Color Theory

Strictly Attitude

Air-Valve Autobot!
Goal- Provide solid resources about color theory in one spot so that forum member can find it easy to educate themselves.
Way it works- I will post a bunch of links to different web sites that have allot of information on the subject. Under the link I will post some of the article to give you an idea on it. In order to get the most from this post don’t skip the links. I will start with Basic information on the subject and go more in depth.
Definition of Color Theory- -In the
visual arts,color theoryis a body of practical guidance tocolormixing and the visual effects of a specific color combination. There are also definitions (or categories) of colors based on thecolor wheel:primary color,secondary colorandtertiary color. Although color theory principles first appeared in the writings ofLeone Battista Alberti(c.1435) and the notebooks ofLeonardo da Vinci(c.1490), a tradition of "colory theory" began in the 18th century, initially within a partisan controversy aroundIsaac Newton's theory of color (Opticks, 1704) and the nature of so-calledprimary colors. From there it developed as an independent artistic tradition with only superficial reference tocolorimetryandvision science.
Basics of Color Theory-
Color theory encompasses a multitude of definitions, concepts and design applications - enough to fill several encyclopaedias. However, there are three basic categories of color theory that are logical and useful: The color wheel, color harmony, and the context of how colors are used.
Allot of interesting reading here posted allot of it
A primary color is a color that cannot be made from a combination of any other colors. A secondary color is a color created from a combination of two primary colors. Tertiary color is a combination of three colors (primary or secondary).
Additive color synthesis is the creation of color by mixing colors of light. Human vision relies on light sensitive cells in the retina of the eye. There are two basic kinds of sensors. These are rods and cones. Rods are cells which can work at very low intensity, but cannot resolve sharp images or color. Cones are cells that can resolve sharp images and color, but require much higher light levels to work. The combined information from these sensors is sent to the brain and enables us to see.
Subtractive Color
Subtractive color synthesis is the creation of color by mixing colors of pigment, such as paint or ink in your computer’s printer. This type of color is what is used in the art and design world. When learning basic color theory, art students typically use familiar colors like red, yellow, and blue.
Subtractive color processes work by blocking out parts of the spectrum. The idea of subtractive color is to reduce the amount of undesired color reaching the eye. If, for example, you had a yellow image, you would want to have a dye that would let red and green reach the eye, and block out blue. The additive secondaries become the printers’ subtractive primaries, because each of the additive secondaries will reflect two of the additive primaries, and absorb one of the additive primaries.
The three primaries on the artists’ color wheel are red, blue, and yellow.
Description of Color
Hue – Is the name of the color itself, the dominant wavelength of light or the choice of pigment.
Lightness (brightness) – Is the lightness or darkness of the color, the amoung of light reflected or transmitted.
Saturation – Is the level of white, black or grey, ranges from neutral to brilliant (pastel to full color).
Tint – Base color plus white.
Tone – Base color plus grey.
Shade – Base color plus black.
Value – How light or dark a color is.
Aggressive - AKA 'Warm'. The yellows, oranges, and reds. These come towards the eye more (spatially) and are generally 'louder' than passive colors.
Passive - AKA 'Cool'. The greens, blues, and violets. These recede from the eye more (spatially) and are generally 'quieter' than the aggressive colors.
Color Schemes
Achromatic – An achromatic color scheme is one that is colorless – using blacks, whites and grays.
Complementary – A complementary color scheme is one that uses colors directly across from each other on the color wheel. This can be accomplished by using two colors or hues that are opposites such as red and green or violet and yellow. In this color scheme any two complements, all the semi-neutrals and the neutral they produce can be used. Black and white can also be used. Since you can choose from varying colors and hues which can give a bold and dramatic effect, this color scheme is best used for dramatic, strong, or bold statements.
Monochromatic – A monochromatic color scheme is a one-color color scheme. However, the color can be neutralized by adding its complement to lower the intensity of the color. Black and white can also be used to darken and lighten the value of the color. It is achieved by using one color or hue, utilizing that colors’ various tints, tones and shades. Using a monochromatic scheme with multiple textures creates character and maintains unity.
Analogous – An analogous color scheme is any three adjacent primary, secondary, or tertiary colors on the color wheel. These schemes can be warm or cool. Each can be neutralized by use of its complement, and black and white can be used. Analogous colors "harmonize" well and produce a definite mood to a composition. This can create a very harmonious color scheme.
Color Triad – A triadic color scheme are colors that are an equal distant from each other on the color wheel. Any three colors equidistant around the color wheel form a triad and can be used in this color scheme (eg., red, yellow and blue). Semi-neutrals are mixed using two of the colors in the triad and the third can be added to further neutralize the pair. Black and white can also be used. This can create a very balanced scheme.
To view this content we will need your consent to set third party cookies.
For more detailed information, see our cookies page.
Wow that's going to hurt my brain for a while digesting that lot. Thanks for the post.
So much information here a must read
modern color theory (concepts)
This page introduces the conceptual basis of artists' "color theory" — the traditional body of lore applied by painters and photographers to the design and creation of images. The addition of "modern" indicates that I compare the traditional (and still popular) tenets of color theory to the answers provided by modern color science.

The companion page on modern color theory (applications) provides practical insights into pigment attributes, paint formulation, the behavior of color mixtures, palette design and the principles of color contrast — the practical knowledge necessary to put color theory concepts to work.
This page is a condensed summary of the content included in my pages on color science and artistic color theory.
Before we start: what is color theory for? Historically, its teaching literature has claimed to provide artists with four broad of knowledge:
• Insight into subtractive color mixing with paints, inks or dyes.
• Prediction of the color context effects produced in colors that are viewed in contrasting surrounds or visual patterns.
• Guidance in the selection of color schemes or color design used in paintings, furnishings and architectural interiors.
• Identification of the relationship between individual colors and ideas or emotions — usually called color symbolism.
An exploration of the issues important to color design is provided on the page color harmony & contrast.
Traditional color theory has implicitly been about conceptual color, my term for color treated in the abstract rather than as physical paints or visual color relationships. Conceptual color is divorced from materials or colorants, independent of viewing context, and mixes according to idealized rules. In both this page and the next, I emphasize the differences between conceptual and material color, as each influences the visual color we experience through our eyes.
Looks like a great read full of allot of information and goes highly into the artist side of things then the technical scientific aspect
Man, this stuff is Awesome.
Thanks so much for putting this up.
It will help me and many others like me, to understand what it is we want to do with colour and also why it doesn't work out if we try something radical.
Always wondered why my cleaning pot finished up being sludgy purple, and now I know! Lol!
And here was me thinking it was just my visual perception problem all along.
Boy, do I feel silly now!
Look out for tomorrow's lesson on perspective

Looking forward to it, I've already covered depth of field so that should save you some time and maybe you can get another square inch of your painting done next week so you canhave it completed by December 2025:whistling:
Thats pretty ambitious 2025 you keep pushing the deadline closer and closer. I just got some goldens in the mail today so that means the Purley painting will be happening very soon.
Wait, um I'm getting a feeling of did'n we do this years ago? I hate studying :( but it is great information and I will do my best to make use of this info ( as long as no teacher standing over my shoulder with a ruler) :sus::sus::eek:ops: lol

Oh, and thanks John for taking the time to put this together for everyone!
The ever-intriguing question, “What color is that?” is a very common one among human beings. Colors are important in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, our homes, cars, even our pets. . . and while the colors in a painting might be the first thing a viewer notices, there’s a lot more to color than meets the eye.
So it’s up to us, as artists, to delve beyond just recognizing and naming colors to using colors for their inherent qualities, towards a specific end.
The role of colors in a painting
In a recent tutorial we looked at the roles of value in our paintings, and how these roles are independent of color. Today I want to take a look at what we can make color do that value cannot do.
You’ll notice that just like value, color has two roles: describing and composing.
Imagine music without a clear melody. . . In art, a close equivalent to that would be a painting without clear values or colors. Just as the notes and rhythms of a melody lead us through a musical piece, it is value and color that move us through a painting.
But what exactly are the roles of these two indispensable elements? Let’s start off by taking a look at value.
The role of values in a painting
We all know what value is. It’s a term we use to refer to lights and darks, which are arguably the most important of all the visual elements. Without value variations we could not even see the subject—in pitch black or blinding light or even thick gray fog, for example, we see nothing.
Moreover, we’ve heard repeatedly from our instructors that if we get the value right, the color can be off and the painting will still work. Is this always true? Perhaps not, but there is a lot of truth to it.
So why is value so important? There are two reasons.
Paint will always do the same, this is known for many centuries.
There are so many ways to work with color, but the most important thing is that you understand color always does the same. I will try to explain it real short and clear so you can see the differences and yoiu know what they do when you use them, you don't need to stick with one method, you can mix them, just like your colors and do what suits you best at that moment.

Tint: Opaque (Titanium is most used for this) White + color. Making your paint lighter and opaque.
Tone: Opaque Gray + color. Making your paint less saturated and opaque
Shade: opaque (carbon a.o.) Black + color. Making your paint darker, less saturated and opaque

You can make gray by mixing white + black = cold gray. Start with white, otherwise you end up with a liter of gray, as black is stronger. This way you can mix several midtones, you can use a value checker tool to mix 7 or 8 gray values, black and white.

You can also mix complementary colors for a warmer gray, the colder your colors are that you mix, the colder the grey. This gray will be transparent. Cold colors are magenta till blue green. Warm colors are red till yellow green. Mixing a warm green and warm red gives you a warm "grey", as in brown. Mixing a cold blue green like phtahlo green and a cold red like magenta, will give you a more neutral gray.

You can also mix split complement colors for a warm gray. This will also be a transparent, unless you an add an opaque white, grey or black.

Mixing opaques: Start with your hue (target color), add the value (light/dark) with white or grey or black and change the saturation where needed. Too much of a color can be neutralized by adding the opposite color on the colorwheel. Too little color can be added with the missing hue, use the color wheel as your compass. The target color can go more to the left, (making the color colder if you hold the colorwheel with yellow downside) or to the right (warmer).

Transparents always get darker with every layer you add. Opaques stay the color that you mixed or bought.
Transp: fast results, as you can see your artwork as a lighter version of the final artwork, work from dark to light, save your highlights. Thin your paint to prevent overshooting.
You can erase easier, getting lighter with every layer you erase. It is a bit more grainy if you don't thin it enough or use too low pressure.
The colors tint very strong, as they are not weakened by an opaque.
They blend together, giving your color transitions, f.e. green is a transition between yellow and blue
They can be sprayed with a low pressure between 1.3-1.8 bar and providing an excellent airbrush control as they are so thin.
these are the main properties of transp.

Opaque is thick smooth, hard to erase in layers. It gets warmer and darker when you rub it soft and or completely white when you rub it hard.
It needs more pressure as it is thick, giving you less airbrush control and more tipdry. Use 2-3 bar to get it out properly.
You need to pre-mix your colors to get an accurate color pallet and then work from light to dark (lightest color first, you can give them numbers, letters etc, to mark them). The result is somewhat slower before you see what you do, as you need the contrast with the darker colors to see depth in your painting. You also need more paint for mixing, about 1 cm paint per color plus the paint you spill for testing. Testing can be done on the edge of a white paper. Spray 100% opaque, then measure and compare it with your reference. You can do this by isolating your color with a neutral color paper and a hole cut out. Usually a white paper suits best. Hold the testcolor on your reference and put the neutral paper with your cut out isolation window on both the testpaper and ref. Now see if you need to go darker, lighter, greyer, warmer or cooler. Add missing color.

You can also use a combination and then you better work on an opaque base with transparents on top, as opaques cover everything and give you a blueshift when going over a darker color.
Opaques can be thinned with water and used as a more transparent color, being easier to spray. It will keep it's properties of not changing value at a certain point, as the opaque has it's limit due to the addition of white, grey or black.

You can also check out the color2drop tool that prof Zsolt Kovacs made and put on his website, it gives you the recipe to mix colors in drops. It depends on the colors of your monitor, but if that is callibrated it can be really accurate and give you a head start, loosing less paint.

If you like to work transparent here is the basic to mix paint:

Yellow, red and blue are primary to mix paint, magenta, yellow and cyan blue + black are primary to mix in the print industry. These colors can make nearly all colors you need. Some exceptions for very bright and strong colors like violet can be a bit harder to mix, as blue and red just don't look the same. You could buy an additional violet. I use very warm primary colors, as it is easier to cool down a color then to warm it up. Cold colors are much stronger.
Mixing the primary colors gives you secondary colors: red + yellow= orange, blue + red = violet, blue + yellow = green
Mixing these gives you brownish colors. Opposite colors give you a neutral color, brown/gray

I hope this helps you a bit.
Of course you can use the 'mixing code system' with any colour in your palette to help in assessing it's potential mixing properties. If the colour is a near secondary, designate it with two upper case letters. e.g Orange = YR, Green = YB, Violet = RB
As you have seen from the colour wheel charts above, some paints will contain traces of all three primary colours. For example Yellow Ochre is a greyed yellow so in addition to yellow it contains traces of blue and red (Yrb). Payne's grey is a greyed blue (Bry) and similarly contains all three primaries.

The conclusions from this when mixing colours are:
  • Bright colours will not be achieved by mixing colours which contain significant proportions of all three primaries e.g. Yr + Rb + Br, or YR(Orange) + Br etc.,
  • Neutral colours will be produced when similar proportions of all three primary colours are present.
  • Fairly Bright colours will be produced when only a trace of the third primary is present. e.g. Rb + Yr, or Yb + Ry etc.,
  • Bright colours will be produced when there are only two primaries present in a mix e.g. By + Yb, or Ry + Yr etc.
Ok, I now have a migraine. I am just a kindergartener here! Red and Blue are not primary colors now? I have known about the CMYK model for awhile, just didn't know the theory behind it.
After studying this formerly, I can say for theory is one of the most critical, yet understudied fundamentals in art. In my first painting class the first half was nothing but making color swatches from a limited palette. And paint from that. In my 500 level painting classes you still see some artists struggle to remember compliments, shading colors with grey or black. Not using compliments for your own neutrals or skin tones. Now I know that a lot of members here have not had 'formal' training. But guess what, the fundamentals are freely available everywhere on the web. You don't have to go to grad school like myself to master color theory. Is it easy to do so? Hell no, I'm still learning everyday, what it does require, just like airbrushing itself, is practice and experimentation, and follow through. You got to put in the hours, and watching YouTube doesn't count without actually doing it.