• Carmen Mejia

What's with the Theory of Color?

First of all, let's begin by defining what is the theory of color?

In the visual arts, color theory or colour theory is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual effects of a specific color combination. There are also definitions (or categories) of colors based on the color wheel: primary color, secondary color, and tertiary color. Although color theory principles first appeared in the writings of Leone Battista Alberti (c. 1435) and the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (c. 1490), a tradition of "colory theory" began in the 18th century, initially within a partisan controversy over Isaac Newton's theory of color (Opticks, 1704) and the nature of primary colors. From there it developed as an independent artistic tradition with only superficial reference to colorimetry and vision science.

Ok! now that we know what it is, let's understand how it is important in our art pieces whether it is lettering, a painting or even in our clothing.

For this, I present to you "The Color Wheel"

A color circle, based on red, yellow and blue, is traditional in the field of art. Sir Isaac Newton developed the first circular diagram of colors in 1666. Since then, scientists and artists have studied and designed numerous variations of this concept. Differences of opinion about the validity of one format over another continue to provoke debate. In reality, any color circle or color wheel which presents a logically arranged sequence of pure hues has merit.


Primary Colors: Red, yellow and blue In traditional color theory (used in paint and pigments), primary colors are the 3 pigment colors that cannot be mixed or formed by any combination of other colors. All other colors are derived from these 3 hues. 

Secondary Colors: Green, orange and purple These are the colors formed by mixing the primary colors.

Tertiary Colors: Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green These are the colors formed by mixing a primary and a secondary color. That's why the hue is a two word name, such as blue-green, red-violet, and yellow-orange.

This all leads to Color Harmony which is the theory of combining colors in a fashion that is harmonious to the eye. In other words, what colors work well together.

Here are the types of color harmony so you can apply when creating your artwork: 1. Direct Harmony: This is the most basic harmony. It is a point opposite to the key color on the wheel. This “opposite” color is referred to as the complementary color and thus the direct harmony can also be called the complementary harmony. Virtually all color harmonies (except Analogous) are a variation of the direct harmony. It is the reason the wheel exists as opposed to a different kind of chart.

2. Split Complementary: Rather than the point opposite the key color on the wheel, the split complementary takes the two colors directly on either side of the complementary color. This allows for a nicer range of colors while still not deviating from the basic harmony between the key color and the complementary color.

3. Triadic Harmony: Also called Triadics or Triads. This refers to the color two spaces to either side of the key color’s complement. Essentially, with the triadic harmony, you are using three equally distanced colors on the color wheel. As such, you’re stretching the basic idea of color harmony and thus this harmony is best used with only touches of color.

Too much of each color and your design appears to have too many colors and can be too vibrant.

To use a triadic harmony successfully, the colors should be carefully balanced—let one color dominate and use the two others for accent. Or, desaturate all your colors and only use the triadic colors in small spots or touches.

4. Analogous Harmony: Also referred to as related colors, these are the colors directly on the left and right of your key color. They usually match up quite well and create a serene and comfortable design. While this color harmony can be pleasing to the eye, it can also come across as monotone. If you are going for a design that’s primarily one color, this is a good choice. 

5. Tetradic Harmony: Similar to the Triadic, except that there are four points, all equally distanced on the color wheel.

So now that we've learned a little about the theory of color and its importance, we can start applying this in our daily basis. "Once you see it you can't unsee it" and everything just starts to make sense.

Head on and make some art <3

Note: I used some sites to put together this blog and are hyperlinked above.

Hope you like this and will be writing about more topics soon!


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