How Does a Newton Colour Wheel Work?

How Does a Newton Colour Wheel Work?

What’s the most beautiful colour you can see? It might seem like such a subjective question, but it’s not as simple as you might think to answer. The colours we see are all due to how the light interacts with our eyes and how the brain processes this information! The Newton colour wheel (also known as the Color Circle) is an interesting demonstration of how different wavelengths of light create different colours.

Isaac Newton’s Colour Wheel is a visual representation of how light and colour interact. It was first published in 1704 after Isaac had been working for years on his experiments with light.

What is the Newton Colour Wheel?

Isaac Newton’s colour wheel is the foundation for understanding colour theory. It’s the first step in understanding how light interacts with colour to produce all the hues you see. The theory, which is sometimes called the “Newtonian” or “Optical colour wheel”, dates back to Newton in 1666. He used white light from the sun and prisms to demonstrate how it could be separated into its component colours by refraction. He also showed how when two beams of light hit each other, they combine and form new colours.

Different Colours in Newton’s Colour Wheel

A Newton Colour Wheel is a type of colour wheel that helps to visually show the relationship between different colours. The traditional one uses twelve colours and was created in 1878 by Isaac Newton. It is divided into two halves, which are split vertically into six colours each.

The light half of the wheel contains red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.
The dark half contains magenta (or purple), indigo (or blue-violet), turquoise (or green-blue), gold (or yellow-orange), citrine (or brown-yellow) and coal black.

The number of individual spots on the wheel represents how many primary colours can be mixed from that particular colour’s spot on the circle.

Light & Colour Lessons

The Isaac Newton colour wheel is formed with two sets of three strips of different colours.

One set contains red, yellow and blue; the other contains green, indigo and violet.

The red, yellow and blue set relate to the primary colours that can’t be created by mixing other colours – these are called ‘primary’ because they come before the secondary ones in a colour-making recipe. Primary colours have existed since time immemorial; it was Aristotle who first classified them as warm or cool with their origin: hot (red) or cold (blue).

The green, indigo and violet set are secondary colours made by mixing primary ones. The wheel uses three of these in its top strip, which runs clockwise from red to violet.

The wheel’s bottom strip shows how primary colours create secondary ones. The wheel isn’t symmetrical: indigo is slightly lighter than blue, and violet is slightly darker than red. Light and colour lessons like these were integral to 18th-century artists: they could use them to give paintings greater depth and realism.


The Isaac Newton colour wheel is an example of how light can change the colour of objects. As the hues are mixed, they create new colours not found in any part of the spectrum. The more you mix different colours, the more likely you will see a pastel version of that colour.
Mixing hues of light create an interesting effect as it shows how light can change colour, so even though there are seven colours on a science colour wheel, they appear to create more. These hues are known as complementary colours and they make each other look brighter when paired. However, when artists mix more than two colours, these new shades will have no specific name since there is not a specific word for every single shade created by mixing all seven hues.

With all this information, we hope all your doubts regarding the colour wheel have been cleared. If you have any more questions regarding the same, feel free to comment down below and let us know.

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