The ABC’s of Color (Basic Color Theory)
The traditional circle based on the primary colors of red, blue and yellow in the field of art dates back to Sir Isaac Newton who developed the first circular diagram of colors in 1666. Since then numerous variations of this concept have been designed and studied. While as crafter’s we don’t typically ‘mix’ colors, as you would in using paints or pigments, traditional color theory and the color wheel is based on this concept.
Primary Colors: Red, Yellow and Blue
Primary colors are the 3 colors that can not be mixed or formed by any combination of other colors. All other colors are derived from these 3 hues.
Secondary Colors: Green, Orange and Purple
These are the colors formed by mixing two primary colors together. Red and blue combined make purple, blue and yellow make green, and red and yellow make orange.
Tertiary Colors: Yellow-Orange, Red-Orange, Red-Purple, Blue-Purple, Blue-Green & Yellow-Green
These are the colors formed by mixing a primary and a secondary color resulting in a hue with a two word name.
These primary (3), secondary (3) and tertiary colors (6) are the family of twelve purest and brightest colors.They form the full spectrum of hues which progress around the Primary Color Wheel in gradual increments. While the word hue and color are often used interchangeably, I find it least confusing to think of these 12 that form the Primary Color Wheel as hues. By modifying them (by adding black, white or other colors to them) these twelve hues form the basis for all other colors.
Tints, Shades & Tones
These hues can be altered in three ways by Tinting, Shading or Toning. (And that’s before we even think about mixing two colors together, and then tinting, shading and toning those combinations!)
A Tint is sometimes called a pastel. Basically it’s simply any color with white added. When you add white red for instance the resulting color is pink. A color scheme using Tints is usually soft and soothing and works well for feminine and baby themes.
A Shade is simply any color with black added. When black is added to blue for instance the result would be a navy blue color. A color scheme using Shades is often deep, rich and powerful making them good choices for masculine designs and for adding contrast.
A Tone is created by adding both white and black which is grey. Almost every color we see in our day-to-day world has been toned either a little or a lot. Tones are more complex, subtle and sophisticated and often more pleasing to the eye
Warm and Cool Colors
The color circle can be divided into warm and cool colors.
Warm colors are vivid and energetic, and tend to advance in space. Cool colors give an impression of calm and soothing and tend to recede in space. White, black and gray are considered to be neutral.
In color and design, harmony is something that is pleasing to the eye and engages the viewer. Harmony can be thought of as “just right” while the extremes on either side of it are boring or chaotic. The human brain tends to reject extremes. Color harmony delivers visual interest and a sense of order.
Traditionally, there are a number of color combinations that are considered especially pleasing. These are called color harmonies and they consist of two or more colors with a fixed relation in the color wheel. Some of the basic formulas follow.
The monochromatic color scheme uses variations (tints, tones and shades) of a single hue. Monochromatic colors schemes are easy to manage, and always looks balanced and visually appealing producing a soothing effect. This is a good choice when you are aiming for a clean and elegant look. The primary color can be integrated with neutral colors such as black, white which are often the key to creating the contrast that a monochromatic color scheme can lack.
A Monochromatic Color Scheme – Card Created By Seongsook
A Monochromatic Color Scheme – Card Created By Cindy
A Monochromatic Color Scheme – Card Created By Sandy
A Monochromatic Color Scheme – Card Created By Kristie
2. Analogous colors
Analogous colors are any three colors which are side by side on a 12 part color wheel, such as yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange. One color is used as a dominant color while others are used to enrich the scheme. The analogous scheme is similar to the monochromatic one, but offers more nuances.
An Analogous Color Scheme – Card Created By Lee Mae
An Analogous Color Scheme – Card Created By Barb
3. Complementary Colors
Complementary colors are any two colors which are directly opposite each other, such as blue and orange or red-purple and yellow-green. The complementary scheme is intrinsically high-contrast and it works best when you choose a dominant color and use its complementary color to highlight important elements. By doing this you will get color dominance combined with sharp color contrast.
An Complementary Color Scheme – Card Created By Lisa
An Complementary Color Scheme – Card Created By Marsha
4. A color scheme based on Nature
Nature provides a perfect departure point for color harmony, regardless if the combination fits into a technical formula. When you choose color combinations that occur in nature, from a seascape to a field of flowers, it’s hard to go wrong.
A Color Scheme Based on Nature – Card Created By Julie
A Color Scheme Based on Nature – Card Created By Jan
Your assignment is to choose one of these basic Color Harmonies and create a card to share with everyone here. Please note the harmony you chose so that it will be easy for everyone to learn from each other as we visit each others links. You may link up more than once as long as the card relates directly to the lesson. Everyone who participates in the Design Bootcamp by linking up a card created for the class will receive an OWH Design Bootcamp Blog Badge as well as a Class Summary in PDF format via email.