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Lesson 14: Color Theory

Page last modified 13:55, 3 Jan 2016 by Karen_Simion
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    Class# 14: Color Theory                 April 18-22, 2016             

    Materials needed:  ?Paints?Colored pencils?Crayons?Water colors ?Cell Phone Camera?(Note: do not panic if you do not have all these things.  As far as the colored pencils, crayons and water color paints, you will ONLY need one of them!  Any of them will do)

    CSLO 1.4 Student will be able to illustrate primary colors, and create secondary and tertiary colors.

    CSLO 1.5 Student will be able to illustrate the use of color schemes in a work of art.

    CSLO 1.6 Student will be able to diagram the values of a color.

    CSLO 3.1 Student will be able to evaluate his/her own work of art.

    If you cannot find a cell phone camera, please email your instructor and an alternative way for you to do this project will be found.

    In the last class, we learned about the principles of visual arts which artists use in structuring their work.  Along with movement, unity, harmony, variety, balance, emphasis, contrast, proportion, and pattern, color is a very important element used in the arts.  ?Today we will be talking about color theory.  In the visual arts, color theory is a body of practical guidance to colormixing and the visual impacts of specific color combinations.  Color theory principles first appeared in the writings of Leone Battista Alberti in 1435 and the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci in 1490.  A tradition of "color theory" began in the 18th century and from there it developed as an independent artistic tradition up until the present day.

    Color theory was originally formulated in terms of three "primary" or "primitive" colors—red, yellow and blue (RYB)—because these colors were believed capable of mixing all other colors. Printers, dyers and painters had long known this color mixing behavior.  ?The three primary colors in a color wheel are red, yellow and blue:??

    What primary colors do you see in this photograph??,550x550,075,f.primary-colors-in-nature.jpg ??How about this one:?

    A secondary color is a color made by mixing two primary colors in a given color space to create a third color.  ??When you mix red and yellow you get orange.  ??When you mix yellow and blue you get green.??When you mix blue and red you get purple.

    Here is a picture of  a color wheel secondary colors:?

    Here are some examples of art that include secondary colors:?, ??

    Artists sometimes use what is called “tertiary colors”. ?A tertiary color is a color that is made by mixing one primary color with one secondary color.  Tertiary colors are combinations of primary and secondary colors. There are six tertiary colors; red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green,?blue-violet, and red violet. In compounding these names, such as “red” with “orange” to make “red-orange,” place the primary name first to indicate an excess of the primary over the other color.  Here is a link to a tertiary color wheel:??

    Here are some examples of artworks and patterns that use tertiary colors:? Another example is at

    COMPLEMENTARY COLORS?Complementary colors are pairs of colors that are of the “Opposite” hue in the color model.  Examples of complementary colors are red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple.  Here is a color wheel that shows commentary colors:??

    Why are complementary colors important?  When placed next to each other, complementary colors make each other appear brighter, more intense. The shadow of an object will also contain its complementary color, for example the shadow of a green apple will contain some red.

    How does color effect our emotion?  ??Why is it worth studying???Everyone sees color a little differently, but here is one way  that colors are often interpreted to effect emotion.

    Redis the color of fire and blood, so it is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire, and love.?Orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It is associated with joy, sunshine, and the tropics. Orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation.

    Yellowis the color of sunshine. It's associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy.?Green is the color of nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility. Green has strong emotional correspondence with safety.?Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven.

    Purplecombines the stability of blue and the energy of red. Purple is associated with royalty. It symbolizes power, nobility, luxury, and ambition. It conveys wealth and extravagance. Purple is associated with wisdom, dignity, independence, creativity, mystery, and magic.??White is associated with light, goodness, innocence and purity.??Black is associated with power, elegance, formality, death, evil, and mystery.

    Homework assignment. Now it’s time for you to make a color wheel.  Here is what you need to do. 

    ??1.  Go to the first class page title Introduction and search where the project files are and located.  Find the file ttitled blank colorwheel and print this page.

    2.  Take out your colored pencils.  If you do not have colored pencils, you may also use watercolor paint or crayons for this project.

    3.  Make sure that you color wheel printed at a large enough size that you will be able to color it in comfortably. 

    4.  As you begin coloring in your color wheel, start out with the primary colors.  After you have filled in all of your primary colors, begin on your secondary colors. 

    5.  For tertiary colors such as yellow/orange, red/violet, red/orange you will need to combine your colors.  First draw a light coat of one color; then lightly draw the second color on top.  The two colors should blend together to create a combination color.??Here is what your finished color wheel should look like or something similar:?

    Next you will need to complete a value scale using one of the primary or secondary colors from the color wheel. 

    • Draw 9 one inch by three inch squares on a piece of paper.
    • Leave the first square blank..
    • Gradate the middle squares into steps adding a little black paint to the one color you have selected from the color wheel for each step.
    • Make the last square (No. 9) as dark as you can. The last square should appear black.

    Now that you understand what color theory is, it’s time for you to start looking at the colors around you in the world.  For your homework, you need to find access to a camera of some kind.  You can use a cell phone camera if you like, borrow a camera from COM, or find someone else with a camera.

    Homework for the class:  Color scavenger hunt.

    Using the camera you have you must take the following pictures

    1.           A picture with two primary colors in it

    2.           A picture with a primary and a secondary color

    3.           A picture with complementary colors

    4.           A picture with a two secondary colors

    5.           A picture with a color that makes you feel some emotion.  Explain what emotion you feel when you look at the color in your Flickr description.

    After you have made your color wheel, value scale and taken your five pictures, you should scan or download your work and upload it onto your Flickr page.  In the Flickr “Description” panel be sure to include what kind of color combinations are in your picture.  Any work that has not been uploaded by the evening of April 22nd, will be marked down one letter grade for each week day it is late. Be sure to complete the "Student Rating" section of the rubric for this assignment.  The rubric is found in the files at the bottom of this page.  Email the rubric to

    This concludes the twelfth class for AR101.  If you have any questions regarding the material or assignment please email your instructor at

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