Student Lesson: Create Your Own Color Wheel

Graphic novels stand out for their bold and bright visual artwork. Colorists are the people we can to thank for that!

Colorists are the professionals responsible for adding color to black and white line art. They have knowledge of what we call color theory and color psychology. 


In graphic novels color distinguishes characters and scenes, but it is also has symbolic purposes, to communicate ideas, illuminate essential details, or even evoke an emotional response from the reader.



You may not be aware of it, but color is an incredibly powerful force in our lives. Colors is a strong emotional clue and it effects our bodies and our minds. The study of this effect is called Color Psychology.

As humans, we have learned to associate specific colors with feelings and emotions.

For example,

The color blue is often associated with feeling “blue”.

We associate emotional states like sadness or gloom with the color blue.

Red is often associated with anger.

Now taking color psychology a step further:

We have also learned to associate certain feelings and emotions with temperatures.

Colors like blue, green and purple are what we call “cool” colors.

Reds, yellows, and oranges are considered “warms”.

Colorists are masters at working with these human associations to turn two-dimensional drawings into vivid stories that feel real and influence our emotions.

The colorists make their color choices depending on how they want the audience to perceive the world or characters.


What is the color wheel?

Color Theory is the rules and guidelines about how colors look and work with other colors. Certain colors harmonize well with other colors and artists, designers and colorists aim to incorporate this harmony into their work.

A color wheel or color circle is an illustrative organization of color and it is how designers, artists, and colorists find the perfect combination of colors.


There are 12 main colors on the color wheel, and they can be split into three groups: primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors.

Shade is created by adding black to a color and darkening it. This creates a deeper, richer color. Shades can be quite dramatic and overpowering. A Tint is created when a color is mixed with white, which makes it lighter and more pastel.