pinterest G-6EBBFD7WT4

Paint by Numbers Color Key and Color Charts: An Intro to Color Theory

paint by numbers color key

Have you ever painted one color and thought it looked great? Only to paint a new color next to it to have your whole perception change? That’s the magic of colors and their effect on how we see the world around us. This is especially true when you’re using the paint by numbers color key and color charts. They teach you how different colors influence each other and the painting as a whole, otherwise known as the color theory.

In our intro to color theory, you’ll learn about the different characteristics of colors. Plus, you’ll get to know how you can use them to create remarkable works of art.

Let’s dive in.

Paint by Numbers Color Key – An Intro to Color Theory

Ledgebay Paint by Number for Adults: Beginner to Advanced Number Painting Kit - Fun DIY Adult Arts and Crafts Projects - Kits Include - Ritas Pansies (Multicolor, Fullset)
  • REPLACEMENT PAINT SET: Full Set Of Acrylic Paints To Complete Your Paint By Number
  • EXCLUSIVE DESIGN: This Masterpiece is licensed exclusively to Ledgebay and a portion of all proceeds will go directly to the Artist. The Vibrant...
  • ALL TALENT LEVELS: From beginners to pros, any painter will enjoy completing this DIY craft project

Color theory is the science of using color to its full potential. It focuses primarily on how specific colors work well together while others clash.

This branch of art studies also deals with how different colors affect our feelings and perceptions. We think Paul Gauguin said it best when he described colors as “A deep and mysterious language.”

The Color Chart: Learning the Basics

Ledgebay Paint by Number for Adults Framed Canvas: Beginner to Advanced Number Painting Kit - Kits Include Acrylic Paints, (4) Brushes & Tabletop Easel (Rails West, 16' x 20' Framed)
1,861 Reviews
Ledgebay Paint by Number for Adults Framed Canvas: Beginner to Advanced Number Painting Kit - Kits Include Acrylic Paints, (4) Brushes & Tabletop Easel (Rails West, 16" x 20" Framed)
  • REAL LICENSED ARTWORK - Our paint by numbers for adults with the Ledgebay kit features designs from authentic licensed artwork. The artist makes...
  • PREMIUM PACKAGING - When it comes to protecting your paints, nobody does it better than Ledgebay. Their DIY painting by numbers for adults kit...
  • VACUUM SEALED - With our painting by numbers pack, you can keep your paint fresh and flexible for a long time. The vacuum-sealed design prevents...

Now that you know a bit of color theory, you’re probably wondering how you can use it in your paintworks. Well, to appreciate the essence of color theory, you have first to understand colors and the color chart.

Take a few seconds to look around you. In that short amount of time, your eyes took in hundreds of light wavelengths as they bounced off various objects.

Next, your eyes send this data to your brain. Then, your brain interprets these wavelengths as colors. Pretty neat, huh?

As a result of Sir Isaac Newton’s experimenting with light and prisms, he devised the first color chart in 1666. Since then, designers and artists have been using his invention to hone their craft.

Color charts are also called a color wheel or color key. One of the best ways to better understand colors is by using a paint by numbers color chart. They play a significant role in achieving better results in painting.

Paint by Numbers Color Key – Understanding Color Charts

Now, we’ll take a deep dive into color charts. You’ll learn about how we make, blend, and group different colors.

Let’s take a look.

Color Groups

The color wheel consists of three distinct color groups. Understanding each group can help you develop harmony and richness in your artwork.

Primary Colors

Primary Colors Matte Acrylic Paint Set - Red, Blue, Yellow
  • Get your paint on with this all-in-one paint set!
  • Includes three 2 oz bottles of paint (color names may vary slightly)
  • One bottle of BLUE

There are three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. These colors naturally exist. In other words, you can’t make them by mixing other colors together.

This is why artists rely on them when creating color schemes and combinations.

Secondary Colors

We make secondary colors by mixing any two of the three primary colors. There are only three of them on the color chart: orange, green, and purple.

Here’s how you can produce the three secondary colors:

  • red + yellow = orange
  • blue + yellow = green
  • red + blue = purple

Tertiary Colors

There are six tertiary colors in all. They’re made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color.

A basic rule of tertiary colors is to mix two hues that come next to each other on the color chart. One way to name the new color is by using the two hues that made it, like yellow-orange. Another option is to use the actual name for each color, as you’ll see below:

  • yellow + green = chartreuse
  • yellow + orange = amber
  • blue + green = teal
  • blue + purple = violet
  • red + orange = vermillion
  • red + purple = magenta

Color Temperatures

If you split the color wheel right down the middle, you’ll get one side of all warm colors. Then, on the opposite side, you’ll find all the cool colors.

Neutral colors are black, white, and gray. They’re typically used to change the tint, tone, and shade of individual hues, which we’ll talk more about below.

Warm Colors

Warm colors are associated with energy, brightness, and fun. They include reds, oranges, and yellows.

Cool Colors

Cool colors include blues, purples, and greens. They give off vibes of peace, serenity, and calmness.

Color Expansion

We mentioned earlier that there are 12 main colors. So, how come there are much more than just 12? Where do the extra colors come from?

These extra colors are either tints, tones, and shades, depending on how you produce them. They’re just modifications of the 12 original hues on the color chart that have been altered slightly to give different effects.


Hues are the 12 colors on a color wheel in their purest form. They’re considered to be the springboard for any paintwork.


Add black to a hue, and you get a shade. Shades add depth and richness to the original color. Yet, the effect remains muted slightly.


A tint is achieved when you add white to a hue. If you want pink, you add red and white in varying degrees to get that perfect tint.


A tone is when you add both black and white or just grey if it’s readily available. This darkens the original color. At the same time, it turns the hue into a less intense, more subtle color.

Tone and saturation are sometimes used interchangeably because they mean the same thing. However, tone refers to artwork, whereas saturation is more commonly used with digital imagery.

Color Schemes

Now that we have a complete understanding of the color chart, let’s talk about color schemes. Simply put, color schemes are the study of how different colors work together.

There are over eight color schemes to choose from. Today, however, we’re focusing only on the three schemes commonly used by artists and designers.


Complementary colors are two colors that are opposite each other on the color chart. True to their name, complementary colors work great together.

Their sharp contrast to each other can bring a sense of calm. One example that comes to mind is the use of blues and oranges in John Singer’s Girl Fishing.

That being said, overuse of complementary colors can be tiring to our eyes. Too many intense colors in one place can make your artwork appear jarring and off-key.


Analogous colors are three colors found next to each other on the color chart. To create this color scheme, you’ll need to choose one color to be dominating. The second color supports the first, while the third color will accent the other two.

Many analogous color schemes are used to incite feelings of energy and enthusiasm. Red, orange, and yellow are perfect examples.

Other analogous colors work together to produce feelings of tranquility and peace. Think green, blue, and cyan found in many of Claude Monet’s paintings.


The triadic color scheme uses three colors evenly spaced around the color chart. Each of these colors is dynamic and full of energy.

One of the best examples of the triadic color scheme is the Burger King logo. The three colors on the logo work to create harmony within the image as a whole.

Paint by Numbers Color Key – Summary

We hope you found our intro to color theory useful. Colors are a fascinating way for us to understand and connect with the world around us.

Colors can impact our moods and emotions. They also play a huge role in deciding how we feel about specific products or brands.

When it comes to art, it’s essential to understand the impact colors have. We can use them to produce intense hues or subtle nuances of shade. By using the right color combinations, you can create incredible artwork.

To check out our complete selection of beautiful paint by numbers kits, CLICK HERE!

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top