"ART is a word which summarizes THE QUALITY OF COMMUNICATION. "
L. Ron Hubbard

Monday, October 18, 2010

Some color theory

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book. Yesterday, students my class at ArtSpace Herndon once again voiced a concern about how to mix color. This is a little information intended to help. As I've said before, the best way to help is to put paint to canvas.

General Color Theory

Hue is the property which distinguishes red from green. If you ask “what hue is the sea?” the answer might be: “Aquamarine” or “ultramarine” depending on where you are (and the weather). Hue is determined by the wavelength of the color. The colors of the rainbow are considered hues. Browns and grays are not hues.

Value (lightness-darkness) applies to color as well as the gray scale. Yellow has a naturally light value and blue has a naturally strong (dark) value.

Saturation refers to how much pure pigment of the desired hue is present versus medium or other hue. You can de-saturate a pure color by adding white, gray, black, or the complement of the color. Saturation is often referred to as color intensity or chroma, although chroma has a slightly different meaning to a purist. (Visual artists don’t usually seem to pursue this distinction.)

Temperature refers to whether the color is perceived as warm or cool and is a relative term. Red may seem warm in relation to blue, but may seem cool if placed next to orange.

These attributes (qualities, properties, or characteristics) work together to create depth and composition on the two-dimensional plane.

There are some additional terms, such as “shade” (amount of black added) “tint” (amount of white added, and “intensity” (the brightness or dullness of a hue). But I think the main concepts it’s important for a painter to get are the first four.

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