Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Color Theory 101

Who's up for a quick color lesson? My thread spools have kindly offered to provide the visual aids today.

Let's start with a basic color wheel.

A color wheel provides a visual frame of reference regarding how colors interact.

Colors sitting next to each on the wheel are called analogous. Analogous means similar or like, and I think it's fair to describe analogous colors as liking each other. They get along. They look good together.

Colors hanging out across the color wheel from one another are called complimentary. They're involved in this deep, it's complicated kind of relationship. Despite being total opposites, sparks fly when they get together.

The color wheel is traditionally broken up into three groups. Top dogs are the primary colors. You can't mix a primary color - they just exist. Primary colors are red, yellow, and blue.

The secondary colors are created when the primary colors hook up. You know the score, but I'll repeat it anyway:


Tertiary colors come next. These tend to be my favorites, but don't tell the primaries or secondaries. Tertiary colors are made when you mix a primary and a secondary color sitting next to each other on the color wheel. You end up with a bunch of hyphenated names. It's like the student roster from an elementary school in the early 90's.

and so on, and so on

The color wheel is made up of hues. Hue is a soft, pretty word meaning color.

Hues have values. Not the family kind or the political kind, but the color kind!

Value indicates the lightness or darkness of a hue. Remember, color, like life, isn't black and white, but many shades equivalent to a gray scale.

Speaking of gray...a tone is a color with gray added to it.

A tint is a color with white added to it. Pink, anyone?

Those are the basics. Come to class next week for a discussion about color schemes. In the meantime, if you need extra reading material on the subject, check out Wikipedia's erudite description of the color wheel.

Tired models after an exhaustive photo shoot

Happy creating,


  1. What a great post! Made me laugh. Hope your thread spools aren't too tired for next week's lesson!

  2. Really fun way to explore the color wheel!