What is Color Theory?

Color is everywhere, literally, everywhere. With something as prevalent in our life it would makes sense to assume that colors have a large impact on how we see, feel, and interact with the world around us. For example, the color red is strong and dominating. We associate the color with feelings of passion as in red roses, or we use it as a way to draw attention as in a red stop sign. But what about the color red brings those associations to mind? This week we’ll try to answer that in our discussion on Color Theory.

Color Theory is the science and art behind colors. It covers how we see colors and how they work together in mixing, matching, and contrasting to create certain effects. This week let’s go over the basics and set the foundation for future discussions on color theory.

The Color Wheel: Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors

The Color Wheel(Color Matters)

First developed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666, the color wheel is a circle based on the primary colors, red, yellow, and blue. (Color Matters) The wheel is often comprised of the three following categories:

Primary Colors: colors that cannot be made by mixing other colors. These colors include red, yellow and blue and are the basis for all other colors in existence.

Secondary Colors: these colors are formed by mixing primary colors creating green (blue and yellow), orange (red and yellow), and purple (blue and red).  

Tertiary Colors: are created by mixing primary colors with secondary colors. These colors include red-purple, red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-purple, and blue-green.

Key Terms

Hue: the name of a color

                Examples: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet

Saturation: the intensity of a hue

                A high saturation of color results in a bright color.

                A low saturation of color results in a washed-out color.

Value: the lightness or darkness of a hue

Shade: created by adding black

Tint: created by adding white

Tone: created by adding grey.



That should be enough for today. Make sure to check back next week to go over some more detailed concepts associated with the color wheel.



Color Matters. Basic Color Theory. n.d. https://www.colormatters.com/color-and-design/basic-color-theory. 2021.

Pineda, Carolina. Understand the Basics of Color Theory - Simple Art Tips. n.d. http://www.simplearttips.com/simplearttips/20.

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