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The Theory Of Colours

The Theory of Colours

In this blog, you will read about:

  1. Colour wheel

  2. Colour value

  3. Colour scheme



Colors essentially depict the elegance and beauty of nature. Colour is an element of art that consists of hues, it has three properties: hue, chroma or intensity, and value. Colour is present when light strikes an object and is reflected back into the eye. The color theory mainly has three parts- The color wheel, the color value, and the color schemes. Each part of color theory acts as the basis for the other.

(i) The color wheel-  Sir Isaac Newton has developed the color theory. If you follow around the color wheel, you will find the same order of the color spectrum as it was the spectrum that was bent into a wheel.  There are twelve main colors on the color wheel. 

The color wheel can be broadly divided into 3 parts primary, secondary and tertiary colors.

  • Primary colors in the color wheel are the colors that are mixed together to create other colors. These colors are red, green and blue. In the color wheel, primary colors are colors that can’t be mixed with other colors. Three primary colors exist: red, yellow, and blue.
  • A secondary color is a  result of mixing two primary colors. There are three secondary colors, cyan, magenta, and yellow, red and green make yellow, green and blue make cyan, and blue and red make magenta.
  • Tertiary colors are colors made by combining a secondary color with a primary color. There are six tertiary colors. In the color wheel, these are orange, chartreuse green, spring green, azure, violet and rose.

The color wheel can also be subdivided into warm and cool colors. The warmth or the coolness of color is also known as its color temperature. The color combination on the color wheel has a good balance of warm and cool colours. Different color temperatures evoke different feelings. For example, warm colors bring energy, while cool colors signify isolation. Warm colors are red, yellow. Cool colors are blue, green, purple.


(ii) Colour value- The second part is about the colour values.  darkness or lightness of a color is considered as value. The addition of black or white color to a pure color affects the values of the pure color.   Adding white to a color produces a tint. Adding black to a color produces a shade. Intensity is related to value and is affected by the addition of gray. High and low are ways of describing value. Black is the colour with the lowest value while white is with the highest value. Colour of lighter shade has a higher value than darker shades of colours. The value of all colors is somewhere between the values of black and white.

(iii) Colour Scheme- Colour scheme precisely means putting colours in an intelligent way, such as monochromatic i.e. one Color. In simple words, monochromatic is one color that shades and tints. A color scheme describes the overall selection of colors in an artwork. The major color schemes in the art are analogous, complementary, split-complementary, triadic, rectangular and monochromatic. 

  • An analog color scheme uses colors that are side by side on the colour wheel. Examples include blueberries and greens, or oranges and yellows. These colours have a close relationship with each other. There is not that much hue contrast between analogous colors, so you need to make sure you are creating enough contrast using the other elements like value or saturation.
  • Complementary colors are opposite each other on the color wheel. When positioned side by side, there is an extremely strong contrasting and vibrant effect. In case of overuse, your paint can become overwhelming and uncomfortable to watch. 
  • A split-complementary colour scheme uses a base colour and two secondary colours. It is similar to the complementary color scheme.
  • A triadic colour scheme uses colours that are uniformly spaced on the colour wheel. For example, yellow, blue and orange
  • A rectangular color diagram uses four colors placed around the rectangle-shaped color wheel. This is a color scheme that is hard to handle because there are four colors involved.
  • A monochromatic color palette uses only one color with varying saturation and value levels. In oil painting, many artists start with a monochromatic coating and then build the colour on top. In this way, the value structure can be set without having to worry about several colours.




Ayushi Burman

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