Art 101

“Others have seen what is and asked why.  I have seen what could be and asked why not.”

-Pablo Picasso

One day I was shopping for a new type of art medium for some sketch projects, and I stumbled upon a brilliant collection of colored pencils.  Since my early days of college, I would often create 3D pictures of nature, all in colored pencil, and sell the pictures for some quick cash.  So, I thought why not go back to my first love of sketching in color?

The interesting thing I love the most about colored pencil as a medium is that it doesn’t dry out or get old like paint does.  It’s pretty timeless to me.  The bigger the array of colors you can find, the more creative you can be.  My current collection has primary, secondary, and tertiary colors that extend pretty far in the world of colors.

So, let’s start with colors.  What are primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, and how do you go beyond the basic color wheel of imagination?

Primary Colors

Primary colors are your three foundational colors that exist, and always will exist.  Red, Yellow, and Blue.  You can’t create these three colors from any other color because they exist all on their own.  There has been some debate that you can mix magenta with yellow to make red, but it bears the question: where does the color magenta come from?  Amelia Settembre, Global Director of Outreach at The Lighthouse Initiative, states ‘magenta doesn’t exist because it has no wavelength; there’s no place for it on the spectrum’.

Secondary Colors

Secondary colors are made from mixing two primary colors.  The combination from that mixture gives you an entirely new color that doesn’t resemble a primary color.  The color combinations are:

Red+Blue = Purple

Yellow+Blue = Green

Red+Yellow = Orange

Tertiary Colors

Tertiary colors are made from the mixture of a primary and secondary color.  From tertiary colors, you get a wider array of colors that still hold the foundation of red, yellow, and blue.  When combining colors, you receive the following:

Red+Purple = Red/Purple

Red+Orange = Red/Orange

Yellow+Green = Yellow/Green

Yellow+Orange = Yellow/Orange

Blue+Green = Blue/Green

Blue+Purple = Blue/Purple

By combining colors, you can see that mixing and matching gives you broader combinations of color.  Whether colors are warm or cool, you can spot its foundation.  Whether the hues are light or dark, faded or bold, shaded or brushed, the foundation colors remain at the heart of the swatch that it represents. 

All colors are beautiful and tell their own story in addition to sharing stories with other colors.  You can appreciate the presence of color or the absence of color by understanding its origins and roots.  The next time you look at a work of art, take a look at the spectrum of colors to see the wondrous miracle before you.


  1. Settembre, Amelia. “Magenta: The Color That Doesn’t Exist And Why,” The Startup, February 26, 2020, accessed August 1, 2022,

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