On a traditional colour wheel, there are 3 Primaries, 3 Secondaries, and 6 Tertiaries, adding up to 12 pure Hues on which all the rest are based. In BTC's Colour Basics, there are also 12. Both systems start with what colour is all about: it's all about that Base.
It is important to understand Value, how light or dark a colour is, independent of its true Hue, with or without any added White (to make it a Tint) or any added Black (to make it a Shade). And it's also important to understand Saturation, to be able to discern the quality of a colour relative to its purity from pure Hue to completely hueless. But more than anything, we need to be able to assess a colour on its own, to know Hue in its purest most saturated form. It's true that Hues on their own aren't often what we love most about colour, and palettes do get more interesting, complex, sophisticated, and unique when we throw a little White, Black, or both into the mix. But if we really want to be able to track our Tints, Shades, and Tones, before we get too distracted by the lighters, darkers, and muddiers in the middle, we need to train our brains to recognize the Corner Hues and their connecting pure Hue combos all by themselves. In the world of colour, it's all about that Base.
BTC BASE HUES
In the BTC deck of 216 Colour Cards, 30 of the colours are just that: colours. There are the 6 Corner Hues (which contain a single Hue each), and there are 4 other Hues connecting between them (which are all a combination of 2 neighbouring Corner Hues). Here they are, in a full spectrum row-by-row colour flow, starting with Yellow, shifting towards Red, and so on through to Magenta, to Blue, to Cyan, to Green, and then completing the flow back to Yellow:
With this many steps between Corners, it's pretty easy to follow the flow, even if you didn't have the numerical sequencing of the Colour Codes to guide you. But there really is no limit to how incremental the steps could be. In a traditional colour wheel, there could be 360 degrees of separation, and the 60-step flow between 2 Corner Colours would be so gradual, it would almost read more like a blend, even with 2 Corners as different as Yellow to Red:
THE 'BASIC' 12
No matter how many 2-part Hues you have connecting any 2 Corner Hues (Y, R, M, B, C, G), they are all just variations of the 6 Connector Hues that meet at the 'halfway' point between any 2 Corners (Y+R, R+M, M+B, B+C, C+G, G+Y) . A traditional colour wheel would call these 12 the 3 Primaries, 3 Secondaries, and 6 Tertiaries, equally spaced around the circle like the hours on a clock. In BTC, they connect along 6 of the edges of a Colour Basics Colour Cube, separating the 'northern hemisphere' Tints from the 'southern hemisphere' Shades like a zigzagging equator. If you only remember 12 Base Hues, remember the Base Hues from Colour Basics: 6 Corners and 6 Connectors:
And remember, there are always the same 6 Corner Hues, no matter how big the Cube...
Here are some recent Base Hues from both the BTC deck and the Colour Basics deck, randomly added as part of Colour Every Day. Can you figure out which Hues they are? Click on the swatches to check your guesses.
Once you spend some time getting to know the Base Hues as colours on their own, find their variations as Tints, Shades, and Tones. Remember, the best way to 'picture' a colour as a mix of its ingredients is to picture the Base Hue first, and then 'add' the White, Black, or Grey. Starting with the 12 Colour Basics Base Hues, spotting the Tints, Shades, and Tones will become second nature.