Short Definitions of Color

Sir Isaac Newton discovered that color is a “direct function of light + that whole light is a mixture of all the colors of the rainbow and named that idea/ process ‘the spectrum’. So even when we do not see color I light it is there and is what creates the colors we see- neither exists without the other. When we organize the visible spectrum of color into a circle, we get an image of the conventional color wheel.

There are three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. These colors are colors in their own right… in a sense pure, because you do not have to mix colors to come up with them. There are three secondary colors: orange, green, and violet… which are created with a mixing of two of the primary colors together to create the secondary shade. Intermediate colors are created when we mix primary colors as well as a secondary color that neighbors the primary on the color wheel.

The subtractive process of color mixing happens when we mix colors together from a light color to an end result of black due to the mixing of so many colors- black is the absence of discernible color. In this sense, light seems to also be absent as it cannot radiate any of the colors once they have been mixed to black.

Color saturation refers to the intensity or visible sensation of purity of color. It can also refer to how different a color is from white and the ‘strength’ of its visual ‘pull.’

A complementary color scheme is use in works that use hues of color that lie opposite of each other across the color wheel which helps to make both looks look more intense and to complement each other. When an artist uses this effect, it is called simultaneous contrast due to how the human eye registers and recognizes color and how our brain interprets it. As the retina can only respond to one color at a time, our perceptions of each color seems to be stronger and more highly focused. Analogous color scheme are works that are created using colors that are next to each other on the color wheel… These colors can tend to appear to blend into each other and even bring other views of each color out with the way the light around the work hits and amplifies the images. Analogous colors usually are sorted according to temperature, while complimentary colors tend to be brought out by opposition.

Color can be ‘sorted’ by temperature which is a way of describing the light measured in degrees of Kelvin. An easier way to look at color temperature is to recognize that this is a way to describe the characteristic of light in term for temperature- either warm or cold… or variations of those descriptions.

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