10 Things You Should Know About Color

Zagotta Moving On

“To control color is to understand it. An enriching, creative experience in which the intellect merges with the intuition can only happen when a solid base of knowledge already exists.”  Patricia Lambert

Over the last five or so years, I’ve focused more and more on color in my work. I’ve done a lot of research and scholarship on color, but when all is said and done, putting together colors in a painting is an extremely complex activity that can’t be boiled down to systems, recipes, formulas, or rules. As David Friend points out in his book, Composition, “Finding colors and color relationships is a challenging habit of search and joyous discovery, one of the deepest satisfactions in the life of an artist.”

However, I’ve come to realize that there are certain “facts of life” concerning color that artists must be aware of. Here are ten of those “facts”:

  1. Everyone perceives color differently.
  2. A color’s identity can only be determined by comparing it with another color.
  3. It’s easier to reduce a color’s intensity than it is to brighten up a dull color.
  4. Whenever we work with color we are also working with color’s four properties of hue, value, intensity, and temperature – whether we’re of it or not.
  5. The color wheel represents the sequence of spectrum colors that are found in the rainbow.
  6. The closer hues are to each other on the color wheel, the closer their relationship. The farther apart hues are to each other on the color wheel, the stronger they contrast with each other.
  7. Color wheels are important studio tools for artists because they organize information for how to mix colors, for understanding how colors relate to each other, and for creating color schemes.
  8. The Munsell color wheel is important to the artist because it contains true visual complements – complementary pairings that are based on actual afterimage effects. However, the Munsell color wheel is not meant to be use as a guide for mixing colors.
  9. To paint an accurate version of a color wheel’s spectral hues requires the artist to have the right colors on his palette.
  10. The less factual an image becomes, the more options increase for personalized and creative color.

Happy Painting!