A New Shade of Blue – What Will You Discover?

Color Theory in the Wild
Source: Oregon State University

If you’re an artist, designer, or are at all interested in color theory you might think it’s an understatement to call the discovery of a new color a “happy accident,” but that’s exactly how Mas Subramanian is describing his serendipitous discovery of what is now called YInMn blue. Of course, the color blue has been around for some time, but this particular pigment is among the bluest ever created. What’s more, it’s non-toxic and extremely resistant to fading. Subramanian actually discovered the pigment in 2009, but it’s returned to the spotlight now that a licensing deal has been struck with the Shepherd Color Company. This means that YInMn blue is now available for use by industrial designers to  incorporate into their projects – their very, very blue projects.


This story got us thinking — what other places are hiding beautiful colors that we’ve never even noticed? Designer and teacher Richard Mehl has found color in all kinds of places. In his class at New York City’s School of Visual Arts, he asks his students to play with color theory, creating beautiful examples of color theory out of everyday materials. But, if you’re a color novice, it might be difficult to quite grasp the difference between complementary, analogous, and triad color palettes. For that, we’ve got this handy color wheel infographic, which is as a hi-res download when you purchase Richard’s class: Color for Designers: Exploration, Theory, & Application.

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Color Theory Infographic

Once you start thinking about it in terms of color, you can find that are some great examples of color theory in the real world.

Leaves, obviously, provide a great range of color, which can be analogous, complementary, or even tertiary.

color wheel in the wild
Photo by Jordan via Flickr

Fruit is another good place to look for color theory in action.

color theory
Photo by Pål Alvsaker via Flickr

Some color examples are man-made — and seem very deliberate.

color theory in action
Photo by Eric Vernier via Flickr

Now that you’ve got the idea, we’d love to see where you’ve found color in the wild. Share your examples of color theory in the real work with the hashtag #ColorInAction, either on Twitter or Instagram. Then, next week, we’ll compile a blog post with all the amazing examples you’ve found! And be sure to tune in to Richard’s free class on color — and RSVP for cool free downloads, including a color wheel iPhone wallpaper.

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Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.