Color Theory

After learning what a color is, we can now talk about color theory, which, according to Wikipedia, is “a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual effects of a specific color combination.” To begin, let’s talk about complementary colors. These colors are located on opposite sides of newton’s color wheel and cancel each other out to produce grey.

    Red and green are complementary, as are blue and orange and violet and yellow.

Warm colors include most reds, yellows, and oranges, as well as browns and tans. Cool colors involve a variety of bluish colors, from greens to purples, including greys. By definition, warm colors are those associated with a sunset or a sunny day and cool colors are those associated with an overcast day.  In application, which I will further in later blogs, warm colors arouse the viewer while cool colors seem to relax.

Achromatic colors (also known as neutrals) involve little color saturation. Completely achromatic colors are black, white, and grey, while near achromatic colors include browns and tans.  near neutrals can be obtained by mixing a neutral with a color.

Overall, colors are defined by three aspects: lightness, hue, and saturation. Lightness can also be known as value or tone and is a representation of the variation in the perception of a color or color space’s brightness. Lightness, a relative term, means the brightness of an area relative to the brightness of a similarly illuminated area that appears to be white. Perceptually, lightness is proportional to the number of nerve impulses per nerve fiber per unit time.

Saturation is the relationship between intense and dull in a given color. Light intensity and distribution are key factors in the saturation of a color. More saturated colors are the purest ones, and they can be achieved by using just one wavelength at a high intensity. Saturation drops as intensity drops. To desaturate a paint, one can use white, black, grey, or the color’s complement.

Hue is defined as “the degree to which a stimulus can be described as similar to or different from stimuli that are described as red, green, blue, and yellow.” Hue is usually implied when talking about different lightness or colorfulness of colors. For example, “light blue,” is the same hue than “purple blue.” Brown and pink are not hues; brown is a reduced orange and pink is a light red.

Now that we know the basics of color theory, we will be able to go into the applications of this beautiful discovery in later weeks. Colors and color theory are important aspects of advertising, decorating, rhetoric, and much more. I am excited to finally be able to explore with you the applications of color and color theory.

2 thoughts on “Color Theory

  1. I love that this blog meshes science and art together so effectively. I appreciate that you defined a lot of these terms, because I think they’re pretty easy to mix up if you don’t know them very well. Also, I always thought that mixing two complementary colors made brown, so I’m glad I learned that it actually makes grey. This was really interesting to read, and I can’t wait to read more about how colors can influence us!

  2. Wow! I love that you include the plans for the next weeks at the end of your blogs because I find the use of color to elicit certain moods and thoughts SO interesting. In this blog, you gave me a lot of the terminology (saturation, intensity, hue) that I’ve always kind of pretended to know about but didn’t truly understand. Now I’ll know what I’m doing when I use the color editors on Microsoft Word 🙂 Cool blog, looking forward to more!

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