Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Color - Part 1

Tuesday Tips & Tricks

Let me give you the good news first: color can be learned! Great colorists of the past – Turner, Delacruix, van Gogh – used the science of color. Their color is no accident or chance.

There are numerous theories and approaches to color out there. Many are helpful and can be used for practical purposes with great success. We will discuss one of them - Color Theory by Johannes Itten. Itten is regarded as a father of modern color theory. Some agree and some argue, but the bottom line is that Itten came up with a system to make using color manageable.


In this TTT post we will look at preliminaries, color equations and a color wheel.

Going back to centuries past we want to mention Isaac Newton who discovered that visible light can be split in color bands using a prism and Count Rumford who discovered that those bands can be combined again to make something close to white light. (More on visible spectrum in Wikipedia here.)

Then it was then discovered that an object appears a certain color when white light strikes it because the color of the object is reflected and the remaining light rays are absorbed.

These are fundamentals. More interesting discoveries were made, but what is important for us here is the discovery of subtractive primary colors: red, yellow and blue. This is big! Everything else flows from here. In ideal world adding any two of these primary colors produces a secondary color:

Red + Yellow = Orange
Yellow + Blue = Green
Red + Blue = Purple

Basic Theory – Color Equations and Triads

In basic color theory the primary color cannot be mixed or made from other colors. All the other colors can be created from the primaries. Our color equations look like this:


Note 3 primaries, 3 secondaries, and 6 tertiary colors. They are organized into 3 basic types of triads (primary triad, secondary triad and 2 tetriary triads). These triads make a complete color wheel of 12 colors. If we take these colors and position them in a circle, we will get a rudimental color wheel!


Now this begins to look like something we have seen before. How many of us have an object like this among our art supplies, probably stuffed in the back somewhere because it made irritatingly little sense?


Perhaps now it will make a little more sense! Dig it out and look at it, there is some really neat information on it!

We will stop now, but with return with next TTT chapters on color and discuss color schemes.

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