Sunday, June 29, 2008

Color Theory: The Color Wheel

The Color Wheel

At this point, I had originally planned to review the color systems of Goethe, Ostwald,Itten, Chevreul, and Munsell. However, in the interest of avoiding the noisome sounds of snoring, I reluctantly edited the paragraphs out. You may wish to study them on your own someday.

So...back to the subject of this chapter. The definition of a color wheel could be: "a visual representation of standardized hues." Another definition could read: "3 primaries with 9 colors spaced in-between going around in a circle." I think the latter definition sums it up pretty well. A color wheel is not mystical, it does not impart secrets not known to mankind heretofore. It is a tool for using the knowledge we have and a standard method of communicating. It can be a very personal too., in that you may choose the red, blue and yellow that means RED, BLUE and YELLOW to you, or it can be a tool that you purchase from the art store. Whichever you choose, it remains a tool, an artist's device for visualizing the natural progression of hues from one to another and determining natural harmonies in combining them together in your art.

The color wheel illustrates hues at their highest chroma or intensity. For most students, this can be a drawback in that it is difficult to envision these hues in different values and chromas when using it as an aid to determine color harmonies. How do you solve this dilemma which didn't even exist until I mentioned it? Answer: make more than one color wheel. There will be exercises to teach you the effects of color mixing and visualizing chromas and values.
Three Primaries and Nine Colors Spaced In-Between

As previously mentioned, we use a standardized 12-color wheel. Please keep in mind that this is a standard for communication. There are various theories which expound on color wheels containing as few as 6 colors to as many as 30 colors. The study of color will never cease throughout future histories, it remains purely theoretical. Some theories may prove out more consistently than other,however no one theory is the end-all, be-all of color study.

The color wheel consists of 12 colors which we call HUES. We begin with our three primaries of Red, Blue and Yellow. These colors are placed in an equidistant triangular format around the circle. Laying at the halfway mark between each primary are the secondary colors. They are derived by mixing two primaries together in an orderly fashion around the circle. The secondary colors are named Orange, Green, and Violet. On each side of the secondary colors lie the intermediary colors. They exist as a result of mixing a primary and secondary color together, again orderly traveling around the wheel. These colors are named Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow_Green, Blue-Green, Blue-Violet, and Red-Violet. Thus arranged, you travel from Red, composed of the longest light rays smoothly traveling from hue to hue, arriving via violet and red-violet, which corresponds to light's shortest rays, at red.

Please make an important note at this time. The noun, intermediary, is sometimes interchanged with the noun, tertiary.This may lead to confusing conversation with other people who are studying or teaching color. Barb Watson uses them interchangeably in her color book. I have been schooled in the theory that tertiary is the mixing of two complementary colors, which we will discuss later. It is therefore helpful to discern your conversant's definition of the word tertiary to avoid the 'crazed-person' look.

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