CalArts: Funds. of Graphic Design-W3: 3.5 Working with Color

In this video, we’re going to look at color, and how designers use color.

And this is a really tricky area to investigate. 
Partly because color can be both objective and subjective.

We tend to read color and use color in many different ways for many different things.

Our primary response to color is an emotional response. 
And I think this comes from our reaction to nature.

When we see blues and greens, they might makes us think of the sky, the ocean, or even grass, but somehow those are relatively calming.

Where as if we see red for instance, that might make us think of blood and danger for instance.

And these kind of colors have been also saturated into our culture.
So for instance, a stop sign is in red to gain our attention, to play on that emotional response.

But on top of that emotional response, is a subjective response.

And this is really the way that each individual thinks about color.

Everybody has colors they like and don’t like. Certain hues that are their favorites, and others that are their least favorites, and this is a subjective response to color.

And ultimately, this response doesn’t matter. It’s the least important way you can respond to color.

There’s also a more scientific response, and this might be thought of much more as a strategic way to use color as a designer.

Really looking at which colors go with which other ones. 
Maybe less about mood, and more about specific contrasts and values. 
Perhaps it would be better to call it a technical response to color.

And as soon as we bring any kind of form into the color, that might represent something in the real world, even something as simply here as a horizon line.

We start to connect how we read color and how we think of color, to that real world.

So for instance here, just the horizon line might make us connect the read of this, to being green grass and a blue sky.

So where does color come from? 
And how can we start thinking about color when there are so many colors to think about.

Well one easy way, one starting point might be to look at white light.

And when that shines through a prism, it divides up into the color spectrum.

And we’re all fairly familiar with this color spectrum as being the colors of the rainbow, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

In the spectrum, these colors blend together and blur one into the other. So even though we think of them as being seven colors, there are actually a lot more than that.

Scientifically, the color is broken up due to difference in the wavelength of the color. 
So red has the longest wavelength at one end of the spectrum.
And violet the shortest wavelength at the other end of the spectrum.

Attribute of Color


And when we think about color, we’re mostly thinking about hue.

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue.

These are actually hues, but color has two other important values to it.

Hue is probably the most powerful and the most visible attribute of color.


The second attribute of color is light to dark. In other words, it’s value.

Now we can think of this as gray scale, like we’re looking at here.

And that’s very easy to see. 
At one end of the scale is 100% of the color, black
and at the other end is zero percent, white.

But value obviously, works with any single color.

So, here we can see a range of values of red, for instance ranging from 100% of the red, the darkest color, to white over here, with zero percent of the red, the lightest color.

And you can obviously take any color and look at it as a range of different values, take any hue and you look at it with the values of 100% to zero percent.


Saturation is the third attribute of color, and perhaps the hardest to grasp.

The way that I find it the most easy to think about, 
is that if the value and the hue were to stay exactly the same, and you were to just say change the saturation, you would see that color go from a very dull color.

For instance, 
over here where it’s pretty much a grey with no color in there at all. ( E )
All the way up to a much more saturated pure color over here.( D )
And if you really want to see the effects of altering levels of hue and saturation and value.

A good idea is maybe just to open up a file in a program like Photoshop, where the settings, the colors can be changed to HSL or HSV values
And you can just pull the sliders around and really see what happens as you change each of those attributes of color.