# Open the Door into the Science of Color Theory

Color theory is a vast and complicated sphere of knowledge. It consists of different scientific elements, such as: optics, spectroscopy, human anatomy and physiology, psychology, art history and theory, philosophy, ethics, architecture theory, design and many other applied sciences. In this article we will show only the schemes of harmonic color combinations and the examples of their usage by a bunch of talented vector artists.

### How are Colors Created?

Let’s first understand how the varieties of all colors are formed. All the colors can be received from the combination of primary colors, which are red, yellow and blue. These colors differ from the others by the fact that they cannot be created by mixing the other colors.

In order to make secondary colors you should mix the primary ones. By mixing red with yellow we get orange, and by mixing red with blue you get a violet color. Blue together with yellow turns into green.

For creating tertiary colors you should mix the primary color with the neighboring secondary color. It means that there are six tertiary colors (two colors from each primary color). As a rule colors are placed in a spectrum and it is called a color wheel.

The method of making your own color palette with the help of Color Blending Methods is described in a wonderful tutorial How to Create a Wide Range of Custom Color Swatches in Illustrator. One of the methods is illustrated in the picture below. You can use these colors in your work after downloading the source file.

The figures in the picture show that 1 – is for primary colors, 2 – is for secondary and 3 – is for tertiary colors. Colors that have figures are called the pure colors; they have no black and white impurity. For getting colors in digital art such color mode as RGB, CMYK, LAB and HSB can be used. You can read everything about their quantities and application in the article An Introduction to Illustrator’s Color Tools.

### The Color Scheme

There are different methods of getting harmonic color combinations. Let’s discuss harmonic color schemes and examples of their application in vector art. These color schemes are usually called the basic ones.

### Monochromatic Color Scheme

The variations of brightness and intensity of one color is used in this scheme. This scheme is simple and elegant, colors are soothing. The basic colors can be combined with neutral ones such as white, black and gray to contrast the elements of a composition.

### Analogous Color Scheme

In this scheme we use colors that are placed near each other in the color spectrum. This kind of scheme is often used for the creation of peaceful and comfortable designs. An analogous color scheme is often met in nature.

One color is usually used as the basic one, the second color is as accompanied, the third is used as an accent for the contrast creation, it may be white, black or gray.

### Complementary Color Scheme

Colors that are opposite each other in a color spectrum are called complementary colors (for example red and green).

Such color combinations creates a high level of contrast in combination. But we should be careful with such a combination and use it only if we want to select something. Complementary colors are really bad for text.

### Split Complementary Color Scheme

This scheme is the variation of complementary color scheme. It uses a color and two colors adjacent to its complementary. Only right or left colors from a complementary color are used. This provides high contrast without the strong tension of the complementary scheme. The split complementary scheme is harder to balance than monochromatic and analogous color scheme. One warm concentrated color and a number of cold colors are usually used.

#### OJ, by Ikue

Three colors that are equally placed in a color spectrum are used in this scheme. This scheme gives a strong visual contrast with harmony and color richness. Colors in this scheme are more balanced than in a complementary color scheme. As a rule one color in a composition is chosen as basic.

### Tetradic (Double Complementary) Color Scheme

This scheme is the richest among all the schemes because four colors which are placed in complementary pairs are used. It is difficult to achieve harmony in this scheme. If four colors are used in the same quantity the composition might appear to be unbalanced. That’s why we should choose one color which will be dominant.

#### Fruit Fly, by ArtSerenity

Adobe Illustrator allows you to use basic color schemes. To do this, after selecting the color you should open the tab Harmony Rules in the Color Guide palette. Select the desired color scheme and choose color from a number of proposed colors.

Except the basic colors, there are lots of other color schemes that are based on associations with human reception. These are the main schemes.

### Hot Colors

The tones of red are considered to be hot, which are associated with the fire. Hot colors seem to move beyond the composition flatness and attract attention. That’s why they are often used in posters, ads, road signs. Hot colors possess the strength and aggressiveness.

### Cold Colors

Tones of blue are considered to be cold colors. Cold colors remind us of ice and snow. When cold and hot colors are placed nearby it seems as if they are vibrating.

### Warm Colors

All colors that contain red seem to be warm. Red-orange, orange and yellow-orange are supposed to be warm colors. Warm colors are comfortable, impulsive and friendly.

### Cool Colors

The basic tone of cool colors is blue. If we add yellow to cool colors we receive yellow-green, green and green-blue colors. Such tones relax, refresh, and give a feeling of depth and comfort.

### Light Colors

These colors have got lots of white color. As a rule such colors are called pastels. It seems that they are transparent and weightless. The more light the color is, the less is the number of combination variations with it. The light colors are open and give the feeling of reconciliation and quietness.

### Dark Colors

The dark colors are those colors that are mixed with black. They look as if they close the space, make it less. Dark colors are associated with autumn and winter, which are dark seasons. The combination of light and dark colors creates the feeling of drama.

### Bright Colors

The brightness of color is measured by the quantity of pure color. The color brightness is made in the absence of a black color. Bright colors attract our attention, that’s why it is used in packaging and ads.

### Conclusion

Today we have only opened the door to the complicated and wonderful universe of colors. The feeling of harmony and its application can be learned, as well as the science, and principles behind it. I wish you success in pursuing each fascinating color world.

#### More Color Theory and Color Harmony Information

• http://www.devdsine.blogspot.com/ devdsine

Bookmarked!!

• http://www.docholoday.com Doc

Good tutorial for beginners! Also, although it doesn’t apply to the web, or to print, in terms of painting, there are technically 6. The primary three have both a “warm” and a “cool” version. For example, a warm yellow would be more golden (Cadmium Yellow Deep/Medium), where as a cool yellow would be more “lemon” (Cadmium Lemon). With 2 reds, 2 blues and 2 yellows in your paint set, you could create just about anything. :)

• http://www.chewedkandi.net Sharon Milne

Great article Iaroslav! I’ve linked it on deviantART for you :) http://news.deviantart.com/article/136304/ :)

• Iaroslav Lazunov

Thanks, Sharon.

• http://www.mrblonde.ca Mr. Blonde

Hi, nice intro to colours! There’s great books on colour theory you should keep on hand. I have the Art of Color by Johannes Itten. It’s great to have a reference handy for info like this for quick and easy access. Thanks for informing everyone!

• http://www.hangaroundtheweb.com rajasegar

One of the great posts on color theory, illustrative and informative, full marks to the author, bookmarked,
thanks for sharing….

• http://www.anastasiia-ku.com ychty

Nice article. Thanks for sharing Jaroslav!

• Iaroslav Lazunov

Спасибо Настя, недавно нашел твой сайт, отличная работа! Молодец!

• Menno

http://vector.tutsplus.com/articles/theory/open-the-door-into-the-science-of-color-theory/
Take a look to your first image, your blue must be more cyaan.

Depents on the media you use. RGB or CMYK. Or Oilpaint or acrlyic.

• w1sh

What software are you using to generate those color palettes?

• RubiK

Great article! I always have problems when it comes down to color, like what to choose or what color with what, and this post really help me out. I love articles about color!!

I love how you managed to explain this in simple terms, and back each example with a well chosen illustration.
Well done! I hope this is only the first in a series

• http://icicleta.com Iciar Novo Fernández

• Jeff

Really enjoyed this one! I also would like this to be the first in some sort of series. :-)

• http://www.brunobarros.com Bruno Barros

Nice article, but… where is the magenta?

If We mix magenta and yellow We have red, so, red isn’t a pure color.

• http://bucketothought.com/loungekat/blog/ LoungeKat

But magenta is made from red and blue.

• http://lazunov.deviantart.com/ Iaroslav Lazunov

You have confused the pure colors with CMYK color mode.

• FireKDragon

An excellent article…really enjoy this,combined basic theories and the examples..thanks for sharing!

• Jennifer Campos

I am not that good in applying colors to my artwork that’s why I always have them in plain ink or pencil. Thank you very much for this tutorial, it’s a big help. And it is easy to understand.

• Nykeri

what a lovely and refreshing tutorial, i forgot all about colour theory as i started learning to code. The more they taught code to me the more i forgot my design knowledge

• http://swasticdesigns.com uck

Great Inspiration !

• Not an idiot

No offence, but you’re completely wrong about colour science. If we’re talking additive colour (what you get if you mix light), the primary colours are red, green and blue. If we’re talking subtractive colour (what you get if you mix paint), the primary colours are cyan, magenta and yellow.

Of course, often ARTISTS refer to red, yellow and blue as the primary colours, but that’s not scientifically accurate. So that would be fine if your article was called “Open the door into the ART of color theory”.

It’s not like this isn’t on Wikipedia…

• Maxy

Hi, thanks for that… It was explained really great… very helpful .. ;)

• http://www.attitudedesign.co.uk Attitude Graphic Design

A brilliant reference article, explained easily and simply!

• Eli

Amazing! I looked and looked to find something like this. Every site but this one just showed the color wheel and no examples. As an art student, I know every definition and term, but I have problems applying it to my art. With this guide you included examples, and for that I am forever in your debt. Thank You!!!

Thank you for sharing, easy to simple :)

• shahidart.com
• Schraverus

Hmm, you know. This doesn’t really have anything to do with science. Science is mostly about testing expectations and building theories by experiment or other ways of gathering data.

This art instruction, and partly misleading. The use of Red, Yellow and Blue as primary colours comes from the mixing of oil paints several centuries ago when not all pigments were readily available and RYB was the best you could do. Basically it’s a few hundred years out of date.

Based on the light receptive cells in your eyes a more useful colour wheel would use Red, Green and Blue as primary colours. This is the wheel used for printing and computer monitors and is generally called the CMYK or RGB system (Printing uses CMYK, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, and monitors use RGB, Red, Green, Blue).

A very detailed reference site: is http://www.huevaluechroma.com/

• cyrilsebastian

Thanks! specifying the color and examples give a good idea of making the logo with various color combinations. Gives a good idea how the end design will be if I choose such colors. :)

• wopethemes

This is the best tutorial for the colors, Thank for educate me alot!