Color Theory Basics

What is Color?

There are two types of color, first is the color that comes from a light source like TVs and monitors, and the second is the color that is reflected. Printed documents and every other object absorb some colors and reflect others. If an object absorbs every color other than red, than we see that object as a red colored object.

Additive Colors and Subtractive Colors

Additive color mixing is the method of creating colors by mixing red, green and blue lights. It is the method that is used in TVs and monitors. If these colors are mixed 100 % white light will be produced.

Subtractive color mixing is the method of creating colors by mixing pigments. In this method, when cyan and yellow mixed, green is produced. Red is produced by mixing yellow and magenta, and blue is produced by mixing cyan and magenta.

RGB Color Model

RGB is the color model that is used in monitors, scanners etc. RGB stands for "Red Green Blue". Each has a range from 0 to 255. If all the values are 255, we see white. If all values are zero, than we see black. If red is 255 but green and blue are zero, we see pure red. All (16,777,216) colors can be generated by mixing red, green and blue.

These are the primary colors of light:

RGB(255,0,0) means Red = 255, Green = 0 and Blue = 0. It is red.
RGB(0,255,0) means Red = 0, Green = 255 and Blue = 0. It is green.
RGB(0,0,255) means Red = 0, Green = 0 and Blue = 255. It is blue.

These are the secondary colors:

RGB(255,255,0) means Red = 255, Green = 255 and Blue = 0. It is yellow (red+green).
RGB(255,0,255) means Red = 255, Green = 0 and Blue = 255. It is magenta (red+blue).
RGB(0,255,255) means Red = 0, Green = 255 and Blue = 255. It is cyan (green+blue).

HSL Color Model

HSL stands for "Hue Saturation Luminosity". Hue is the purest form of a color. It has a range from 0 to 360. If saturation and luminosity are in their default values, and we set the hue to 0, then we see pure red. If we set it to 120, then we see pure green. If we set it to 240, then we see pure blue.

Saturation is the purity of a color. More saturated colors are less mixed with gray. Less saturated colors are more grayish. It has a range from 0 to 100. The default value for saturation is 100.

Luminosity is the brightness of a color. It has a range from 0 to 100. The default value for luminosity is 50.

Color Wheel

Color wheel is a circle which harmonious colors can be derived. It is created according to the color theory.

Primary Colors


Primary colors of light are red, green and blue. They are the colors which can not be formed by mixing other colors.

Secondary Colors


Secondary colors of light are cyan magenta and yellow. They are the colors which are formed by mixing two primary colors.

Tertiary Colors


Tertiary colors are the colors which are formed by mixing a secondary with a primary.

Harmonious Colors

Harmonious colors are the colors that are selected from color wheel according to color theory. They are the "Matching Colors" which looks fine together. There are different harmonious color schemes. For example, in analogous scheme, the harmonious colors are the directly beside the selected color. In the complementary scheme, the harmonious colors are directly opposite in the color wheel.


Analogous Colors

Complementary Colors

Split Complementary Colors

Triad Colors

Square Colors

Cool Colors
Color colors are blues and greens; they are the colors of snow and ice. They appear to recede into space.

Warm Colors
Warm Colors are reds and yellows; they are the colors of sun and fire. Warm colors appear closer than cool colors. They give a sense of warmth by increasing the blood pressure. Warm colors also give a sense of energy, comfort and happiness.

Shades
Shades are dark values of a color. They can be formed by mixing the color with black.

Tints
Tints are light values of color a color. They can be formed by mixing the color with white.

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