A Brief History Of The Color Wheel

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02_ColorWheelNewton

In 1666 the first color wheel was invented in by Sir Isaac Newton best known for his theories on gravity, motion, and light. (His theories on light are detailed in his seminal volume Optiks). Newton used a triangular prism to split a beam of white into a rainbow, proving that light is composed of a spectrum of hues – ROYGBIV. When he wrote down the different hues he made an influential decision to create a circle by connecting the opposite ends of the spectrum red and violet. (Unsurprisingly, if you spin the color wheel quickly, you’ll see white as the colors blend together.) Newton believed colors shared harmonious relationships with one another and went so far as to assign musical notes to each hue. Within this color wheel he rotated geometric shapes to identify different types of relationships.

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Runge

In 1807 painter Philip Otto Runge reimagined the color wheel as a color sphere by painting a color globe using three primaries plus black and white, complete with cross-sectioning.

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Munsell

In 1989 Albert Henry Munsell created a three-dimensional model of color in the form of a central cylinder graded from black to white surrounded by a ring of possible hues.

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Adobe

Adobe’s Color Wheel (Window > Color), one of the most used color wheels today, advances this tradition by refining the arrangement of complementary hues from subtractive (pigment or dye) to additive (light) ones, making color theory more precise. While sadly it does not offer a three-dimensional model, it offers other two dimensional graphs, including its classic square that plots all permutations lightness and saturation of a single hue plus a side-by-side rainbow slider to change the hue and gives numerical values for a given hue in four different color spaces – HSB, LAB, RGB, and CMYK.

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Chromix ColorThink

You can find virtual 3D color wheels in programs like Apple’s Color Sync which is designed to show and compare the shape of different color spaces or in Chromix’s Color which can also plot an image within the virtual volume. These models are even more informative because they show that color is not spherical but shaped more like a teardrop. One day we may be able to plot various shapes within them to design new color relationships and to more precisely identify the color relationships within existing images.

Follow up with Why Painters’ And Photographers’ Color Wheels Differ.

Read more in my Color Theory resources.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

All The Words Of The Rainbow

ColorWheel

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The language used to describe color has a long storied history; sometimes tied to association, sometimes tied to manufacture, sometimes tied to marketing. What it lacks in precision it makes up for in expression. You’ll enjoy exploring this collection if you’re trying to find out what color a word refers to or if you’re looking for the right word to describe a color.

Red

apple, beet, blooming, brick, blood, blush, burgundy, burning, carmine, cerise, cinnabar, claret, cherry, cochineal, coral, crimson, damask, fire engine, fire hydrant, flame, florid, fox, garnet, glowing, gules, lipstick, madder, maroon, pink, poppy, rose, rouge, rubicund, ruby, rufous, rust, russet, sanguine, scarlet, strawberry, tomato, vermillion, wine

Pink

amaranth, blush, bubblegum, carnation, champagne, coral, crepe, flamingo, flesh, fuscia, hot, lemonade, lipstick, mary kay, neon, peach, powder, puce, punch, rose, salmon, taffy, tickle me, watermelon

Orange

apricot, basketball, burnt, cantaloupe, carrot, chanterelle, chestnut, citrus, copper, coral, creamsicle, flaming, fiery, ginger, gold, marmalade, merigold, minium, monarch, neopolitan, orangatan, papaya, peach, pumpkin, salmon, salamander, sandstone, sherbert, soda, starfish, straw, sunflower, sunrise, squash, tangerine, tiger, yam

Yellow

amber, banana, blonde, ash blonde, bottle blonde, strawberry blonde, bumblebee, butter, buttermilk, butterscotch, canary, corn, cream, daffodil, dijon, egg nog, flaxen, gamboge, golden, goldenrod, honey, imperial, indian, lemon, macaroon, medallion, mustard, naples, neon, ocher, orpiment, parmesan, pineapple, pollen, sandy, saffron, straw, topaz, tow-colored, tuscan, wheaten

Green

absinthe, acid, apple, army, artichoke, avocado, aquamarine, basil, bosky, bottle, celadon, chartreuse, clover, copper, crocodile, fern, grass, emerald, evergreen, fir, forest, grass, jade, jungle, juniper, kale, kelly, leaf, lime, lincoln, lush, malachite, mint, moss, neon, olive, parakeet, pea, pear, pickle, pine, sage, sap, sea, seafoam, seaweed, shamrock, spinach, spring, terre verte, verdant, verdigris, vert, viridian

Blue

admiral, agean, arctic, aquamarine, azure, baby, berry, beryl, bice, bright, beryl, cambridge, cerulean, cobalt, cornflower, cupreous, cyan, deep, denim, egyptian, electrix, erubescent, frost, ice, incarnadine, indanthrone, indigo, lapis lazuli, midnight, navy, oxford, peacock, persian, prussian, robin’s egg, royal, sapphire, saxe, sea, slate, sky, spruce, steel, teal, titian, turkish, turquoise, ultramarine, vivid

Indigo

azure, blueberry, deep, glastum, indigotin, midnight, navy, prussian, ultramarine, woad, zaffre

Violet

amaranthine, amethyst, archil, berry, boysenberry, eggplant, grape, heather, heliotrope, iris, jam, lavender, lilac, mauve, magenta, mulberry, orchid, periwinkle, perse, plum, pomegranite, purple, raisin, royal, sangria, violet, violaceous, wine

Brown

allspice, auburn, bay, bran, beige, biscuit, bister, bottle, brick, brindle, bronze, brunette, buff, burnt sienna, burnt umber, cafe au lait, camel, caramel, carob, cayenne, cedar, chestnut, chocolate, cider, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, copper, drab, dun, dust, ecru, espresso, fallow, fawn, ginger, gingerbread, granola, greige, hazel, henna, hickory, kasha, khaki, leather, liver, madiera, mahogany, mocha, mousy, mud, mushroom, nut, nutmeg, oak, oatmeal, ochre, peanut, pecan, penny, puce, russet, rust, saddle, sallow, sand, sepia, sorrel, spice, tan, taupe, tawny, terra-cotta, toast, tortilla, umber, wheaten, whey, wood

White

alabaster, albino, allysum, antique, bone, bright, brilliant, chalk, chantilly, chiffon, cloud, coconut, cotton, daisy, dove, eggshell, gesso, ghost, putty, hoary, isabelline lead, lace, lily, linen, lucent, milk, mother of pearl, parchment, pearl, porcelain, powder, pure, salt, snow, swan, star, titanium, vanilla, whisper, winter

Gray

aluminum, argentine, ash, cinereal, charcoal, cloud, coin, cool, cove, clam, dolphin, dove, dusky, elephant, fog, fossil, frost, graphite, grizzled, gunmetal, gunpowder, harbor, hippopotamus, hoary, lead, iron, metal, mouse, neutral, nickle, oyster, payne’s, pearl, pebble, peppery, pewter, platinum, pigeon, powder, rhino, rice, sere, silver, tin, sidewalk, slate, smoke, squirrel, steel, stone, thunder, warm

Black

atramentous, calciginous, charcoal, coal, crepuscular, crow, dusky, ebony, flint, grease, ink, kohl, lamp, lava, jet, leather, mars, melanoid, metal, midnight, obsidian, oil, onyx, piceous, pitch, raven, sable, slate, soot, spider, stygian, tartarean, tenebrous

Contrast this with the simple and precise numerical language of HSL.

Read more in my Color Theory resources.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.
 

The Best Strategy For Creating Successful Color Palettes

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The vast majority of resources you’ll find for creating successful color palettes, whether in print or online, will catalog a great number of compelling color combinations with some rhyme but little reason. When you look at them, not understanding the logic behind their choices, it’s tempting to think that anything goes. (And it might in certain contexts and for the specific reasons. But which ones?) Sometimes they drift into color psychology but quickly become so subjective they lose all sense of objectivity or universality. The best of them identify visual dynamics that you can use to exert some influence over the direction takes in and gives to your images.

What I’m offering you here is different. This is a strategy. Not a rule but a principle.

It can be boiled down to one sentence, “Make one element of color dominant by putting more contrast in it.”

With only three elements of color, this rubric offers you three main palettes that you can draw endless permutations from plus two notable exceptions.

When you reflect on your choice of palette, you’ll gain insights into the themes contained of your images.

Before I detail these five palettes …

It helps to understand some of the dynamics of color. Good things come in threes; there are three types of color, three elements of color, and three kinds of contrast.

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3 Types Of Color

There are three types of color – ideal, ambient, and synthetic.


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Color Theory

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Understanding color theory will help you appreciate and make more effective color choices.

 

1. The Best Books On Color Theory
Deepen your appreciation and understanding of color with these books.

2. What Is Color Theory ? | Download
Here are the essentials on which you can base your conceptual foundation of color.

3. An Artist’s Palette | Download
One of the most distinctive things about an artist’s work is his or her use of color.

4. One Strategy For Creating Many Successful Color Palettes

Most successful palettes do this one thing.

5. How To Find The Infinite Color Possibilities One Image Contains

The possibilities seem limitless. Explore your options before you commit to a solution.

6. Why B&W And Color Don’t Mix
They’re two different realities; unless you use them as a code for that, present them separately.

7. B&W Palettes | Download
Here are a few examples of black and white palettes drawn from the history of photographic practice.

8. B&W Expanding the Definition | Download
What is a black and white image? Your definition may be very narrow or very broad.

9. 3 Types of Color

10. 3 Elements of Color

11. Color Analysis

12. Graphing Color

13. Saturation

14. Color Temperature 

15. Gradation

16. Simultaneous Contrast

17. Transparency & Translucency

18. The Weight Of Color

19. Proportion | Coming Soon

20. A Brief History Of The Color Wheel

21. Why Photographers’ And Painters’ Color Wheels Differ

22. How To Use Color Wheel | Coming Soon

23. All The Words Of The Rainbow

Find the words to describe that color or figure out what that word means.

24. Color is an Event

It happens when a source, a surface, and a viewer come together.

 

    Test – Farnsworth – Munsell ColorIQ Challenge


1. Exercise File – Memory
Free to Members

2. Exercise File – After ImageFree to Members

3. Exercise File – TransparencyFree to Members

4. Exercise File – IntervalsFree to Members

5. Exercise File – Simultaneous Contrast 3=4  | Free to Members

6. Exercise File – Simultaneous Contrast 4=2 Free to Members

7. Exercise File – Optically Neutral  | Free to Members

8. Exercise File – Analysis  | Free to Members

The Problems With Calling Them B&W Photographs

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You may not think there’s a problem. You may think you know the difference. It’s obvious right? But is it? Do you? After a lifetime spent in the arts, I find photographers’ ability to describe color woefully limited, and this is never truer than when describing “black-and-white” images.
Most antique processes are black and white, right? Certainly, silver gelatin is black and white. But what if you tone it? Is a platinum print black and white or brown and white? Is a cyanotype black and white or blue and white? What about hand-tinted photographs? They were black and white but then they became colorful again, but it’s a different kind of color, isn’t it? And if only a little color is added is it still black and white? At what point does an image become black and white?
The problem is that having only two terms – color and black and white – for a wide array of color palettes limits not only our communication but more importantly our perception and thinking.


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The Difference Between Painters' and Photographers' Color Wheels

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The photographers’ color wheel rendered by Apple.

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The painters’ color wheel painted by Johannes Itten.

In color theory, one of the primary uses of color wheels is to plot complementary colors.
Painters and photographers use this information to create neutral colors. Painters mix complementary colors to get more neutral hues. Photographers add complementary colors to remove color casts, making neutral colors appear more neutral.
But photographers and painters apply different complements. Photographers identify three primaries and complements; red and cyan, green and magenta, blue and yellow. Painters identify three primaries and complements; red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple. Why do they use different complements? Painters have to address the impurities in the pigments they’re mixing. Photographers deal with pure light.
From a practical standpoint both types of artists learn to achieve the effects they want to achieve. From a conceptual or theoretical standpoint the difference is significant – and they share the same theories but their application of those theories differs. Photographers and painters should talk to each other more.
Photographers can enrich their understanding of color if they become familiar with the longer richer history painters have had with color; and at the same time painters can refine their theories and produce stronger effects by using photographic complements.
Physically and biologically our eyes do specific things. By using maximum hue contrast, complementary colors in close proximity to one another create optical effects: they make each other look more intense; any lines between them becomes more pronounced, often producing a light line, which can appear to flash if the eye moves back and forth across it; if made very small (like scanned pixels or printed halftone dots) they average to a neutral color. Artists use these effects to make more powerful visual statements.
Optically photographic complements are correct. You can test and prove this yourself. To do this, take advantage of the retinal after images your eyes produce. Simply stare at a solid patch of color for more than twenty seconds and then shift your gaze to a neutral field of color, like a white wall. The color you’ll see will be the photographic complement. So, if you want to take maximum advantage of the optical effects generated by complementary colors, choose photographic complements.
Finally, color theory can be very useful. Artists frequently create consistent color structures (some call them color harmonies), much like the tonal structures or scales musicians. They often use color wheels to plot these relationships (not unlike a musician plots a circle of fifths to identify musical harmonies). They draw geometric figures inside a circle of color to identify regular intervals between the colors chosen; straight lines for pairs, triangles for trios, rectangles for quartets, etc. There’s no ideal structure. Different structures generate different effects, both optical and psychological – and it’s useful to know what those are. What matters most is that a color structure is created, rather than color chaos. The colors identified as complements define a color wheel. Once again, because of the impurities in pigments, painters distort their color wheels (expanding the oranges and reducing the cool blues) to help them identify which colors to mix to make neutral or more neutral colors, but the unintended consequence of doing this is that they plot color structures on a distorted color wheel. Their ideal theories are skewed by physical imperfections.
Long after his death, it was noted that pointillist painter Seurat, who started a whole school of painters who used broken bits of complementary colors rather than blended less intense colors, could have achieved even richer visual effects if he had adjusted his color choices. Viewers experience visual effects with their eyes. And the photographer’s color wheel is aligned with our eyes.

Learn more about Color Theory here.

Learn more in my digital printing and digital photography workshops.

The Best Books On Color Theory

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What is color theory? It’s a language and set of concepts that’s useful for describing and creating color relationships.

Color management helps you get consistent colors. Color adjustment helps you change colors. Color theory helps you choose colors.

I’ve studied color all of my life – and it’s always rewarding.

Here’s a roundup of the best books I’ve found on color theory.

Reid

Lori Reid’s The Color Box is a great place to start with color theory. It’s neither definitive nor deep but it does a great job of surveying many approaches to understanding color.

Albers

Josef Albers’s Theory and Interaction of Color is the definitive work for creating a hands-on understanding of essential optical effects.

Itten

Johannes Itten’s Art Of Color (an expansion of his The Elements Of Color) is clearer and wider-ranging than Albers’ similar book.

Birren

Faber Birren’s Creative Color discusses ways of creating effects (like iridescence and pearlescence) that few other resources touch on.

Wong

Wucius Wong’s Principles Of Color Design shows the links between color and other compositional devices.

Livingstone

Margaret Livingstone’s Vision And Art details the biology behind the effects artists create.

Find more recommended Color Reading here.

Learn more with these Color Theory here.

Learn more in my digital printing and digital photography workshops.

Warm Or Cool ? The Temperature Of Color

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An essential quality of color is temperature. Temperature can be used to attain a color balance. Temperature can be used to enhance spatial relationships within an image. Temperature can be used to elicit psychological responses within the viewer. Understanding and exploring the dynamics of temperature in color can benefit any visual artist.
There are physical characteristics of color linked to temperature. The color temperature of light (Kelvin degrees) is determined by measuring a black body radiator (an object heated so that it emits light). As the physical temperature of the object rises, color transitions from red (long wavelengths – low energy) to blue (short wavelengths – high energy) through ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). When it comes to light sources, physically, blue is warmer than red.
There are also psychological qualities of color linked to temperature. Psychologically, blue is cooler than red. These associative qualities of color with regard to temperature are almost universally accepted. This is due in large part to our physical environment – water is blue, plants are green, sunshine is yellow, fire is red.
Using the qualities of one sense (touch) to describe the qualities of another (sight) can be a tenuous affair and may lead to ambiguity and confusion. The more precise a language is the more useful it is. The language of HSL (hue, saturation, luminosity) is a very precise language. When using the language of HSL, hue values mark a position measured in degrees on a color wheel. A circle has 360 degrees, so the scale is 0 – 359.
While every degree represents a new hue, you can use broader terms to describe a color family; red, orange, yellow, etc. Think of the color wheel as a clock where every hour marks a new color family.
hue_clock
0          red
30        orange
60        yellow
90        yellow green
120      green
150      blue green
180      cyan
210      green blue
240      blue
270      purple
300      magenta
330      blue red
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Absolutely warm and cool colors can be found at 0 (red – the warmest color) and 180 (cyan – the coolest color) degrees. Determining whether one color is warmer or cooler than another can be measured by their proximities to these poles. A line between 90 (green yellow) and 270 degrees can be used to broadly demarcate warm colors from cool colors; colors on the right (towards red) are warm while colors on the left (towards cyan) are cool. The association of yellow with the sun, a warm light source, subtly skews the associative quality of warmth towards yellow (60) and away from blue; as a result, colors above the line between 0 and 180 tend to seem warmer than colors below it. (i.e. while both are equally distant from red (0), orange (30) seems warmer than blue red (330).) While one color can be seen as warmer or cooler than another color, each color also has warm and cool components; there are warm yellows and cool yellows, warm blues and cool blues, etc. (Where numerical classifications of colors define hues very specifically (1 degree per hue, 30 degree spread per linguistic color), linguistic specifications of colors (red, orange, yellow, etc) define broad ranges of hues.) Defining the warm and cool endpoints of any linguistic color is useful at a coarse level of granularity but becomes increasingly subjective at a fine degree of granularity. At what point does blue become purple? At what point does blue become green?
It’s possible to describe the adjustment of hue simply in terms of warming and cooling.
Photographic color adjustment strategies rely on adjusting a balance in each of three complements.
Red – Cyan
Green – Magenta
Blue – Yellow
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Most hue adjustment tools, like Photoshop’s Color Balance, have these complements built into their interface. You can’t increase one hue without decreasing its complement.
Each set of complements has a warm and cool dynamic.
R (warm) –  C (cool)
G (cool) –  M (warm)
B (cool)   – Y (warm)
These three complementary axes have different warm/cool dynamics with respect to the three color primaries – RGB.
red (warm red)      –   cyan (cool blue)           warm/cool
green (cool green) –   magenta (cool red)       cool/cool
blue (warm blue)   –   yellow (warm green)    warm/warm
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You can analyze the color temperature dynamics at work in any image by sampling it and graphing it. Doing this will not only help you understand how it works but also how you might improve it.
You can make a field of color appear more dynamic, complex, and three-dimensional by preserving or introducing a variety of warm and cool components in it.
The temperature of color carries spatial associations with it. Warm colors tend to appear to be nearer than cool colors. Again this is universal. It can be overturned by many factors; some factors are related to color, such saturated colors appear nearer than desaturated colors or a progression from light to dark may be the primary element that establishes spatial hierarchy; some factors are not related to color, for instance, placement and overlap in composition may be primary spatially, overriding color relationships.
Color balance, spatial proximity, association – these are just three of the uses of warm and cool color dynamics in images. Whether you are adjusting preexisting color relationships or creating new ones, having thoroughly explored the warm and cool dynamics of hue, you can apply that knowledge towards the realization and enhancement of your images.
Learn more in my digital printing and digital photography workshops.
Learn more with my DVDs on Color here.
Learn more with my free color resources here.

Discover Overlooked Dimensions In Your Images With Color Analysis

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To better see color within an image it can help to abstract it. By de-emphasizing an image’s representational qualities you can more easily direct your attention to the color relationships within it. In short, you can see them better because you’re not distracted by other concerns.

Using Photoshop, there are many ways to modify an image in order to better reveal it’s color structure.

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You can blur an image. Blurring an image reduces detail so that you can more easily see the basic composition and the color relationships within it, without getting hung up on the details. (Duplicate the background layer and apply the filter Gaussian Blur.)

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Blur an image substantially and you can reduce an image to a field of color. Compositional elements are significantly downplayed, leaving pure color. (Duplicate the background layer and apply the filter Gaussian Blur with a stronger setting.)

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Pixellate an image and you can reduce an image to blocks of color. Composition is eliminated while  contrast between colors is more pronounced than in a flat field of color. (Try Filter: Pixellate: Mosaic. This works best for lower resolution files or copies of files.)

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Average an image and you can reduce all the colors in an image to one. (Duplicate the Background Layer and apply the filter Average – found under Blur.) This often confirms the dominant color in a composition. Well balanced color photographs containing a variety of hues tend to average towards gray.)

While accents and other important colors can also be used, the dominant color is an excellent choice to further analyze color relationships in an image using Blend Modes. With this technique you can see the variety found in the separate components of color within an image – Luminosity, Saturation, Color, and Hue. (Change the Blend Mode of the averaged layer to the desired color component.)

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With a Blend Mode of Hue, all values in an image will be driven to the same hue. This will help you see variety in luminosity and saturation more clearly.

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With a Blend Mode of Saturation, all values in an image will be driven to the same saturation. This will help you see variety in luminosity and hue more clearly.

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With a Blend Mode of Color, all values in an image will be driven to the same hue and saturation. This will help you see variety in luminosity (the tonal structure) more clearly. (This variant is often the most useful as it is the easiest to interpret. With repeated analysis of many different images, you’re likely to note that images with less variety in hue and saturation (particularly neutral ones) will require more luminosity contrast to have an impact. By the same token, images with a great deal of variety in hue and saturation will often appear overly harsh with excessive contrast.)

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With a Blend Mode of Luminosity, all values in an image will be driven to the same luminosity. You’ll eliminate contrasts in value which will help you see variety in hue and saturation more clearly.

This type of analysis will better reveal the color relationships at work within an image. You can use the information you’ve gathered by analyzing color relationships in an image not only to better understand it but also to make predictions about how you might improve them.

Increasing contrast in one or more of the elements of color (hue, saturation, luminosity) will increase separation in a composition; conversely, decreasing contrast will create greater unity.

Typically, well-structured images use a large amount of contrast in one color component, a medium amount of contrast in a second component, and a small amount of contrast in a third component.

Learn more in my digital printing and digital photography workshops.
Learn more with my DVDs on Color here.
Learn more with my free color resources here.

The Many Benefits Of Graphing Color

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Graphing color can help you identify colors more specifically and understand relationships between color better. One way to graph color is to use the Color Sampler Tool in Photoshop in combination with the Apple color picker.

Using The Apple Color Picker

To access the Apple color picker choose Photoshop: General Preferences and change Color Picker from Adobe to Apple and click OK. To see the new the color picker click on Set Foreground Color or Set Background  Color icon in the Tool bar.

Unlike the Adobe color picker, the Apple color picker is a color wheel. Creating and using color wheels to describe color and plot color relationships is a time honored tradition dating back to Leonardo DaVinci. Some of the most famous color wheels were created by Newton, Goethe, and Munsell. The Apple color picker is an additive color wheel where complements are defined as red and cyan, green and magenta, and blue and yellow.

You can sample any color in an image and find its position on the Apple color wheel.  Using the Eyedropper Tool, sample a color in a composition. Then click on the Set Foreground Color icon. The Apple color wheel will appear and a small circle will plot the sampled color. You can make a record of this chart by taking a screenshot of the color wheel (caps lock, Shift, Command, 4). This will create a document on your desktop, which can be opened in Photoshop.

Combining Multiple Samples

You can combine multiple sample points into a single chart by taking multiple screenshots, opening them in Photoshop, and combining them. Drag the Background layer from one document into another and give it a meaningful title.  Make sure the two layers are registered with one another. Then, mask off everything on the top layer except the circle identifying the color on the color wheel, the triangle identifying its luminosity on the slider to the right of the color wheel, and a portion of the color bar above the color wheel. You’ve just graphed the two colors on the Apple color wheel. You can do this with as many colors as you desire.

Once colors have been graphed you will be able to identify a variety of relationships between colors, both colors that exist in a composition and colors that do not.

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Sidebar For Luminosity

You can identify luminosity values with the slider to the right of the wheel. By sampling colors from an image and noting their position on the slider you can determine whether an image is light (high key), medium, or dark (low key) and whether it contains low, medium, or high contrast, by  comparing the  distance between sampled points (the greater the distance the greater the contrast).

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Lines For Differences In Hue

You can draw a straight and/or a curved line between two hues. This will help identify all the other hues between the two, useful in creating gradations or smoother transitions between two colors.

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Concentric Circles For Saturation

You can draw concentric circles with varying radii on the wheel. This will help define the saturation level of an image – neutral, semi-neutral, saturated, or supersaturated.

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Triangles For Color Families

You can divide the color wheel into triangular slices of varying widths. This will help define hue relationships within an image – monochromatic (single family hues)(within 30 degrees), analogous (closely related hues)(within 60 degrees), complementary (opposite hues)(separated by 180 degrees), or split complementary colors (three colors where two are found between 150 – 210 degrees from the third).

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Shapes Show Relationships

You can draw geometric shapes inside the color wheel – triangles, squares, rectangles, pentagons, hexagons, octagons. This will help identify hues that may be used to create a logical color structure – diads, triads, quadrads, etc.

A little exploration and mapping of color will help you make many new discoveries about the color dynamics in any image, both of how they work and how they can be improved.

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Revealing Relationships

Here are a few observations about the color dynamic revealed by graphing it.

1 The composition has four significant colors.

2 The luminosity has only moderate contrast, constrained to the mid-tones, weighted low.

3 The palette is reasonably saturated, but not supersaturated. The most saturated hue is dark purple, the second most saturated color is pink.

4 A 60 degree slice reveals that there are two reds and two purples – analogous (closely related) hues. The brown is actually a dark red with relatively low saturation. The reds are closely related in hue; so are the purples. There is a light set and a dark set of reds and purples. The hues are at the boundaries of analogous relationships, providing maximum variety within that color dynamic. Contrast is derived based on luminosity first, hue second, and saturation third.

5 While one hue, red, is the warmest color, the other hue, purple, lies close to the boundary between warm and cool colors. There isn’t a strong contrast between warm and cool, but there is a great deal of variety within a predominantly warm composition.

6 Gradation (smooth transitions) can be accentuated by including hues in between the sampled points either along a straight or curved line. The background color for the sky seems continuous and smooth because it contains many small steps between the lighter hue at the top and the darker hue at the bottom; this has a calm effect. The pink accents in the highlights appear warmer and lighter because they are surrounded by cool dark colors, without substantial gradation between them; this has an energetic effect.

Learn more in my digital printing and digital photography workshops.
Learn more with my DVDs on Color here.
Learn more with my free color resources here.