Tertiary colours

A tertiary colour is made by mixing equal amounts of a primary colour and a secondary colour together. There are six tertiary colours. On the colour wheel, they sit between the primary and secondary colour they are mixed from.

Colour wheel with tertiary colours. Orange yellow, orange red, purple red, purple blue, blue green, green yellow

  • Orange and yellow mix to make yellow-orange (this may also be referred to as amber)
  • Red and orange mix to make red-orange (this may be referred to as vermillion)
  • Purple and red mix to make red-purple (this may also be referred to as magenta)
  • Blue and purple mix to make blue-purple (this may also be referred to as violet)
  • Green and blue mix to make blue-green (this may also be referred to as turquoise or teal)
  • Yellow and green mix to make yellow-green (this may also be referred to as chartreuse or spring green)

curriculum-key-fact
Sometimes we have different names for the same colour. If you can’t remember all the names for thetertiary colours just use the basic ones like red-orange etc.

In Woman with Parasol (1893), Paul Signac creates a vibrant image based on tertiary colours.

Instead of mixing different colours of paint Signac applied small dabs of red-orange, blue-green, red-purple (and yellow) to his canvas. From a distance our eyes mix these to see different hues, tints and tones.

Using pure contrasting tertiary colours results in an intense, bright image.

Woman with a Parasol, Paul Signac, 1893, oil on canvas, The Print Collector / Alamy Stock Photo
Woman with a Parasol, Paul Signac, 1893, oil on canvas, The Print Collector / Alamy Stock Photo