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Basic Color Theory
Color theory encompasses a multitude of definitions, concepts
and design applications - enough to fill several encyclopedias.
However, there are three basic categories of color theory that are
logical and useful : The color wheel, color harmony, and the
context of how colors are used.
Color theories create a logical structure for color. For example, if
we have an assortment of fruits and vegetables, we can organize
them by color and place them on a circle that shows the colors in
relation to each other.
The Color Wheel
A color circle, based on red, yellow and blue, is traditional in the
field of art. Sir Isaac Newton developed the first circular diagram
of colors in 1666. Since then, scientists and artists have studied
and designed numerous variations of this concept. Differences of
opinion about the validity of one format over another continue to
provoke debate. In reality, any color circle or color wheel which
presents a logically arranged sequence of pure hues has merit.
Red, yellow and blue
In traditional color theory (used in
paint and pigments), primary
colors are the 3 pigment colors
that can not be mixed or formed by
any combination of other colors. All
other colors are derived from
these 3 hues.
Green, orange and purple
These are the colors formed by
mixing the primary 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. That's why the
hue is a two word name, such as blue-green, red-violet, and yellow-orange.
Harmony can be defined as a pleasing arrangement of parts, whether it be music, poetry, color, or even an ice cream
In visual experiences, harmony is something that is pleasing to the eye. It engages the viewer and it creates an inner
sense of order, a balance in the visual experience. When something is not harmonious, it's either boring or chaotic. At
one extreme is a visual experience that is so bland that the viewer is not engaged. The human brain will reject
under-stimulating information. At the other extreme is a visual experience that is so overdone, so chaotic that the
viewer can't stand to look at it. The human brain rejects what it can not organize, what it can not understand. The
visual task requires that we present a logical structure. Color harmony delivers visual interest and a sense of order.
In summary, extreme unity leads to under-stimulation, extreme complexity leads to over-stimulation. Harmony is a
Article compiled & edited by various editors of