The artSparx Advanced Color theory
center is designed for those interested
in taking their color knowledge - and applications -
to the next level. Ideal for Interior designers,
Fine artists, Graphic designer and Illustrators. |
color to imply its complement.
The eye requires any given color to be balanced by
its complement and will spontaneously generate the
complement if it is not present, because of this
complements establish an equilibrium. If you stare at a
red square for a couple of minutes and then look at a
white surface you will see a green square, the eye
generates the complement. If two complements of strong
hue and similar value are placed side by side they seem
to vibrate and are difficult to look at.
Yellow-Violet are complements and
also contrast the
most in value.
Red-Orange – Blue-Green are complements and have
the strongest warm-cool contrast.
Red-Green are complements and have the same value.
Creating grey tones using color complements
Dull colors are made by adding some of a colors
complement. Contrast of dull and vivid colors is an
important compositional and spatial element in making
art. The more of the complement added to a color the
duller it will become until it becomes gray.
The additive system of color mixing is
principally involved in working with the effects of
colored light rather than paint. The methods of
photography being a primary example. By recombining
light rays, we can mix colored light as we would mix
paint. This system is called additive because the mixed
hues are obtained by adding light rays instead of
absorbing or subtracting them.
Transparent paint glazes:
The effects of
transparent or glaze paints (as opposed to opaque
paints) are a little like that of additive colors,
because transparent pigments reflect less white light
from their surfaces than do the opaque pigments.
A color effect is caused by the refraction
of light in all directions without the use of
pigments. This often occurs in nature, and until
recently was thought to have little to do with
painting. The brilliant colors of certain plumage and
minerals are caused by the refraction of light from
surfaces that have structures equivalent to a myriad
of tiny lenses or prisms, peacock feathers being a
fine example of this color effect. The
iridescent colors in soap bubbles or oil films on
water are examples of refracted light.
In contemporary paint effects, particularly
decorative finishes, the principles of diffraction are
becoming more common. Pearl and opal effects utilize
the refractive qualities if tiny mica or ground shells
added to a suspending medium or binder.
The effects of color or pigment can be altered by a
variety of methods.
1) the nature of the surrounding
2) its degree of gloss or the sheen it has.
the quality and intensity of illumination.
4) the effect
of the surrounding areas of color.
Each primary, secondary and tertiary hue is at a
level of full saturation, or brightness. Which
means there is no black, white, or gray added.
described in terms of value, which is the
lightness or darkness of a color, or the relative amount
of white or black in a hue.
White added in increments to
any of the twelve colors results in lighter values of
the hue called tints. For example, pink is a tint
of the primary color red.
The incremental addition of
black or gray to a hue results in darker values of the
hue known as shades. A shade of red is burgundy.
Manipulating the same color
Colors are relative.
That is to say a single color can be affected by a
number of circumstances that will appear to make that
Other colors can affect a color.
On a white background, color X appears bigger,
On a black background, color X appears smaller,
lighter and stronger.
On chromatic colors, color X appears tinged with
white and black are Achromatic colors
purple, pink, etc. all other colors with Hue, are
On warm colors, color X looks cooler
On cool colors, color X appears warmer
On dark colors, color x looks lighter
On dull colors, color x looks more intense
On intense colors, color x looks duller.
Colors next to each other on the color wheel. For
example, yellow, yellow-green, green. The are most
similar to each other and make the lowest contrast of
They produce a harmonious feeling, they are
non-contrasting colors. This sameness helps unify
compositions. In art it’s important to have contrast
(interest, liveliness, spice) and to have harmony
(balance). Like in life, if things are too much the
same things get boring. If things are too crazy our
lives seem too disconnected and unfocused and life
seems not to make any sense.
Value of colors
Colors with the same or similar values tie different
hued colors together, and relate unlike colors to each
Each addition of white or black reduces the vividness
of a hue.
Pure saturated hues differ in value.
Pure Yellow is very light. It is not possible to have
a pure dark yellow (dark yellow would imply the addition
of black or a shade)
Saturated blue is very dark. It is not possible to
have a pure light blue (light blue would imply the
addition of white or a tint)
Pure hues have their own values and to change their
values white or black must be added and the hue will be
Limiting a composition to a few principle tones,
planes or groupings through limiting the value gives
order, clarity and vigor to a composition. An eye for
hues of equal value is important for this purpose.
Pictorial space is achieved by the organization of
planes through tonal values. It is possible to negate
perspective (or create perspective) and make a flat
over-all effect through manipulating value. Create
a flash animation that shows different color hues of
same value, creating a flat plane. Click a button to
tint or shade some of the colors, to create perspective,
maybe a mosaic effect and a face appears…
The infinite grays between white and black are called
neutral grays. They are characterless, indifferent,
Achromatic, sterile and neuter. These neutral grays are
easily influenced by contrasting shades and hues. A gray
next to a hue will appear as its compliment,
subjectively in the eye, not the color. A gray depends
on its neighbors for life. A gray mellows colors and
reconciles violent color contrasts by absorbing the
colors’ strength and assuming it’s own life.
Achromatic- rigid, abstract
Chromatic- vibrant, complex
Achromatic colors loose their achromatic character
when next to a chromatic colors (they take on their
compliment). To keep their neutral character they must
be of a different value or adjusted with hue ( a little
of the adjacent color must be added). If a gray is next
to a red it will appear greenish unless it is a much
different value or unless a little red has been added to
Gray = black + white (neutral gray)
Gray = primaries mixed together
Gray = complementary colors mixed together.
Dark and light contrasts of color
It is difficult to distinguish between Shades (in
terms of hue). Tints are easy to distinguish between.
Red, yellow, orange appear darker in reduced light.
Blue, and green look lighter.
Any light tones on a black background will advance
according to their degree of lightness. On a white
ground the effect is reversed, light tones are held to
the background. Near
black tones are thrust forward relative to their degree
Cold and warm tones of equal value. Warm tones
advance and cold tones retreat. If light-dark contrast
is also present it will exaggerate the depth effect,
subtract from the depth or cancel it out.
Range of the same value on a black ground, B-G
retreats and R-O advances. If R-O is lightened it
advances more and if B-G is darkened it recedes more. If
B-G is lightened it advances to the same level of the
R-O, if lightened enough B-G will advance more than the
Depth effects of Saturation contrasts. Pure colors
advance relative to Dull (colors are dulled by adding
the complement) or grayed colors of equal values. If
light-dark or cool-warm contrasts is also present the
depth effect shifts accordingly.
Contrast by extension (the size of areas of color
–much and little, great and small).
When a small yellow patch sits on a large red area,
red acts as a background and the yellow advances. If
yellow expands, a point is reached when the yellow
becomes dominant, yellow expands into a background and
pushes the red forward.