A Primer on Color Theory

November 10, 2011 at 11:00 am | Posted in Conventional Art | 1 Comment

The “Color Wheel” as we know it is a tool which allows us to visualize the color spectrum of light. More than that, it can be used in such a way that it can help us create beautiful color schemes which evoke emotion.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors

The colors of the wheel are divided into three categories: primary, seconday, and tertiary.

  • Primary – These colors cannot be created by mixing other colors. The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. From these 3, most other colors can be created.

  • Secondary – These colors are created as a result of mixing primary colors. Secondary colors are orange, green, and purple.

  • Tertiary – These colors are created by blending at least one primary color with at least one secondary color. Tertiary colors include, red-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, etc.

Hue, Saturation, and Value

  • Hue – To put it quite simply, the “hue” is the color. This may mean red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, etc.
  • Saturation – The “saturation” of a color describes its purity, and whether it is vibrant, dull, or anywhere in between. An easy way to think of this is to think about a colorful item of clothing. Image a bright red shirt, which after a few washes, begins to slowly fade in color. Therefore the “saturation” of the color is being decreased each wash.
  • Value – The value of a word describes the amount of white in a color. The more white, the brighter the colors. And vice versa, the less white, the darker it becomes.

Color Harmony
“Color harmony” is a term used to describe a scheme where the chosen colors just seem to “go well together.” There are many different types of color harmonies, but these are the basics.

  • Complimentary – This refers to colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red and green, or yellow and purple. Since these colors are complete opposites, they create a natural contrast and vibrancy when placed together.

  • Analogous – This refers to colors that reside next to each other the color wheel, creating a sense of harmony due to their similarities. A great example of an analogous color scheme would be red, red-orange, and orange.

  • Triad – A triad is a color scheme where all three colors are spaced equally around the color wheel, forming a triangle if you were to connect them.

This is merely the tip of the iceberg! Since the science and art of color theory has been practiced over centuries, there is an endless amount of information to be digested on this subject. But we thought it best to give you a brief introduction. We hope you’ll check back often as we roll out more features!

Best Wishes,
The Imikimi Team

“Colouring does not depend on where the colours are put, but on where the lights and darks are put, and all depends on form and outline, on where that is put.” — William Blake

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  1. […] Complimentary, analogic, triad, hue, saturation, value. What do these all these terms even mean? Are you lost, yet? Understandable. The world of “color theory” can be an intimidating one to enter. It’s not quite as simple as red and pink, blue and green anymore. Thankfully, we’re here to show you how to get past all that with the use of one simple tool, Adobe’s Kuler. […]


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