HomeArt ArticlesConcepts & AnalysisArt Concepts: A Guide to Color Theory

Art Concepts: A Guide to Color Theory


Our world is made up of color. Traditionally, color is defined as the ability of an object to produce different sensations to the eye, as a result of the way in which it reflects light. Without color, differentiating between times of the day, pieces of clothing, and even different types or qualities of food would be quite difficult, if not all-out impossible. It is understandable, then, that many individuals turn to the study of color to not only learn more about art, but also the world in which we live. Individuals who are interested in learning more about color should first understand some basic principles of the concept, such as differentiation between primary, secondary, complimentary, and analogous colors. In addition, possessing a basic understanding of the traditional color wheel and other types of color terminology is important for individuals interested in furthering their comprehension of this topic. Consultation with an art teacher or professional artist may also be a helpful way for individuals to learn more about the concept of color.

Before one can learn about the different categories of color, he or she must have a basic understanding of the color wheel. The color wheel is a tool traditionally used by both beginning and advanced artists, which identifies the different colors and their respective relationships. Primary colors are a specific component of the color wheel, from which all other colors can be made. Currently, there are only three recognized primary colors, including blue, yellow, and red. Within the color wheel, these three primary colors are spaced evenly apart, creating three distinct and unique sections within the wheel.

Similarly, secondary colors are a specific classification of color that are also represented on most color wheels. As suggested by the name, secondary colors are created when two or more primary colors are combined. Therefore, some of the most common examples of secondary colors include green, purple, and orange. In addition, other popular secondary colors that can be produced through the combination of primary colors are cyan and magenta—however, other options remain numerous.

Finally, tertiary colors are those that are produced when a primary color—such as blue, red, or yellow—is combined with a secondary color. In most cases, tertiary colors are named with the use of the two original colors that were combined to create the new hue. For example, a tertiary color may be produced when red (a primary color) and orange (a secondary color) are combined. The resulting color from this primary-secondary combination is red-orange, a tertiary color.

In addition, individuals who are interested in learning more about the concept of color may wish to understand complimentary colors. Unlike secondary or tertiary colors, complimentary colors are characterized by the way in which they are made, but instead refers to the ability of two colors to produce a black pigment when combined. Traditionally, complimentary colors are those which are directly across from each other on the color wheel. They are often considered to be visually appealing, and may be grouped together when developing artistic images or presentations. Individuals who have further questions about the concepts described above should consult with an expert in the field of art theory.



About the Author:
Clare Tames is a self-employed freelance graphic designer, formidable cook, and avid reader. She written on contemporary and classical art in various print publications, and is just now beginning a writing career online. She works out of her home office in California, where her two children attend high school. Expect more from her at ArtsHeaven.com and around the web, and, if you like, drop her a line at her Google+ page!