13 May 2011

001 Basic Colour Theory: Colour Wheels

* Colour scheme
* Colour wheels
* How to use a colour wheel
* Scientific colour theory vs. artistic colour theory

What is a colour scheme? top

A colour scheme is a set of colours used for any given work of art. Three colours in a colour scheme is very popular, because it adds more depth, whereas two colours feels lacking. More colours can be used, but limiting the colour palette can make everything more harmonious.

What is a colour wheel? top

A colour wheel is a wheel of colour, as I'm sure you've guessed. There are several different versions of colour wheels used. Here are some examples using the RYB (red-yellow-blue) colour wheel:

How to use a colour wheel? top

Colour wheels are often used to help show visually what colours will look like together, what colours are complements or analogous, etc. (See 004 Colour Schemes.) There are different colour wheels that are created using different colour schemes for pictures: If you want to create an image with harmonious colours, you can create a colour wheel to represent the colours for your pictures that are allowed or okay, so as not to stray from your colour scheme.

Here are two examples of colour wheels for a colour scheme:

Red, green, blue:

Yellow, blue, red-violet:

Here are examples of pictures using those colour schemes:

Red, green, blue (Sailor Mars):

Awkward arm is awkward.

Yellow, blue, red-violet:

Scientific Colour Theory Versus Art Colour Theory top

There's also another colour "wheel" which relates to visible light. It's why we have RGB colour systems where all the colours are made up of the colours red, green, and blue. Ever wonder why it uses green instead of yellow? That's because visible light and how we perceive light work differently.
  • Additive colour
  • Relates to the light spectrum. You can find out a colour's complement in this system by inverting a colour on the computer: For example, RGB Red becomes cyan, not green. When we stare at a colour too long, we end up seeing the opposite based on the visible light spectrum, not complements in art. Stare at this red for 30 seconds or so and then close your eyes.Go here for more on the visible light spectrum and scientific colour theory.
  • Subtractive colour
  • Relates to mixing paints, dyes, and inks, and is what we talk about in art classes when referring to colour wheels and complements.

Basic Colour Theory:

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