Color, like art, is a subjective experience. While there are no hard rules for color usage, knowing how color reacts will help you to create successful works of art.
In order to begin understanding the principles of color, it is useful to have a basic knowledge of common terminology used by artists.
Analogous colors are any three colors side by side on the color wheel.
The chroma of a color is the purity of that color. The less white or gray in a color, the higher the chroma.
The visible color spectrum is the visible band of colors produced when sunlight passes through a prism. It is composed of the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
The color wheel is a simplified version of the visible color spectrum, bent into a circle. The wheel includes primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, from which all the other colors – including neutrals – are mixed.
Complementary colors are colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel.
Cool colors are colors that fall in the purple-blue-green section of the color wheel. Cool colors appear to fall back while warm colors appear to come forward. Contrasting cool and warm colors help create the illusion of space and form within a composition.
Hue is another word for color, referring to the generalized color of an object. The term hue is also used to describe a subtle gradation or variety of colors; warm hues, cool hues, pale hues, etc.
Intensity, often referred to as chroma or saturation, refers to how bright or strong a color is. Pure colors are strong in intensity while grayed colors are weak. Colors becomes less intense as white, black or a complimentary colors are introduced into the mix.
Primary colors are the colors within the color wheel that cannot be made by mixing any other colors.
The saturation of a color depends upon how far removed it is from its neutral. The saturation of a color can vary depending upon the lighting conditions.
Secondary Colors are created from equal parts of any two primary colors within the color wheel.
A shade is a color that has been darkened by the addition of black.
Tertiary Colors are created from equal parts of a primary color and the secondary color next to it within the color wheel.
A tint is a color that has been lightened by the addition of white.
The tone, or value, is the relative lightness or darkness of a color.
The value of a color refers to the amount of white or black in that color.
Warm colors are colors that fall in the yellow-orange-red section of the color wheel. Warm colors appear to come forward while cool colors appear to fall back. Contrasting cool and warm colors helps create the illusion of space and form within a composition.