workshop slide gallery theory help   

01. Relationship of dot, line and plane
02. Dot
03. Constellations
04. Line
05. Grids & Patterns
06. Shapes
07. Openings (shapes within shapes)
08. Colour
09. The colour wheel & natural order of colours
10. colour Harmony
11. Texture
12. Light & Shade, Shadows
13. Three-dimensional form
14. Voids
15. Space
16. Composition
17. Principles of basic design
18. Proportion and Scale


8. Colour

8 - 01 Basic colour theory:

One of the greatest insinuations made about colour, like that about art itself, is that it cannot be taught; that people are born with a special 'sense of colour'. So, does that mean that it is only these select few gifted people who can exploit the immense design potential offered by colours? It may be said that colour cannot be taught in the way that arithmetic or grammar can be taught. However, there are certain fundamental principles regarding colour qualities and their interactions, which can guide a student-artist, or for that matter, anyone interested in knowing about colours. So many aspects come to mind when the subject is entered into seriously: the nature of light and of materials and surfaces that affect light, the nature of colour perception, the variables of colour interaction, colour and form, colour and space, colour and mood or expression, fashion trends, personal taste and so on.

Just as there are audible lowest and audible highest sound frequencies (audible to the human ear), there is a spectrum of colours visible to the human eye. We cannot perceive colours whose wavelength is less than that of red, or more than that of violet.

It is also important to note that while the human eye has its own limitations in perceiving colours, the human brain does not have a very strong mechanism to memorize colours. So, we try to remember colours along with their associations - for example - the red of chillies and of strawberries, of blood and of the hibiscus, of tomatoes and of the Pepsi logo - and this helps to a certain extent in our understanding of colours, but unfortunately not many people can reproduce the exact colours. It is only when these various reds are simultaneously exhibited before us that we can differentiate between them.

Colour, like key elements in the other arts, has its own set of terms, which must be introduced here.

a. Hue - The term 'hue' denotes colour, any colour. It means the name of a colour and can be used interchangeably with the word 'colour'. Each hue in the spectrum has its own characteristic. Some are bright, some are dull; some are dark, some light, some are strong, some weak. In addition, when juxtaposed, hues affect each other's appearance.

b. Value - Value denotes the lightness or darkness factor, ranging from black to white. Colours in their pure state range in value, from light (approaching the supreme lightness of white, as does yellow) to dark (approaching the condition of black, as does violet). For instance, Pink and Brown are different values of the same basic hue - Red.

c. Intensity - Pure colours, whether dark, medium or light by nature, exist in their full intensity, saturation or chroma. When mixed with black or white, or with black and white (grey) or with other conflicting hues, they lose chromatic intensity when placed alongside or within one another.

d. Tints, Tones and Shades - Tints are mixtures of greater or lesser quantities of pure colours with white, while Shades are mixtures of greater or lesser quantities of pure colours with black. So, a tint of red means a shift from red to a lighter red, then to pink, and finally to white; whereas a shade of red leads to a darker red, then to brown, dark brown and finally to black. Tones are the mixtures of greater or lesser quantities of pure colours with the range of greys.

It should be noted that a colour exhibits these three characteristics - hue, value and intensity - simultaneously.

e. Achromatic and Monochromatic - Achromatic and Monochromatic - Values lacking the dimension of colour may be considered as achromatic, while compositions with tints, tones and shades of a single hue may be said to be monochromatic.

f. Chromatic Whites, Blacks and Greys - Whites and blacks with the tiniest traces of colour and light, medium or dark greys with much or little colour energy are said to be the chromatic whites, blacks and greys.


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For more details contact - Ar. Shirish Sukhatme
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