The primary, secondary and tertiary colours (also called hues) along with their tints and shades make up the colour wheel above.
Primary Colours: These colours cannot be mixed, rather they are used to make other colours. The primary colours are red, yellow and blue. If you mix the three primary colours, it would produce a dark muddy brown.
Secondary Colours: By mixing two primary hues together you create a secondary colour. There are three secondary colours. They are the hues green, purple and orange. Orange from mixing red and yellow, violet from blue and red, and green from yellow and blue.
Tertiary Colours: The third set of hues are known as tertiary or intermediate colours. These hues are often made by mixing adjacent primary and secondary hues. The six tertiary or intermediate colours are yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange, and yellow-orange.
However some people include the greyed colours in the tertiary category which means that a tertiary colour can be any colour created from mixing a primary with a secondary (opposite or adjacent on the colour wheel). So according to this definition browns and greyed colours can also be called tertiary colours.
Complimentary Colours – Colours directly opposite one another on the colour wheel. The compliment of red is green. The compliment of blue is orange. Sometimes these are called contrasting colours.
Harmonious Colours – Colours near one another on the colour wheel. Harmonious colours of red are purple and orange. Harmonious colours of green are yellow and blue. Sometimes these are referred to analogous colour.
Tints and Shades – Tints are colours mixed with white while shades are colours mixed with black.
Sometimes artists use colours that evoke certain emotions. Other times they use colours simply because they like the way they look. There is nothing wrong with choosing a colour because you like it because, after all, it is your work. However, when choosing a colour you still want to make sure its use does not conflict with what you are trying to say with your work. Proper use of basic colour theory can help you decide what colours match, as well as what each color makes people feel.
See if you can identify the primary, secondary and tertiary colours on the wheel above!