Reconsidering the Color Wheel, Part 2

In order to understand the pigments in my own watercolor palette better, I decided to chart my paints. I wanted not only to indicate the complementary pairs but to record gradations of intensity, carrying the color from one high-intensity hue, through the balanced gray, across the wheel to the high-intensity complementary hue. In the process, I had to correct some of my own erroneous assumptions, like the yellow/purple pairing.

Munsell style color circle

As I wrote last time, rather than relying on the old tried and not-so-true three-primary color wheel, I turned instead to the color theories of Albert Munsell.

Since not all the paints in my palette corresponded precisely with the major and minor hues in the Munsell circle, I chose those that seemed closest. I ranked similar colors outside the circle, roughly in order of hue, to help me better judge what each of their complements would be without having to chart my entire palette. Not having a single purple-blue paint to complement my Winsor Lemon, I combined Brilliant Blue Violet and French Ultramarine Blue to create the appropriate blend.

I did not use any ready-mixed gray in the color wheel but made a swatch of Payne’s Gray, outside the wheel, for comparison purposes. No black or white paint was used. If you want a list of the specific paints I used, send a request to

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