Examples of color theory

The theory of color is a set of basic rules for mixing colors and achieve the desired effect. This mix can be between two types of colors: light primary colors and pigment primary colors.

Starting from the premise that the world is colorless and that everything we see with color is a perception of our visual organ, color theory plays with that perception, and, according to the use of each person who creates a graphic piece , one or the other perception can be generated.

What is the color?

Objects absorb percentages or parts of the light. Light that is not absorbed is transmitted to the environment, which causes an interaction between the other colors and the other objects. When it reaches our eyes, it produces a sensation of color.

Color is said to be produced by the decomposition of white light that comes from the sun, or from an artificial source of light. The appearance of these colors will vary depending on the wavelength , the type of light rays, the intensity and other aspects.

Issac Newton discovered that white light is actually made up of three colors: blue, yellow, and red. The physicist passed through a glass prism with a beam of white light, generating this trio of colors. However, we can not only say that it contains three colors, in fact the entire range of tones that the human eye can perceive at any given moment are incorporated: the primary, secondary and tertiary colors.

Primary colors: they are the purest colors, which do not break down into other colors. They are: red, yellow and blue.

Secondary colors: they are the result of the mixture of some pairs of primary colors. Green, purple and orange.

Tertiary colors: Purplish red, orange-red, orange-yellow, greenish-yellow, greenish-blue, and purplish-blue. It results from the mixing of secondary colors.

Elements of color theory

Color theory is the different rules that are derived from the use of color. You will see some of the concepts related to color from its conception to the human perception of it.

The color

It is a visual perception that an individual has of an object. In order to define a color, many physical, biological and neuro-psychological processes take place within the human being, but external factors also intervene such as the projection of light on those objects.

The light

In electromagnetic fields, extremely fast oscillations occur in a defined frequency range, these are detected by humans in the form of what we know as light.

These electromagnetic emissions travel through space in the form of waves, ordered to a lesser or greater degree, with a wavelength (expressed in nanometers) and a frequency. Wavelengths can range from about 350 to 750 nanometers.


It is a colored substance that is not soluble in the material where it is incorporated. Since prehistoric times, materials such as oxide or the natural pigment of plants were used to make art on the stones. At present, in many branches of art, inks or enamel are used, which are somehow soluble.

Pigments can have an organic origin: animal, vegetable or synthetic organic, or inorganic: mineral or synthetic inorganic.

Pigments have the property of absorbing or reflecting light, which generates the chromatic impression corresponding to the pigment placed on the object.

Color Properties in Color Theory

  • Hue (Hue): through the nuances of the three primary colors, the mixtures and other nuances are obtained. The hue generates warm tones (red, yellow and orange) and cool tones (blue and green).

This property represents the purest state of color as it is in the absence of black and white. With the hue we can differentiate the red from the blue, and it also represents the wavelength, which in the chromatic circle, is defined as the path that a tone makes towards one or the other side.

    • Saturation or Intensity: also represents the intensity and purity of the color, but with black and white present, including shades of gray. When the saturation is low, it will appear gray tones. When it is very high, the colors become much more vivid, therefore, light plays a very important role.
    • Brightness: defines how light or dark a color will be, since it refers to the amount of light that is reflected off a surface. The more shine you add the lighter the color becomes.
    • Luminosity: represents the total amount of light. The higher the value, the purer the color. When the luminosity is equal to zero it means that all the colors are black.

The chromatic circle

Now that we know the properties of color, we are going to delve into a new concept, the chromatic circle. This circle is a very clear graphic representation of different color palettes. You must bear in mind that this chromatic circle takes as a reference the pigment colors that we indicated above. In it we see the hue reflected through the primary colors Yellow, cyan (blue) and magenta (Red), the secondary and tertiary colors. In turn, saturation and luminosity are represented.

On the color wheel, complementary colors are placed in pairs, one in front of the other. These pairs of colors are the ones that provide the greatest contrast and will have the greatest aesthetic harmony.

Examples of color theory

According to the elements in Color Theory, these are the primary colors that must be mixed to obtain others:

    • Greens – Any of the shades of green is achieved by mixing blue and yellow. Varying the amounts of both colors will have a different result. The green color represents
    • Purples : if we mix blue and red we will have purple or purple as a result. The hue will depend on the proportion of red or blue.
    • Oranges or Orange: It is obtained by joining purple and yellow.
    • Ochres and earths : mixing a not so dark violet with yellow can achieve earth and ocher colors.
    • White : to achieve white, the primary colors must be mixed.
    • Yellows : this color is obtained from the mixture of green and red.

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