Color Theory

THE TRADITIONAL COLOR WHEEL

This is the traditional color model commonly used in painting.

primary colors cover

primary colors

red, yellow, and blue

secondary colors cover

secondary colors

orange, green, and violet (mixing the primary colors)

tertiary colors cover

tertiary colors

red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet (mixing primary with secondary colors)

THE RGB COLOR WHEEL

This is the additive color model that represents light.

RGB colors cover

additive colors

three light sources are added together to create color

RGB primary colors cover

primary colors

red, green, and blue

RGB secondary colors cover

secondary colors

magenta, yellow, and cyan (mixing the primary colors) - you will see these below in the CMY model

RGB tertiary colors cover

tertiary colors

red-magenta, orange, yellow-green, cyan-green, blue-cyan, and blue-magenta (mixing primary with secondary colors)

THE CMY COLOR WHEEL

This is the subtractive color model that represents ink.

CMY colors cover

subtractive colors

inks are mixed together creating color by the reflection or absorption (subtraction) of light - Black (K) is added to CMY because of impurities in the ink

CMY primary colors cover

primary colors

cyan, magenta, and yellow

CMY secondary colors cover

secondary colors

green, blue*, and red (mixing the primary colors) - *these represent the RGB colors, but RGB blue is out of gamut and the color shifts closer to purple

CMY tertiary colors cover

tertiary colors

cyan-green, cyan-blue, blue-magenta, red-magenta, orange, and yellow-green (mixing primary with secondary colors)

TERMINOLOGY

Terms and harmonies used to create aesthetically pleasing color combinations - please note: the traditional color wheel has been used in the examples below.

hue cover

hue

the name of a color (in this case, red)

saturation cover

saturation

the intensity or purity of a color

brightness cover

brightness

how dark or light a color is

tint cover

tint

a hue that has white added

shade cover

shade

a hue that has black added

tone cover

tone

a hue that has gray added

monochromatic cover

monochromatic

using only shades and/or tints of one hue

neutral colors cover

neutral colors

all tints and shades of browns, tans, beiges and grays (earth tones)

cool colors cover

cool colors

blues, violets and greens (ex. cool water)

warm colors cover

warm colors

reds, oranges and yellows (ex. hot sun)

complementary cover

complementary

colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel (ex. blue and orange)

split complimentary cover

split complimentary

choosing a base color and using the colors on each side of its complement (ex. blue, yellow-orange, and red-orange)

analogous cover

analogous

adjacent hues on the color wheel (these colors have a common color - ex. yellow, yellow-orange, and orange)

diad cover

diad

two colors that are two colors apart (ex. yellow and orange)

triad cover

triad

three colors that are four colors apart (equally spaced, ex. green, orange, violet)

tetrad cover

tetrad

four colors in two complimentary pairs (ex. blue, violet, orange, yellow) - note: the pairs are usually two (as above) or three colors apart (ex. blue, red-violet, orange, yellow-green)

COLOR PSYCHOLOGY

Important: the examples below represent typical responses to color in the United States - other cultures may have very different responses because of their traditions and beliefs.

red cover

red

energy, war, danger, fear, strength, power, determination, passion, desire, affection, love

orange cover

orange

joy, sunshine, enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, stimulation

yellow cover

yellow

joy, happiness, optimism, intellect, energy, honor, loyalty

green cover

green

growth, renewal, harmony, freshness, fertility, safety, stability, endurance, trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, sincerity

blue cover

blue

trust, dependability, serenity, calm, intelligence, relaxation, confidence, cold

purple cover

purple

royalty, power, nobility, luxury, ambition, wealth, extravagance, wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery, spirituality, loyalty, courage

white cover

white

light, goodness, innocence, purity, innocence, cleanliness, peace, perfection, safety

black cover

black

power, elegance, sophistication, independence, formality, death, fear, mystery, grief

gray cover

gray

conforming, neutral, impartial, indecisive, mysterious, still, emotionless, strong, mature

gold cover

gold

happiness, shrewdness, achievement, accomplishment, triumph, wealth, success, extravagance, quality, charm, confidence, luxury, prosperity

pink cover

pink

feminine, love, calmness, innocence, hope, sensitivity, optimism, compassion

brown cover

brown

structure, security, protection, support, reserved, boring