How To Make Color Psychology Your Own

Texture for artwork and photography from Flypaper Textures
Studying color psychology will make you a more able and aware communicator. After you familiarize yourself with the ways other people relate to colors it’s time to make it personal.
You have specific and unique relationships with color. This relationship has many layers. It’s a product of your biology, your culture, your time, your community, your experiences, and the reactions you choose.
When you become more mindful of your relationships with color you will deepen them.
Becoming more aware of your personal relationship with colors will lead to personal discoveries, help you communicate more personal messages, and do so in a more personal way.
Begin this journey into color by spending time with color and freely associating. What sensations, emotions, thoughts, memories, associations, words and phrases arise within you when you are in the presence of a color? Ask these questions for as many different colors as you can think of. It helps to look at the color while you’re doing this.
Do this more than once. How have your relationships with colors changed over time? It’s likely you won’t know unless you develop this habit of being more mindful of color. It helps to have a journal to look back and see influences and patterns over time. Keeping a journal can be a mindful practice.
When you first try this you may draw a blank. When was the last time you tried something like this? When you were a child? Reawaken that playful spirit!
Get the process started and guide it along the way with questions. Ask a lot of questions. Instead of looking for one answer look for many responses. Write down your responses. When you write, write for yourself not others. Forget about perfection. Instead, aim for rich and deep. Later, revisit what you write and add more. Continue to use this reflective process to energize and enrich your relationships with colors.
 
Here are a few useful questions to ask.
Do you or don’t you like it? Why?
How does it feel? (Describe the sensation of it.)
When you see a color what to do you feel physically?
How do you feel about it?
When you see a color what do you feel emotionally?
Where do you find it in your environment?
Where do you find it in other environments?
Do you encounter it a certain times (of the day or year) and not others?
What things do you connect with it?
Does it bring back memories?
How often do you wear it?
How often do you use it in your images?
(Look back at all of your images. It can be very interesting to track your use of colors over time.)
 
What other questions can you think of to ask of color?
Write them down.
Find more answers.
Continue your personal journey into color.
 
Read more on Color Psychology here.
Learn more in my digital printing and digital photography workshops.
 

3 Great Books On Color Psychology

Looking for great reading on color psychology?

Start with these three very different books.

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The Color Box

Lori Reid

A simple approachable survey that’s lushly illustrated.

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The Art of Color

Johannes Itten

The expanded version of a true classic The Elements Of Color includes personal exercises and analyses of historic paintings.

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Color and Human Response

Faber Birren

A comprehensive overview of all areas of the field by the most prolific author on color.

Read more on Color Psychology here.

Learn more in my digital printing and digital photography workshops.

 

Why You Need To Understand Color To Get The Best B&W Images

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 Why do you need to understand color to get the best black-and-white images?
Let me count the reasons.
1          You Need To Understand How Flexible The Luminosity Of Saturated Colors During Exposure And Conversion
Understanding how light and/or dark you can make saturated colors will help you pre-visualize the tonal possibilities within an image before exposure. When post-processing, while you’re converting color images to black-and-white, I recommend you make all of these ideas visible realities, making many different black and white versions and comparing them side-by-side. At the same time, you need to understand how neutral and near neutral colors do not offer the same flexibility, which will improve both your vision and your efficiency.


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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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Why Black & White And Color Images Don’t Mix

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Can you effectively present a project or body of work that contains both black-and-white and color images? It rarely works, but in rare cases it can.

The problem is that color and black-and-white images appear to be from different times or even different worlds and sometimes both. They’re so different from one another that presenting them together breaks the continuity of the larger story being told (Even a collection of separate poems creates a larger story, albeit with a much looser narrative and context than an essay.) and it undermines the suspension of disbelief required to imagine that a small two-dimensional image accurately represents our much larger three-dimensional world. Viewers end up paying more attention to the way the images are presented and our attention is deflected away from their content. We spend time and effort trying to figure out a pattern between images that are color and images that are black-and-white and the reasons why they’re different from one another, which is wasted if there aren’t any. “It looks better.” isn’t a strong enough reason to break continuity and suspension of disbelief. If there is no reason that contributes to the content of the series, then it’s a few small wins for individuals but a big loss for the team, and we leave the work feeling confused and frustrated. (“I don’t get. Is it me?”) For these reasons it’s best not to mix color and black-and-white images. Instead, present them separately.


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15 Colorful Things To Look For During Maine’s Fall Season

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Maine is beautiful! And it’s never more beautiful than in the autumn during harvest season. The air is crisp and the place comes alive with color. It’s extraordinarily picturesque. Here are a few highlights to look for this fall.

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Mountains of color

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Color on the water

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Color in the air

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Color on the ground

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Fields of late season wildflowers

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Blueberry fields so red they look like they’re on fire.

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Sometimes they actually set the fields on fire.

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Rocky quarries

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Tumbled beach stones

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Playful cairns

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Quaint lighthouses

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Working harbors

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Rugged island life

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Mysterious misty mornings

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Rich evening afterglow

And this is just the beginning. There are so many more reasons to visit Maine in autumn! Who knows what you’ll find.

Find out more about my Acadia Maine Fall Foliage Photography Workshop here.

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.

Seeing Color & Enhancing Creativity – Seth Resnick


“At B&H’s Optic 2018, photographer Seth Resnick discusses color, enhancing creativity, and processes you can employ to make better images and improve your photography. He stresses the importance of being aware of the details in your environment and mentally taking note of what you see BEFORE you start shooting with your camera.”
Learn more about Seth Resnick here.
Find out more about our Digital Photo Destinations Workshops here.

Select And Mask Hue With Photoshop's Color Range

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When you want to make a selection based on hue, start with Photoshop’s Color Range. (It’s located in the Select menu.) It’s an invaluable selection tool that’s easy to master.
The heart of this tool is the default setting for the Select drop-down menu – Sampled Color. Once you learn to use it, you’ll find you’ll use it often. For Sampled Colors it’s an oversight to activate the slider for Fuzziness (the number of related hues included) and not Range (targeting specific lightnesses). Hope, no request, that Adobe activates both Fuzziness and Range sliders for all drop down settings. For now, you can overcome this limitation to some extent and customize any range of color with surprising precision by using the icons on the right of the dialog box Eyedropper Tool, Add to Sample, and Subtract from Sample icons as well as the Invert checkbox. It is also the only setting that activates the Localized Color Clusters check box, which essentially adds a radial gradient around the point you sample a color from. You can master this tool in a few minutes.
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You’ll probably find that you’ll use the other settings in Color Range’s Select drop-down menu sparingly, some not at all.
Skip them. The color choices in the Color Range drop-down menu – Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Blues, Magentas – are almost useless. They’re not as accurate as you’d like them to be and they don’t offer Fuzziness or Range sliders to control them with. It’s all or nothing, usually nothing.
Use them occasionally. The Highlights, Midtones, and Shadows options have improved by activating both Fuzziness and Range sliders. Curiously, if you Invert the Highlights setting you get a slightly different result than simply choosing Shadows setting and vice versa. But don’t worry, the Fuzziness and Range sliders will give you all the control you need to compensate and much, much more. Color Range’s selections of luminance yield different results than making luminance selections by loading channels as selections (See my article Masking Luminosity.); for better or for worse, they tend to produce fewer gray values and so they yield more generous selections with quicker less smooth transitions into surrounding values, as if you added contrast to a channel selection.
Consider it. While it offers only the control of the Fuzziness slider and not the Range slider but adds a Detect Faces feature, Skin Tones can be quiet useful – at times. It is clearly biased towards Caucasian skin tones as it picks up whites before darker browns but it does a good job of avoiding very saturated warm hues. If Skin Tones fails, use the default Sampled Colors instead and choose a custom base color you’d like to start with.
Forget about it. Be careful about the Out Of Gamut feature. It works based on the profile loaded for an output device, usually an offset press. It’s designed to help you prepare files for printing by selecting and subsequently desaturating colors that are too saturated to be printed accurately. Using color management and good output profiles is a better way to control gamut compression.
Finally, if you want a larger preview of the selection/mask being generated, the Selection Preview drop-down menu offers four settings that will change the appearance of the image window Grayscale, Black Matte, White Matte, and Quick Mask. In most cases, the generously sized icon in the Color Range window will be all you need.
Photoshop’s Color Range is an indispensable selection tool that continues to improve. When you want to make a selection based on hue, start here.
Read more about masking here.
View more in my DVD Drawing With Light.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

A Quick Cure For Dehaze Color Shifts With Photoshop

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Without Dehaze

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Dehaze may create color artifacts

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Color artifacts removed

Color without Dehaze blended with luminosity with Dehaze

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The top layer is set to a blend mode of Color

When you’re using Lightroom or Camera Raw, you’ll quickly find the Dehaze slider can produce marvelous contrast effects. Dehaze can dramatically exceed the contrast that can be produced with either Curves or Clarity. Sometimes it will reveal detail you couldn’t see with your eyes!

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Often, there’s a price to pay for these great effects – color shifts. Neutral areas may turn magenta. Shadows may pick up strong blue or green casts. To make matters worse, these unwanted artifacts are rarely uniform, which makes them harder to fix.

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If you’re lucky you can compensate by reducing Saturation after using Dehaze. When you do this, it’s likely that you’ll end up choosing the least objectionable version or making a compromise you’d prefer not to. Frequently, to avoid these side effects, you’ll be tempted to not to push Dehaze as far as you’d like to.
There is a cure that will help you go as far as you’d like, without producing color shifts. Render your image twice. First, render it with as much Dehaze as you’d like. Second, render it without Dehaze.

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Then place the version without Dehaze in a layer on top of the version with Dehaze. Change the Blend Mode of the top layer to Color. This will give you a combination of the color of the top layer (without Dehaze’s color artifacts) and the luminosity of the bottom layer (with Dehaze’s contrast).

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How do you make two layers from one Raw file?

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If you’re using Lightroom, make a virtual copy and then double click on the Dehaze slider. Highlight the original file and the virtual copy and select Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop. Now in Photoshop, make sure to change the top layer’s blend mode from Normal to Color.

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If you’re using Camera Raw, open your Raw file as a smart object, then select New Smart Object via Copy in the Layer menu, and finally double click on the top layer to return the Dehaze slider to 0. Remember, change the top layer’s blend mode from Normal to Color.

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The technique of using the color of one layer to overlay another layer can be used for many applications. Here, it makes Dehaze even more useful.

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Read more color adjustment resources here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.