Color Mixing Color Schemes Watercolor Exercises

Watercolor Triadic Color Scheme

The watercolor triadic color scheme involves using three contrasting colors that are not direct complements or analogous but are equally spaced on the color wheel.

Triadic colors add vibrancy, depth, contrast, and visual interest creating a harmonious and balanced painting composition that is pleasing to the eye.

Choosing the right triadic colors will set the tone and mood of the artwork. Let’s explore how to effectively use the triadic color scheme in watercolor painting.


The triadic color scheme is often referred to as the primary triad because it commonly consists of the three primary colors: yellow, blue, and red.

But the triadic color scheme can be any three colors that are equidistant from one another on a 12-color color wheel that consists of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

To select a triad simply pick one color on a 12-color color wheel, skip the next three colors on the color wheel to find the second color, then skip the next three colors on the color wheel to find the third color.


Here are examples of triadic color schemes:

  • Yellow, Blue, and Red: Three primary colors.
  • Orange, Green, and Violet: Three secondary colors.
  • Yellow-Green, Blue-Violet, and Red-Orange: Three tertiary colors.
  • Blue-Green, Red-Violet, Yellow-Orange: Three tertiary colors.


Here are some tips on how to effectively use the triadic color scheme in watercolor painting:

  1. Choose a Dominant Color: Start by choosing one color from the triadic color scheme as the dominant color for your painting. This color will be the main focus of your artwork and will set the tone for the entire composition. For example, you can use a warm red as the dominant color for a fiery sunset scene or a cool blue for a serene seascape.
  2. Use the Other Colors as Accents: Once you have chosen the dominant color, you can use the other two colors from the triadic color scheme as accents in your painting. These colors can be used to add interest and visual impact to your artwork. For example, you can use touches of blue and yellow to create highlights or shadows in your red-dominated painting.
  3. Experiment with Different Combinations: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations of triadic colors to create different effects in your watercolor paintings. For example, you can use a cool blue with a warm yellow and a muted red to create a painting with a sense of calmness and tranquility, or you can use a vibrant red, blue, and yellow to create an energetic and dynamic composition.
  4. Pay Attention to Color Balance: One of the key aspects of using the triadic color scheme effectively is to maintain a sense of color balance in your artwork. Make sure that the three colors are used in a balanced and harmonious way so that none of the colors overpower the others. You can achieve this by using different intensities, values, and proportions of the colors to create a visually pleasing composition.
  5. Experiment with Different Techniques: Watercolor painting offers a wide range of techniques that can be used to enhance the triadic color scheme in your artwork. For example, you can try wet-on-wet techniques to create soft and blended transitions between the triadic colors or use dry brush techniques to create texture and depth.

In conclusion, the watercolor triadic color scheme is a powerful tool that watercolor artists can use to create vibrant and visually appealing paintings. By choosing three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel and using them effectively in your artwork, you can achieve a sense of balance, harmony, and depth.

Experimenting with different combinations, paying attention to color balance, and exploring various techniques can help you unlock the full potential of the triadic color scheme in your watercolor paintings. So, grab your brushes, pick your triadic colors, and let your creativity flow as you explore the beauty of this dynamic color scheme in your watercolor artwork!


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Choose one of the following transparent and semi-transparent watercolor triadic color scheme groups:

A primary triad:

A secondary triad:

A tertiary triad:

A tertiary triad:

Compose small value-study paintings using one of the above triad color groups, but to start do not mix the colors together.

Paint one unmixed color in the “focal point” central area of emphasis in the composition.

Then, paint the other two colors in varying proportions surrounding the focal point color.

Also, use a gray scale value finder as a guide for mixing a range of tonal values for the triad colors.

gray scale value finder

Afterward, add the mid-tonal values and neutralized color mixtures in the outlying areas of the painting composition.


By spending time working with the watercolor triadic color scheme, you will eventually gain a deeper understanding of color harmony and contrast, and how to organize the colors and values in your painting compositions.

To learn more about transparent watercolors, click the link to my blog post “Which watercolor paints are transparent.”

See my YouTube playlist “Watercolor Color Schemes” for more videos. And, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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