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August 7, 2016

Introduction to Color Theory

Color Adds Excitement to Our Lives!

'Color' is all around us. It adds excitement and emotion to our lives. Everything from the clothes we wear, the pictures we paint, and the environment we live in revolves around color. Without color, the world would be a much less attractive place.

Color Theory is a set of guidelines that uses the element of color to create harmony, communicate ideas, or invoke an emotional response in the viewer.

We call it "theory" because we use generalizations to create aesthetically pleasing results.

It relies on using six colors or 'hue families' that follow the visual spectrum of light "ROYGBV." These color families can be further broken into tertiary colors, making 12 color families on the traditional color wheel system. Most importantly, they are all in the same order around the wheel.

Primary Colors

Are YELLOW, RED, and BLUE. When mixing pigments (subtractive color method), secondary colors are created by combining these together. Note that these three on their own make a beautiful color scheme, later introduced as a "triad."

Primary Colors

Secondary Colors

Are ORANGE, GREEN, and VIOLET. They are created by mixing two primaries. For example: ORANGE = RED + YELLOW. They also create a "triad" color scheme.

Secondary Colors

Tertiary Colors

They are formed by mixing two secondary colors together. For example, they include YELLOW-GREEN, BLUE-GREEN, YELLOW-ORANGE.

Tertiary Colors

Now that we have all of the twelve essential color families in order around the wheel, the following color schemes are all based on their relationships to each other as we go around the wheel.

Compliments

Are the colors directly opposite from each other on the wheel. Compliments together are incredibly eye-catching and vibrant.


Red & Green Complements


Purple and Yellow Complements

Split Compliments

Split compliments are less vibrant than compliments. Complements with an additional split complement are also eye-catching but more varied than a simple complementary scheme.


Orange & Green Split Complements


Color Compliments with Split Complement


Triads

Are any three colors in relation to each other on the wheel, i.e., three colors between each color. This combination creates a colorful yet balanced scheme.

Triads


Tetrads

Also known as a "square" combination, are any four colors in relation to each other on the wheel. It creates a colorful yet balanced scheme but is more complex.

Tetrads


Tetrads


Monochromatic

Is a single color with variations that change in lightness or darkness. "Tints" are created by adding white to a single color which lightens it. "Shades" are created by adding black to a single color which darkens it. 'Monochromatic' lack variety; however, they are quiet and soothing.

Monochromatic


Analogous

Are colors next to one another on the wheel, they feel calm and soothing but are more dramatic than a monochromatic scheme because it has more variety. This scheme is often found in nature because light reflects one object to another. For example, an apple may be red, but on closer observation, it may reveal orange and yellow colors depending on the lighting conditions.

Analogous


Neutrals

Are colors that have been diminished or "neutralized" by adding gray, black, earth tones., or their own color complement. Most all of the colors found in plants or nature are some type of neutralized color.

Neutrals or Low-Intensity Colors


Achromatic

Means no color or void of any color, also referred to as a "monotone achromatic." This scheme consists of black, white, and gray combinations only.

Achromatic


Clash or Polychrome

Of course, clashing colors will work if you do not want to create color harmony. Color and color on either side of its complement or a mixture of many contrasting colors will create a polychrome or color clash.

Clashing Colors


Let's recap on these color combinations. Notice how they are all about relationships on the wheel...

Color Theory Relationships

Have you ever tried using color theory to create your own color scheme? Did you know how complex color theory can be?