Color Theory 101
The basics of color mixing and color combinations.
Color plays a vitally important role in the world in which we live. Whether we realize it or not, the right application of color can change how we think, feel, and interact with the world at large. Throughout history, humans have naturally assigned meaning to different colors in their culture, symbolism, and art. It can generate emotions and even influence your decision making.
In marketing and design, choosing the right color scheme is essential for branding and ad promotion. For the painter, color has the ability to turn a decent painting into an impressive one. If you are in a profession where color matters, you can spend an entire lifetime learning how it works and how to apply it. For painters and designers, becoming aware of just a few aspects of how this system comes together can dramatically improve your art!
The human eye naturally contains only three types of color receptors, which makes our vision trichromatic. Each color receptor responds to different ranges of the color spectrum.
Red, yellow, and blue are our primary colors.
The three secondary colors are green, orange, and violet; they are each a mixture of two primary colors.
In addition to primary and secondary colors, there are six tertiary colors. You may know them as; red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green, yellow-orange, blue-green, and blue-violet.
When looking at our color wheel, notice how some hues appear to be warmer or cooler than others. The warm colors consist of different shades of reds, oranges, and yellows, while the cool colors consist of blues, greens, and violets.
Just knowing the names of different hues is not enough. It's essential to understand how they work together to create a comprehensive system known as "color harmonies" or color schemes.
Types of color schemes:
Monochrome includes only one color in a different value (the lightness and darkness of a color) and intensity (the brightness or dullness of a color).
Analogous colors, also known as adjacent colors, use hues that neighbor each other on the color wheel. An example is a scheme that includes various values and intensities of yellow and green.
Complementary colors are colors that are opposite of each other on the color wheel.
To keep things simple, we'll focus on these for now, but know that more color schemes and color combinations exist.
Lastly, white, gray, and black are technically not "true" hues. We consider them to be neutral, achromatic colors. When mixing white or black into your other colors, you can change their value (how light or dark a color appears.)
One practical way to get familiar with the color wheel is to try mixing your own by just using the primary hues and black and white. Stay tuned to learn more about color theories and how you can better use them in your art!