Color Theory Part 1 The Color Wheel
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Color Theory Part 1 The Color Wheel

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I thought I would do a few blogs about color theory. Specifically the RYB additive color model which is what we use most often when we create art. I’m sure you already know a little bit about it from grade school lessons about the color wheel but I thought I might offer a little more in-depth information that you might find useful when creating your arts and crafts.

To start, let’s get a little color theory vocabulary out of the way. In color theory, pure colors are often referred to as “hues” with the degree of lightness called “value” and the colors depth or brightness referred to as it’s “saturation”. Black and white are not considered colors or hues. White is pure light (all colors combined) and Black is the absence of light.

Now let’s talk about color groups. In the RYB color model, the basis for all other colors is Red Yellow and Blue – these are the Primary Colors. From combining these three colors, Seconday Colors are created. And from combining Secondary Colors, or combining Secondary Colors with Primary Colors, Tertiary Colors are created.   
Of course, that is not all the tertiary colors there are. There are loads of tertiary colors all varied by the amount of each primary or secondary color included.
Below is a color spectrum sorta like a rainbow but not really ^_~ In this color spectrum you can see how the colors all flow into each other. I really like color spectrums because too me they symbolize the unity of colors. 
But a lesson on color could never be complete without the good ol’ Color Wheel:
The squiggly lines are connecting primary colors to their complementary secondary color. A good way to remember which colors complement which is to keep in mind that the primary color that complements a secondary is the one that is not contained in it. So if yellow and blue combine to make green then red must be greens complementary color. Or if red and blue combine to make purple then yellow is purples complementary color. And this is why these colors are complementary. In a way, they help fill each other out or make each other whole. It’s kinda romantic isn’t it? ^_~ Using complementary colors together in different shades and saturation creates interest in an image or project. However, an interesting thing happens when you use complementary colors next to each other in high saturation:
Your eyes are kinda twitching aren’t they? Or at the least this is making you want to close the page, no? High saturation complementary contrast is extremely tiring to the eyes. And this happens no matter which complementaries you put together at equal saturation:

At this point I know your eyes are begging for relief. So I am going to put a few pretty pictures here for your eyes to relax and gaze upon as we scroll down away from these horrible, harsh examples of complementary contrast gone awry. Mind you, this is why the 80s and their neons could get pretty hairy at times!
Truly truly truly outrageous!
I still love Rainbow Brite <3
Nom nom nom nom nom nom

I’m sure after that last photo your eyes are feeling right as rain… Now try to concentrate as we move forward on color theory lol… Sorry… hard right?? Eep…

Anyhoo! Where was I? Oh yes! Complementary colors. Complementary colors obviously make you want to rip your eyeballs out when placed next to each other at high saturation, however, when combined in more muted tones, complementary colors create interest and give the image a sense of balance (since as we discussed before they ‘complete’ each other). See how the colors actually feel balanced and “right” below?

Another thing to note about complementary colors is what happens when you mix them together.

When complementary colors are mixed together, they create browns and beiges and various other neutral tones.

Now I have a project for you to do. Draw something, anything, using complementary colors. I would love to see what you come up with so please leave a comment with a link to your creation! ^_^

The next part in the Color Theory series will go into Color Schemes: Complementaries, Split-Complementaries, Triads, Tetrads & more! So stay tuned!

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Graphic Designer

Daydreamer, faery believer, dandelion wisher, artsy bookworm, fortune-telling witchy woman. I draw pretty girls with wings and things so you can bring them to life with color... I'm the artist behind the digital stamps here at Faery Ink. I live for my family & for making pretties. I'm an Aquarius with Cancer moon & rising. (So I'm a little eccentric and my feelings run super deep). I love to make stuff, draw, paint, cook, read, play guitar, bargain hunt, read tarot & runes and listen to music. I'm trying to love living a more active lifestyle, but I'm an introverted hermit so active's not so easy!

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3 Responses

  1. ♥ Paula ♥

    BLIIIIIIIIIINK* My eyes got stuck open for a bit lol….

  2. Mem

    All I can remember is nom nom nom

  3. Manda

    lol =)