Elements: Color

Ah, the complexities of color . . . .

Color is one of the most complex components to understand when thrown into the mix of design elements. To best comprehend some of the basic issues artists have to address when trying to think about color, we should first lay down some fundamental concepts that might not seems so fundamental to art newcomers:

  • While all color is a product of light, we use different color models for different art disciplines.
  • All colors can be made from combinations of “primary colors.” Mixing combinations are typically illustrated on “color wheels.”
  • Different color models use different primary colors on their respective color wheels.
  • Most artists commonly recognize three standard sets of color primaries or color wheels because they are used for three different disciplines:
    1. Light Primaries : RGB (red, green, blue) digital output
    2. Pigment Primaries : CMY (cyan, magenta, yellow)print output
    3. “Artist” Primaries : RYB (red, yellow, blue)paint output

On its face, those things might not seems so complicated and conflicting. Once we dive into the genesis of color and how it ends up falling into one of the above categories, though, it provokes a little more head-scratching.

To keep learning about this, continue onto the sub-links for this topic (in this order):

Digital Art, Design, and Communication Education