Color theory is a very complex area. People have spent decades researching the intricacies of color theory.
But as artists, do we need to have a complete understanding of color theory? In short, no.
The 80/20 rule applies here in that you can get 80% of the benefit from learning only 20% of the theory in relation to color.
If you are just starting out with painting and are struggling with mixing your own colors, then I can break all the theory down into just 5 questions which you can ask yourself each time you mix your own colors:
- Is there enough red?
- Is there enough yellow?
- Is there enough blue?
- Is there enough black?
- Is there enough white?
That is all you need to know when you are starting.
What do these questions mean?
Well, red, yellow and blue are the three primary colors. These are the most important colors to you as an artist, as they can be used to mix pretty much any other color in the spectrum.
White is used to make different tints of your colors. Black can be used to make different shades. In other words, white and black can alter the value of your color.
By adding white & black together with your color (gray), you can de-saturate your color, or in other words, kill the color. This will make the color less intense.
These questions will help you cut through the complexity of all the color theory and keep you focused on what is actually important. All the theory in the world is pointless if you do not know how to apply it.
Now obviously this is just touching on the surface of color theory and mixing and I strongly encourage you to learn as much as you can about color, as it is amazing!
If you want to learn more about color, then you may find this post interesting.