckily it wasn’t much and I was able to erase it off. So you might want to take a tissue on the parks of masking fluid that have marker on them, as you rub the rest of it off.
  3. Once all the masking fluid is off, we can now draw in the rest of the lines with the marker, and finish the piece!
drawing lines on the star color wheel
Draw the main and secondary lines with a marker, THEN remove the masking fluid!
All finished!

Don’t worry if your color wheel isn’t perfect looking. As you can see, mine does have some paint outside the lines lol. If you want, you can fix that with some white paint. And if you have any white paper showing on the inside of the lines, as long as you used a water proof marker, you can put some water on your brush and blend it to the edges. I decided to leave mine as is however. It was a fun practice piece!

Questions? Want to show off the creative color wheel design you did? Post in the comments below! Use the hashtag #creativecolorwheel on social media so we can see each others work ๐Ÿ™‚


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Creative watercolor color wheels

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