Color theory — Everyone should know

A quick color study with details

Samyu Varsh
May 23, 2019 · 3 min read
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Saturation of blue.

We sense color all the time, and whether we are aware of it or not, it impacts us. Artists and designers have the best sense of color through harmonious combinations of colors due to the knowledge of color theory.

Color theory is an experienced and useful guidance by mixing art and science to determine the application of color. The color wheel is the basic tool to coordinate the harmonious color relationships. Sir Isaac Newton designed the first circular color diagram in 1666.

Many basic design changes have been made through the years, but the most universal form is a 12 color wheel based on the RYB (or artistic) color model.The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. When it comes to light, the primary colors are red, green and blue, but similarities exist between the two sets.

By mixing primary colors, the secondary colors are obtained. Orange, green and purple. Tertiary colors are combos of primary and secondary colors.

Pure color, tone, tint and shade.

When there is zero amount of black and white in these said colors and blends, they are treated as “pure” color or hue. They are commonly used in children’s items and places or in radiant summer, tropical or rainbow styles. It reflects a source of excitement and optimism giving an attention-grabbing impression.

By adding black to a pure color, a shade is made. This dims the brightness of a pure color. Depending on the percentage of black added, the result will be a range of richer, darker and more intense shades than the original color. Overall, it gives a gloomy effect to the character of the hue.

Tints are created when white is added to hues. With the amount of white added, the effect will be of a range of lighter, de-saturated, and less intense form from the original color. They regularly become pastel shades which are calmer and quieter colors.

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Lighter color tints.

The blend of black and white produces gray. When adding gray to a pure color, the result is a tone. Different proportions of gray levels added to color will create a variety of color enhancements. Overall, the color depth is lowered and the color is less saturated. Tones reveal sophisticated aspects of hues. A more exact way we see colors in real life.

Warm and Cool colors

The color wheel can be divided into warm and cool colors. The contrast seems related to landscape light. The “warm” colors linked with daylight or sunset, and the “cool” colors identified with a gray or lesser sun day.

Warm colors are bright and vibrant. Colors and combinations of red, orange, and yellow are often considered to give warmth. Blue, green and purple colors are considered cool. Cool colors make you feel calm and create a relaxing effect.

White, black, and grey are regarded as neutral.

Complementary colors

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Complementary colors.

Complementary colors refer to colors directly opposite to each other on the color wheel. The basic complementary colors are Red and green. Orange and blue. Yellow and purple. They can cause a high contrast and visibility when used rightly, making each other brighter.

This is just an intro to the fascinating magic of the color sphere. There’s so much more to learn. However, we now have the basics of color theory, done.

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