Spin the Colour Wheel One More Time

IMG_7850.jpgA few weeks ago, I started to consider the use of colour in Elves sets, particularly Spring Yellowish Green. This led to a discussion of colour theory in general. We talked about the colour wheel, and how colour themes might be derived using complementary colours; split complementary colours, analagous colours, triads and tetrads, amongst other things.Color wheelCombinations

This is all very well if I have a colour wheel, and I am looking to produce my own pigment, I hear you cry, but we are using LEGO, and the colour palette is pretty clearly defined. But how do the colours we have relate to this?Below, you can see a picture of the 2016 LEGO Colour Palette.  I am only working with the opaque colours today.  I sat down with a table of RGB values – as described in Ryan Howerter’s exhaustive colour reference – and entered the values into Adobe Capture – an iOS app, that can be used to help design colour schemes, but whose true purpose I have set out to pervert.

2016paletteI established the position of each colour within the 12 chromatic zones of the colour wheel, as well as their relative saturations. A couple of things became apparent: measurements using the Hue-saturation- brightness model don’t quite follow the colour wheel nicely; also, different colours can occupy there same region of the colour wheel, but they do not have the same brightness, such as orange and reddish brown.

SO: I set out to stratify the contemporary colour palette into 4 layers of brightness, as well as several radii representing the relative situation of colours.

I ended up with 4 colour circles, which could, in principle, be superimposed on each other. I have labelled them with their ‘colour ID’ number, from the palette above, to allow easy crossmatching. For easier cross matching, refer to the colour list at the end of the article.

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There are a few interesting tidbits that I have noticed in this exercise:

  • There are many blues and greens in the current palette.  Bluish greens are limited to the Azures, and are significantly more blue than green.
  • ‘Sand’ Tones are relatively desaturated, and occasionally less bright, compared to the original colour.
  • There are no orangish reds (or reddish orange) colours in the current palette.
  • Flesh and nougat are variations on orange! As is reddish brown.
  • Flesh and nougat don’t exist in many colours in my collection, other than minifigure heads.
  • Until I open up my Old Fishing Store, there is a shortage of olive green elements in my collection. Once I do open it, there will still be a shortage of flesh and nougat elements, especially those that are not minifigure parts.

Let’s Build Things Up A Bit

As we have multiple layers for our colour circle, I started to wonder how we might model this to fit into three dimensional space.  The I realised: in my hands, I was working with a sophisticated interlocking building system.  Perhaps I could build it.  I have a few hinges lying around the house, following on from a reject a year or two ago: I set them up to make a 6 pronged star – in white; medium stone grey, dark stone grey and black. Then I would place plates as spokes, in order to provide the ‘saturation distance from the centre.’ The bottom layer I left relatively close to the centre, giving an effect similar to a tornado!  I used clear bricks to help stack my layers.  The centre of the model can accommodate a 1 stud round brick, so I filled it up with black/DSG/MSG and white, depending on the layer.

No, when you look at our reference colour circle above, it has 2 chromatic regions. The spars we have here represent the primary and secondary colours: yellow, orange, red, violet, blue, green.  For the tertiary colours, I have them sitting between the spars in our photo set up, but when I construct it into three dimensions, I have opted to compromise, as I lack the elements for a 12 sided star: I place the bricks on one of the relevant spokes, but pointing towards the gap in which it belongs.  For example: Bright yellowish green (lime) sits with one stud on the green spar, and the second sitting into the space between green and yellow.

Here are the layers as I built them up:


After constructing these layers, I stacked them together…


And then attached the whole kit and caboodle to a rotating platform…

This is all well and good, but does it really help you to determine the best colour combinations in the available palette? Perhaps we should collapse our four levels into one, perhaps striping the sectors where the colours overlap on our colour wheels earlier…


In the interests of keeping the picture less cluttered than it was, I have left the colour numbers off, but you can refer to the numbers in the illustrations above to identify the colour element used.  From here, you can apply colour theory to help put together that awesome MOC, with an awesome colour scheme.  Why not try out the ‘Colour schemer’ at swooshable.com in conjunction with this and see what you can come up with. Can you see how your favourite theme fits in here? Certainly the Coast Guard sub theme of LEGO City uses White, Bright Blue and Bright Orange: the blue and orange are direct complementary colours.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at the colours we have available in LEGO elements today, and how they relate to each other.  Do you agree with the way in which the colours have been allocated? If so, why not leave a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to ramblingbrick.com on WordPress or Facebook.

Until next time,

Play well.


Here is a list of the current opaque colours, and their in house number to match with the 4 could wheels above.


  • 23 Bright Blue/Blue
  • 102 Medium Blue
  • 135 Sand Blue
  • 140 Earth Blue/Dark Blue
  • 212 Light Royal Blue

Blue Green

  • 321 Medium Azur
  • 322 Dark Azur


  • 28 Dark Green
  • 37 Bright Green
  • 151 Sand Green
  • 323 Aqua

Yellowish Green

  • 119 Bright Yellowish Green
  • 326 Spring Yellowish Green
  • 330 Olive Green


  • 24 Bright Yellow
  • 226 Cool Yellow

Yellowish Orange

  • 5 Brick Yellow (Tan)
  • 138 Sand Yellow (Dark Tan)
  • 191 Flame yellowish Orange
  • 308 Dark Brown


  • 18 Nougat (Flesh)
  • 38 Dark Orange
  • 106 Bright Orange
  • 192 Reddish Brown
  • 283 Light Nougat (Light Flesh)
  • 312 Medium Nougat (Medium dark Flesh)


  • 21 Bright Red
  • 154 (new) Dark Red

Reddish violet

  • 124 Bright Reddish Violet (Magenta)
  • 221Bright Purple (Dark Pink)
  • 222 Light Purple (Bright Pink)


  • 324 Medium Lavender
  • 325 Lavender

Bluish Violet

  • 268 Medium Lilac


  • 1 White
  • 26 Black
  • 194 Medium Stone Grey (Light Bluish Gray)
  • 199 Dark Stone Grey (Dark Bluish Gray)

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