Basic Color Theory

I have had this blog for a long time and never written about color theory? What? That is all about to change. I am going to talk about the basics of color theory and reference it later. I hope it is super informative and helps make whatever art, design or coloring page you are doing really pop out!

What is color? Color is basically light reflecting off a surface at different wavelengths. White reflects everything while black absorbs everything. Thing about walking on a deck on a hot day. If the deck is dark it can feel hot on the feet. While a lighter color reflects this heat and is much more comfortable to walk on.

Light that we can see is part of the visible light spectrum ranging from red to violet. Certain colors appear depending on how much the color bends based on their wavelength, violet bends the most while red bends the least. 

The Color Wheel

Colorists have come up with the color wheel to show how all the colors are related. The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. All the other colors on the wheel are made from these colors. White and black are not on the wheel, but can be added to make darker or lighter shades. White and black are not colors, but the addition or subtraction of light.
Click here to get this color wheel.

The colors on the inner part of the wheel or primary colors are red, yellow and blue.

The colors on the next part of the wheel or secondary colors are: orange, green, and violet.

The colors added to the next part of the wheel or the tertiary colors are: red orange, orange yellow, yellow green, green blue, violet blue, and red violet.

Browns are made from the mixing of these colors. Pure gray is on the spectrum from black to white, but most grays have a color mixed in with them.

Hue, Saturation and Value

That is the color wheel basics, but there are so many colors out there! Colors can be a mix of the basic three colors. How does one put that on the chart? To describe all the differences in colors there are three characteristics of colors that are used to describe or change a color.

Hue is usually used to describe what color family the color is in. The primary and secondary colors are usually used to describe hue. There are many blues but not all of them are the same. The undertone of a color is the underlying color of a color. For example red in red orange.
Saturation or chroma describes how much of the original color is still in the color. Colors that are gray are less saturated.

Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. 

Colors that are saturated colors mixed with white are tints
Saturated colors mixed with black are shades
Saturated colors mixed with grays are tones.
Color Science & Color Combinations
With all the colors there are so many ways they can be combined. There is some science involved in that too! It will help provide great color combos so many different kinds of projects.

Warm and Cool Colors
First up is the definition of warm and cool colors. Warm colors lie on the red and orange side of the color wheel.
Cool colors lie on the green and blue side of the color wheel. 

Analogous colors
Analogous colors are colors that are next to one another on the color wheel such as: blue violet, violet, and red violet,
and blue, blue green, and green.
Complementary Colors
Complementary Colors are colors that are on the opposite side of the color wheel. These consist of;
yellow and purple,  orange and blue,  and red and green.

The tertiary colors can also be combined this way.

Triad Colors
Triad Colors are equidistant apart on the color wheel, red green and blue are triads.
 Purple, green and orange are also triads.
Blue green, violet red, and yellow orange are also triads.
Tetrads is four colors that are two sets of complimentary colors that are next to one another on the color wheel.

Blue, green, orange and red at tetrads.
Red violet, blue violet, yellow green, and yellow orange are tetrads.

Split Complementary Colors
Split Complementary Colors are three colors in which one is from one side of the color wheel and the other two are the adjacent colors on the opposite of the color wheel.

Blue, red orange, and yellow orange are spilt complementary colors.
Monochromatic Color Schemes
Monochromatic Color Schemes are one color that are different in shades and tints.

Neutral Colors
Neutral Colors are white, beige, and grays.

How to Use

How does knowing color theory help? Knowing color theory and how to use different combinations of colors can really help when coloring, designing and artwork. Picking out colors before starting a project is one of the most important things I do when doing any kind of project. For example our house colors are green, blue, white, black and natural wood. The natural wood brings some warmth to the cool colors of blue and green. When I color a page the most important thing I can do is to pick the colors for the page before hand. I like only using 2-4 colors. If using more than this the page can look disjointed, unless I am doing a rainbow page.

Different colors can also be used to emphasize different seasons in the home and with art. Try experimenting with some of the color combos above and find favorites. The more experimenting the more honed design and art skills of picking colors will become.

Reference: The Pantone Book of Color 1990

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