On to color schemes.

Basic Color Theory


Knowledge of basic color theory is a useful tool when faced with issues of communication and aesthetics. This guide is a way for you to begin to accumulate knowledge on the subject of color.

Warm & Cool

color spectrumColor Spectrum

Often, a color is described as being either warm or cool. Cool colors such as blue, cyan, purple, blue-green, are said to recede while warm colors i.e. red, orange, yellow come forward or pop-out at the viewer.

cool spectrumCool Colors

warm spectrumWarm Colors

When talking about warm and cool color it's important to realize that these terms are relative. For instance we could have one blue that is warmer than another.

cool blueCooler Blue warm blueWarmer Blue

stop sign The visibility of warm colors makes them perfect for street signs and other instances when it is important to grab a views attention fast. This visibility is due to human physiology. There are photosensitive cells in the eye called rods and cones. Rods are responsible for value information and cones for color. Part of the retina, know as the fovea, is responsible for sharp central vision. Objects that fall within foveal vision are seen with greater color saturation and detail. The greatest concentration of cones in the fovea are those responsible for the color red and those responsible for green. This means that if you want someone to see something quickly, make it red or some other warm color. If you want something to recede and be seen as background, use blue. The fewest cones in the fovea are those responsible for blue color information.

foveal vision

Tint, Shade

pure blue tint shade

A tint is a color that has had white added to it. Tinted colors are more subtle and look "pastel". They tend to recede more than pure colors. Shades, on the other hand have black added to them.

Saturation/Intensity and Value

value and saturation

Saturation and intensity refer to the brightness and dullness of a color. Saturated colors are more vibrant as they contain more "pure" color. As a color becomes less saturated it tends towards gray. Value describes where a particular color lies on a light to dark axis.

On to color schemes.