colour theory

Colour Theory

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Page 1: Colour Theory

Colour Theory

Page 2: Colour Theory

Colour Theories

1. Subtractive Theory• The subtractive, or

pigment theory deals with how white light is absorbed and reflected off of colored surfaces.

2. Additive Theory• The Additive, or light

theory deals with radiated and filtered light.

Page 3: Colour Theory

Colour Theories

1. Subtractive Theory• The subtractive, or

pigment theory deals with how white light is absorbed and reflected off of colored surfaces.

2. Additive Theory• The Additive, or light

theory deals with radiated and filtered light.

Page 4: Colour Theory

Historical “Landmarks” in Colour Theory

• Isaac Newton (1642-1726) – Rainbow– Do prisms colour

light?– experiments (1672)– Source: Vision Science & Mode

rn Art

Page 5: Colour Theory

Goethe’s Theory of Colours (1810)

• Built on wavelength theory of light

• Methods interesting• Conclusion refuted• Influential on artists• Ex. Turner• Colour theory


Goethe’s Colour Wheel

Page 6: Colour Theory

Simultaneous contrast & optical mixing

• M.E. Chevreuil, De loi du contraste simultané des couleurs (1839)

– Chemist, worked in Tapestry (Goeblins)

QuickTime™ and aTIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor

are needed to see this picture.

Page 7: Colour Theory

Other Influential Theories for Modern Painters

• Ogden Rood, Modern Chromatics (1881 French translation). – Explained difference

between mixing light and mixing pigments.

• David Sutter, Phenomena of Vision (1880)– irradiation, or value contrast

• Charles Henry, Cercle Chromatique (1889).– Developed a psycho-

physical aesthetic; related lines and colors to emotional expression.

Seurat, Le Chahut, 1890

Page 8: Colour Theory

Pointillism (French painting style --theories of optical mixing)Seurat: Sunday afternoon at la grande Jatte.

Page 9: Colour Theory

Other early theorists of Colour Interaction

• Josef Albers (18888-1976)– Influential colour

theory for painters & designers

• Johannes Itten– Colour star & wheel– Influential on designe

rs (website explaining uses)

Ablers, Hommage to the Square, 1965

Page 10: Colour Theory

Other Issues--

• Color measurement -colour science site

• Nomenclature initiatives• Inter-society color

council• Color Association of

America• Informative colour

science link• World color Survey• Testing naming

Page 11: Colour Theory

Subtractive Theory• Black absorbs most light• White reflects most light• Coloured Pigments absorb light and

reflect only the frequency of the pigment colour.

• All colours other than the pigment colours are absorbed so this is called subtractive colour theory.

• The primary colours in Subtractive Theory are:– Cyan ( C )– Magenta( M )– Yellow ( Y )– Black ( K )

• Subtractive or Pigment Theory is used in printing and painting.

Page 12: Colour Theory

Additive Theory• Black radiates no light• White (sun) radiates all light• Video is the process of capturing and

radiating light, therefore it uses Additive (Light) Theory not Subtractive (Pigment) Theory.

• The primary colours in Additive Theory are:– Red ( R )– Green ( G )– Blue ( B )

• The primary colours add together to make white

• Light Theory is also called Additive Theory.

• Light Theory is used in Television, theater lighting, computer monitors, and video production.

Page 13: Colour Theory

The Visible Spectrum

Page 14: Colour Theory

The Colour Wheel

If the ends of the spectrum are bent around a colour wheel is formed:

Page 15: Colour Theory

The Colour Wheel

• Colours on the wheel can be described using three parameters:

1. Hue: degrees from 0˚ to 360˚

2. Saturation: brightness or dullness

3. Value: lightness or darkness

(As suggested by Henry Albert Munsell in A Colour Notation, 1905)

Page 16: Colour Theory

The Colour Tree by American artist Henry Albert Munsell fromA Colour Notation, 1905.

Page 17: Colour Theory

The Colour Wheel: Hue

• Hue or Spectral Colour is represented as an angle.

• Primary Colours:• 0˚ = Red• 120˚ = Green• 240˚ = Blue

• Secondary Colours:• 60˚ = Yellow• 180˚ = Cyan• 300˚ =


Page 18: Colour Theory

The Colour Wheel: Saturation• Saturation or Chroma is

the intensity of a colour.• A highly saturated colour

is bright and appears closer to the edge of the wheel.

• A more unsaturated colour is dull.

• A colour with no saturation is achromatic or in the grey scale.

Page 19: Colour Theory

The Colour Wheel: Value"the quality by which we distinguish a light color from a dark one."

- Albert Henry MunsellA Colour Notation 1905

Value represents the

luminescent contrast value between black and white

Page 20: Colour Theory

The Colour Wheel: Value

Page 21: Colour Theory

The Colour Wheel: Value

Page 22: Colour Theory

The Colour Wheel 3dThree parameters to describe a colour: Hue

Chroma Value

Page 23: Colour Theory

Tone = Shade + Tint

Page 24: Colour Theory

Colour Pickers

• HSB, HLS, HSV• RGB• CMYK• Others

– Crayon– Lab– PANTONE

Munsell’s notation wheel

Page 25: Colour Theory

Colour Pickers: HSB, HLS, HSV

• HSV• Hue• Saturation• Value

• HSB (Same as HSV)• Hue• Saturation• Brightness

• HLS• Hue• Lightness• Saturation

Page 26: Colour Theory

Colour Pickers: RGB, CMYK

• RGB • Red• Green• Blue

– Used in Video and Computer graphics

– 3 Values in % or between • 0-255

• CMYK• Cyan• Magenta• Yellow• K = Black

– Used for printing

Page 27: Colour Theory

Colour Pickers: Crayon, PANTONE

• Crayon• Easy to use

Pantone Colour Matching SystemStandard for the printing industry

Page 28: Colour Theory

Colour Pickers: Lab

L,a,b Colour opposition correlatesL = Lightness (0 = White,

100 = Black)

+a to -a = Red to Green

+b to -b = Yellow to Blue

Page 29: Colour Theory

Colour Pickers: Bit Depth

• Each colour is described by 3 values,

each with a possible range of 0 to 255.

• 256 x 256 x 256 = 16,777,216 possible


• 224 = 16,777,216 = 24 bit colour

Page 30: Colour Theory

Colour SchemesSystematic ways of selecting colours

• Monochromatic• Complimentary• Analogous• Warm • Cool• Achromatic• Chromatic Grays

Page 31: Colour Theory

Colour Schemes: Monochromatic

• Monochromatic: One Hue many values of Tint and Shade

Artist: Marc ChagallTitle: Les Amants Sur Le Toit

Page 32: Colour Theory

Colour Schemes: Complimentary

• Complimentary: Colours that are opposite on the wheel. High Contrast

Artist: Paul Cezanne Title: La Montage Saint VictoireYear: 1886-88

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Colour Schemes: Analogous

• Analogous: A selection of colours that are adjacent. Minimal contrast

Artist: Vincent van GoghTitle: The IrisYear: 1889

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Colour Schemes: Warm

Warm: First half of the wheel give warmer colours. The colours of fire.

Artist: Jan VermeeTitle: Girl Asleep at a Table Year: 1657

Page 35: Colour Theory

Colour Schemes: Cool

Cool: Second half of the wheel gives cooler colours

Artist: Pablo PicassoTitle: Femme Allongée Lisant Year: 1939

Page 36: Colour Theory

Colour Schemes:Achromatic, Chromatic Grays

Achromatic: Black and white with all the grays in-between.

Chromatic Grays: Also called neutral relief. Dull colours, low contrast.

Page 37: Colour Theory

Colour Theory

• Colour Theories– Subtractive (ink)– Additive (video)

• The Colour Wheel• Colour Pickers


• Colour Schemes– Monochromatic– Analogous– Complimentary– Warm, Cool