Colors and Their Relationships


Color for Designers: Exploration, Theory, & Application


Lesson Info

Colors and Their Relationships

Color allusion and this is something we're going to be talking about this is the realm of josef albers so we moved from you wanna sit in now to josef albers another great quote colors present themselves in continuous flux relative constantly related to change neighbors and changing conditions so this is a very typical albert's exercise and you guys are going to be working on this both with paper and also on the computer on an app actually on an ipad I think you've done some of this christine, how about you playing around a little bit? Yeah has anyone else done any of these kinds of exercises making one color look like two okay, so we look at this and we say that the screen looks a lot brighter than that green over there, right but in fact this one color so again this is about color relativity how color changes based on its neighbors. So up here we see these two colors and they look different this looks darker this looks lighter it's in fact all the same color what's happening here is t...

he process of color subtraction thie outside color is subtracting itself from the inside color in this case this dark color is attracting itself, making this look lighter over here late subtraction itself making that look a little darker you actually see that these are two different colors, right? So that's over there that's over there it's actually a challenge to study color mixture in our imagination that is to say with our eyes closed or with closed eyes this is the illusion of transparency so we all know if we've worked on the computers that we could do this by dialling in opacity well if you try to do it with cut paper you really are mixing colors with your eyes closed so this color this mixture color is a single piece of paper this is three pieces of paper one two, three and as a designer as the artists coming up with this you're saying we have these two colors pink and green what is theater section of thes are the parents what's the child the child is in between color we're tryingto imagine that color with our eyes closed more allusions of transparency these were all done with cut paper and sometimes sometimes you can actually create spatial illusions where colors seem to be emerging and receding thanks beautiful concertina so we see the transparency is we move across collage again something you guys are gonna be working with the playfulness and humor and no way to traps from the end result of a serious work of art paul rand so collage is something if you've ever done scrapbooking uh perhaps just played around with something maybe made a birthday card for someone you probably have done collage usually with found materials uh and plush began with picasso and brock back at the beginning of the twentieth century they decided to glue pieces of paper to their paintings. Well at that time this was pretty revolutionary because paintings were paintings they did not have anything glued to the surface. All right? So as soon as picasso decided to glue a piece of paper to his painting he invented collage and that word collage uh has to do with this idea of gluing um and so we see here an example of a collage beautiful use of color, beautiful use of materials all based on found materials. So when we get to collage then we're deciding on what kind of materials to put together so here just like a color grid it's in the range of of greens we have break rains, we have dog greens, warm greens and cool greens like greens and dark greens, all with found materials, samples of paint, little pieces of foam, sometimes pieces of paint newspapers. I also teach typography of the school of visual arts and they're actually from my type classes and where we're so focusing on color so we have contrast of light and dark, vivid reds, dull reds contrast a warm and cool a little collage was probably done it starbucks or somewhere like that samples of sugar a map when you're working with collage, anything goes the only requirement is restraint so contrast of light and dark variants of orange every person who makes the collage brings their own experience to it your own materials have you guys done any classwork christine never little baby now have you guys ever experimented with plush yeah christine what is your experience with collage work? Um I do a lot of scrapbooking for fun yeah like I like playing with paper and getting my photos down and putting it all night arrangement yeah, yeah collage is very much about that found material lt's all right, but you were still thinking about color in the same way it would be thinking about color if we're working on the computer or working with color samples that are very pure like this usually with collage we're working with materials that are have a variance to variation so variations of texture a ll this work you're showing is from your students yes, the clash were this's either handcuffs in hand pasted etcetera but do they work also in digital collage and digital what wallet as well we do on day one of the uh one of the fun things you can do of course is make things by hand uh maybe make a painting uh maybe do something with markers or pencils uh maybe something with other kinds of materials crushed paper, different kinds of powders you can photograph it and scan it, bring it into the computer and digital collage at that point so we do work with computers usually we're not starting right on the computer we're starting with some other kind of material and we're scanning it or photographing and then bring it in it and make do digital modifications to it exciting scrapbooking courses here it created life which has been really wonderful for our audience and some of them have been very traditional you know? You get it scissors and the glue and all the other fun stuff and others have been completely digital where you're putting it all together absolutely, really interesting the thinking is very much the same you and I today with so much of our information and are being displayed on screen, it makes perfect sense that we are working digital eight even things that are handmade end up being protected leaves again we're going to be in the workshop working with color leaves I have come to us from new hampshire a zo I think last week our ta laura has a friend up there and she sent us a beautiful rage of leaves, so we'll be working with that colorful leaves suit always a plane imagination for all kinds of order and placement therefore they remain a favorite means of study. This is josef albers now albers came from germany, his first teaching gig in the united states was at black mountain college and he discovered leaves the fact that in the fall right now in other parts of the united states here too, I suspect not familiar. So much here is more familiar with new england and the east. Uh, but leaves provide us with a means of material, and I love it because leaves are free, they're widely available. Uh, no one can say they don't have any money to buy leaves, which is great. If you just go out and pick them up now you have to dry them, put them in a book and flatten them out. And then he looked like this this's ah leaf collage that I made two thousand four. And this is what it looked like when I made it. And it's a simple expression of complementary colors green and red. And you can see how when I chose this is actually colored paper the same stuff that's on the table here. So we have a green in the background in this red orange on top. And the greens of the leaf are actually assimilating into the green ground so you don't see the edge leaf down here where at the very top. But there's a lot of contrast against the red, so down here, low contrast appear high contrast, this is what it looks like now, one of the great things about leaf collages is that they change we can actually see them change. So over the course of all these years, that leaf has actually become the color of this background, which I put in later. It's a piece of cardboard, I actually have this with me, and we'll be looking at this later in the workshop, the actual physical thing, another beautiful leaf collage made by one of my students. Contrast of light and dark, a grid to color grid made with leaves, one of the most beautiful leaf collages I've ever seen, little typography thrown in leaves, um, are organic shapes, and when we get to the part of the workshop, where we're starting organic composition, our competition with organic forms leaves will be our materials. Usually when we make a leaf, collages were combining them with other kinds of materials. This, by the way, this idea of tearing paper so we can cut paper with the scissors or an exacto knife, but we can also tear it, which creates this beautiful, a regular kind of edge, what I call an organic edge texture. So when you see a leaf, you might be inspired to use a certain kind of material with it, based on the properties of the characters, six of that leaf, this is really beautiful work, which is have easily being painted as well or this's the actual color of the league in most cases these are actual covered leaves the stunning and they probably don't look this way anymore now actually, is there a way of preserving the color once you've actually make sure you can coat them with a sealant like hodgepodge or some of the kind of a varnish and that will definitely protect believes if you want to do that I actually like the idea of them changing I think it's kind of interesting once they're flattened they don't really curl up anymore and if they're glued down with a good solid blue they'll say flat but most of these photographs aside from the first one I showed you of my own leaf collage were taken a soon as the leaf collages were made so they're very fresh color wheels we're not actually going to be doing physical color wheels in the workshop although you will always be referring to color wheels it's one of the things I enjoy most in my teaching and so I'm going to show you a lot of examples color wheels made with found objects either all caps and pencils and if you remember back to the color wheel I showed at the top of the segment you can follow the colors around so from yellow to yellow green to green to blue green to blue in the background too blue violet violet to red violet toe orange yellow orange back to yellow this is great quote from maine on guard who is by the way a philosopher and a poet but also a color theory uh from the nineteenth century and back then uh you know people weren't so specialized they could do all kinds of things oftentimes we combine color wheels with grey scales and so here we have contrast of light and dark expressed in a monochromatic way from light to dark over here we have the color wheel also expressing contrast of light and dark so we have lighter colors darker colors done with a woven construction and also you see the scale of it so some of these things tend to be very monumental yes so could you go back to that last so you talked about the seventy for contrast in the first three were light and dark warm and cool david indulge it seems like sometimes like this is a great illustration I have a hard time distinguishing between on the color image is that a contrast of vivid and dull or is it or is it lightened dark it seems like sometimes they kind of they kind of go together how do you think about that? Typically with these color wheels were not thinking about vivid and dull we're trying to go for the purest colors possible and so here all of these colors are very vivid right on dh there's no real dull colors there now you can de saturated color by adding lightness or darkness to it but it's very different the different way of thinking about vivid and dull so when we're talking about color wheels were really talking about light and dark yellows like purple's dark also talking about warm and cool right oranges warm blue is cool we're really thinking, though about color relationships and how colors are related to each other based on their identities. So uh green is a mixture of uh yellow and blue orange is a mixture of yellow and red purple is a mixture of red and blue and that's what the color will it really gives us it's a color system it's a good question every time I teach this assignment I get different results this is actually the work of a guy we're going to be talking to it in the workshop one of our guests uh something he did as a freshman and you'll be able to compare this to hiss now professional work it'll be kind of interesting so we see the primaries in the center and then the secondary color is orange, green and purple on the outside and then out here in the corners we see the primaries again with light and dark variants of each very interesting, very beautiful very strategic design there's a painted color wheel with very pronounced primaries red, yellow, blue the other colors reduced down now here we do see vivid and dull but this is kind of a rare case beautiful color wheel very complex it's at the grey scale in the centre contrast of light and dark and then surrounded by twelve colors of the color wheel and out here on the perimeter we have the colors as you can see them so yellow yellow, green, blue green, etcetera all the way around and then here we have light and dark variants of each of the colors and they're arranged in a complimentary relationship so purple is the complement of yellow uh willie green is a complement of red orange again kind of an ingenious design we have one of those strange I'm not quite sure what I'm looking at kind of thing is it projecting forward or backward coming at me going back in space really beautiful but it's all done with contrast of light and dark in addition to the color wheel contrast and then the great skill in the center so we see dark variants of yellow dark variants of orange light variants that war angel light variants of yellow another really beautiful expression of the color wheel this is painted on a piece of plywood twelve circles all overlapping we see all the variants all the different combinations of colors there's something actually done with feet one of my sins carlos painted his feet and the toes air the compliments really fun thes air often done with sketches first so maybe you start off with pencils or markers maybe you cut little pieces out of paper and make arrangements and then the execution happens I'm actually done with rubber stamps it's hard to tell but that say maybe it's not a hotel it's a woman and all the heads and the arms are right in here which is this great combination of all the colors all twelve colors typical color wheel with this great combination in the center that looks like you know some kind of strange fruit something married with a square punch sometimes color wheels could just be made with slivers of color cut from magazines there's one a q r code one of my favorite parts of it I love this beautiful gradation of warm too cool with these colors but I really love these little gray scale grid studies there in the corners and it's again looking at a common object something we see every day the q r code and thinking about it is a form of a color wheel here we have a lower locals corporate logos so we see how corporation's cos I'll have hero colors here arranged in a sense of a color wheel and here we have the inside of a chinese checkers game board and that used as sort of a model for creating a color wheel system so each of the six points the primaries the secondary's that we have red, yellow and blue, green purple and orange so those are the primaries and the secondary colors with variants in each quadrant and then right in the center it's hard to see but there we have the three primaries and the secondaries you're it's used as a decorative aspect for this beautiful box and here is a clock with found objects rocks have any of guys made color wheels but you've all studied color wheels I'm sure at some point in your life gray scale in the middle beautiful colored rocks going around the outside and this is really not a color wheel but I think it's a really beautiful expression of all the colors of the color wheel arranged in this kind of a badge composition we got some great questions coming go online if you'd like to take some richard that fantastic audience now this one bring very popular six people have voted on this and don't forget you can vote on questions as you see them al blanco is saying the color pink doesn't actually exist is that true? And can you explain why pink is a light version of red that's really all it is I don't know if I would go so far as saying it doesn't exist especially people who like pink a lot of young people like pink but not just young people so but if you think about pink pink is a light color we will say that although there are dark versions of pinkas well there are duller versions of pink there are bright versions or vivid versions of pink but pink is basically red with a little butt white added to it and if we look at our colors here we can certainly find examples of you know what you might do to their pink like this not sure if that look pink to everyone but it's a light version of red it's a lighter version of something like this I mentioned this at the top of the segment and I know this is something judging by the queue jack that's a lot of people having issues with and it is about color blindness on how people have different challenges differentiating sam is saying I have a designer I was working with your four color blind people how would they employ color theory to improve their work for that audience that's a deep question perhaps a little bit too soon you have any thoughts on that? I mean, is that something we're talking about in this court? Probably not too much I I'm I'm not a scientist and I don't really know that much about it I can't profess to be an expert in it what I do know is that contrast of light and dark certainly is important to people who have any kind of you know a way of a different way of seeing color, so if you don't see a particular color, chances are you will see something that's either light or dark and that's one way of of thinking about color. If you if you can't see a particular color, you can still see it is later dark. Maybe some of the other contrast might also be employed vivid and all. Um but it does bring us to an interesting idea. You know something I talk about with students all the time terms of how colors are used in our everyday life and two colors red and green are used every day we see them every day at traffic lights, right? So the red is on the top, the greens on the bottom and the yellows in the middle. Does anyone have an idea why those colors he used to take a guess there's contrast, right. So red and green are compliments of each other there contrast, very different. The interesting thing about red and green is they have the same exact light value. Now this is a dark green, and this is a fairly pure red. Maybe if I find a different green here might be a little bit better like this is a little bit of a yellow green, but when used in equal amounts they have the same exact light value so if you think about a traffic light you don't want one the lights to be brighter than the other you just want them to be different so red and green accomplished that that the same light value and so when they're projected out toward us in a traffic light one's not going to seem brighter than the other but they both communicate a particular idea in a very profound way we know that this color means go in this color means stop now if we were using purple and yellow for example and yellow was stopped and purple was go purple would be much much darker yellow would be much, much brighter so those colors wouldn't have the same kind of value equality to them it's kind of fascinating yellow in between I think it's just a another uh maybe they used call I've never even thought about this for privacy yellow in between is really meant to say hey you better start slowing down you know it's goingto change and immediately and so it's really meant to grab our attention continue my colors were really going into the history of color but when I think about students work uh it's part of the continuum of color from cave paintings to color wheels uh k painters all right and there's recently been in some interesting cape indians in the news some interesting things found out you know, forty thousand years ago fifty thousand years ago when the first cave paintings were made those people were playing they were playing with color now they were getting their colors from the earth and they were projecting them on the wall sometimes you'll see if you go teo a wikipedia society knew this google k paintings go to wikipedia you'll see some great examples one of the favorite things for k painters is to put your hand on the wall and to spray paint around your hands so you have a stencil and you'll see these things in their hand prints all over and some handprints are light some dark sometimes the background is dark in the hand is light sometimes the reverse the hand is dark in the back on his light so they were clearly plant plane now we don't know it may have been ceremonial if you guys have any experience with cape indians or not I have ever seen them I've actually never seen him in person I'd love to but idea of using color to distinguish a form and to think about color contrast is a way of distinguishing forms was clear to these people back then so all the way from k paintings to color wheels the continuum of color and I just put together a few things here about the history of color in ancient egypt we had all this symbolism so white was the symbol of purity, sacredness and simplicity black facility resurrection regeneration, silver the dawn sun, moon and stars blew I'm on the creative, the world, the god green for healing and wellness, and read the opposite of black and white chaos disorder, also the symbol for life. Just in a way, if you think about chaos and disorder that's pretty much my life in ancient china, the yellow was the symbolic color of emperors, but colors were also socially with elements so gold earth, centre of life, black water, the color of heaven, the sky black fire, good fortune enjoy would make sure and renewal blue, green and gold purity. So white was a symbol of gold impurity, so they were thinking about colors as symbolic things. Aristotle, who knew he desired devised a system of colors based on the colors that we see during the day from white to yellow or gold, red, purple, green, blue from the morning till the night eventually took that idea and reduce it to six colors in a spectral order. So we're getting closer to the idea of a color wheel. This is the renaissance now keep in mind that each time we talk about the history of color, we're also talking about technology, so the cave painters had the colors of the earth, right the elements to work with so their colors are mainly browns, yellows we get into egypt and china they're again they're working with colors based on what was available to them same thing with leonardo not all the colors had been stabilized in some kind of a pigment yet so we don't see any purple there isaac newton most of us know as of noon for other reasons by isaac newton was a colorist he was the guy who projected light through a prism based on his observations of the rainbow and discovered basically that light is color and that we can actually see colors uh based on lighting conditions he chose seven so one, two, three, six seven red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet and he did this in order to make a relationship to an active again you know, back then people were always trying to find associations between things so color and music again kind of going forward something I'm interested in there's his diagram and if you follow it around on the outside you see orange associated with the note e yellow green blue there's into go and violet and red and the musical notation that follows that dirt a device that color wheel composed of the primary and secondary colors and this came a few decades later and it was kind of in a response to newton he was the one of the first although not the first to arrange to make a color wheel that had the primaries and the secondaries arranged opposite each other. So there's a complimentary relationship like this? This is the color wheel we're all very used to, and it comes to us through and then we see the rainbow beautiful photograph taken by my niece up in oregon, but we see this all the time and that's the color spectrum that's the color wheel, so we have isaac newton we have got a were bitten brings us to this the continuum of color and that's kind of where we're at now, no idea and you didn't have any input into this whatsoever, so I've learned something already he's the guy exciting he's there's, no there's, no limit to his genius. Clearly I knew I knew about, you know he must have invented punting because if you push in one direction and you go in the other than that, it has to be a swell I guess color was just one of his things it's the only reason I know him, for example because, you know, dropped out of science very early, one with mathematics, maybe like some of us, I don't know and there's just a wikipedia site. If you want to try doing a little research on your own it's always a good example, you can go to wikipedia research, color wheels and you'll get some really good ideas and then quickly just a colored design glossary and these air terms that were going to be using throughout the day so very quickly this is not elaborate uh you can just start to think about these things the's words q uh probably one of the most misunderstood terms that is associated with color uh and computer technology has a little bit to do with that but hugh is really the identity of the color so when we talk about a hue we say a red hue and uh red hue has many variants many colors of bread so we have light reds and dark reds and warmers and cool reds they're all the same hue but different colors and that's true for all colors all colors have a hugh green hue of blue hue and orange you but they're going to be lighter dark warm or cool sometimes vivid and dull tent a light variant of color shade a dark variant of color so if I say shade it means dark I say ten to means light and actually that's color aids way of talking about color it's a pretty good one again is something we can all easily yeah issue the just the primary color not one of the choices or is it all the all that comes with all the colors so if you think about well you guys you can say it's it's the six colors of the three primaries and the three secondary so of red is a hugh reddish hue green issue blue shoe but think about hughes as being like the big umbrella that contains or the bucket the canes all the variants of red all the variants of green those are all green hue or all red hue temperature warm and cool we've talked about that saturation vivid and dull and value values that tricky one uh it's important though and what value is is thie intensity of a color the importance of a color the effect of a color and a composition all right so what color can have a very strong value but it's always based on its association its neighbors but when I talk about when we start to look at your color grids and your compositions I might say that color has more value than this color and I'm really talking about its importance relative to its other colors and here this is actually just the color spectrum from illustrator that's what we see when we see the color palette and illustrator and it's a great demonstration of those color contrasts so first of all we have hughes red hues see all the different reds these are all the hue of red right and also right over here on the edge so a red can be dark or light it can be vivid condole della reds greenish yellow greens so this is the hue of green hue of blue a hue of violet light variants, dark variants tense and shades warm and cool because you passed through from warm to cool, backto warm and there's the color contrast again, contrasts of hugh light and dark, warm and cool, vivid and dull complimentary contrast the color wheel proportion now you know how to sit and uses the word extension to talk about proportion I'll explain that more when we get to the color grids, and then we have the same simultaneous contrast which is again kind of a tricky thing it has to do with color allusion how one color can look different based on its surrounding neighbors. You guys have any questions at all about any of these things? Anything that just is a total mystery and you just gonna want to leave the room because it's so crazy and you don't want to talk about it, you can't guarantee will understand all these terms glossary at the end okay, so I still have a little bit about this earlier, but I'm still trying to hone in on it. So I have a little bit of a difficulty understanding the difference between the light and dark contrasts and the vivid and dole contrasts a really good question they're very similar, so light and dark is a way of decent training color yeah, so depending on context you can have, you know, light could be vivid and dark could be dull but you have to understand that you can have a light color that's dull and you can have a dark color that's vivid and that is the difference so late and dark just refers to its light value it's a light color it's a dark color this's a light color but it's also very vivid right? This is a dark color it's also pretty vivid. You know, some of these pastels over here grey is a great example of color that, uh very de saturated, very dull it's another good way to think about vivid and dull is the purity of a color. How how much how how clear is the identity of the color so we can clearly all agree those of us who can see this is this is red it's, a very vivid red, but here we say gray and it's the absence of red right so it's a dull it's de saturated, vivid and dull again you know I had this is a question always comes up how do we distinguish between light and dark in vivid and dull? And if you just think about that idea that a light color can be vivid or dull and a dark color can be vivid adult but that's not true for light and dark that's the way of talking about colors coming from julie online she's saying, I can I think of dull in the terms of adding more black or white to a color absolutely, or adding as compliment so you can dull down, read by aaron green, you can dull down, read by adding white or black, adding white or black will also make a lighter and darker right, and maybe the same is true for green, but I think it's more a matter of saturation there's one color wheel that you showed there. Actually, I think I've been hand painted. What looked to me is anywhere if black of being added to that some of the colors to make the outside very dark, it could have been black, but depending on how is pain and I don't remember that particular one, I remember the piece, but I don't know how it is a good time. Yeah, you could add the complement to it in order to darken it up. Now our teachers system here is as christine christine, anything you'd like to share with us from this book from this first segment from this introduction from your thoughts? Not really well, I saw a lot of all of the examples of the projects and also, you know, like, I want to try that like, I'm going to try that grid when I get home so I'm crazy like the thing about looking at work and seeing examples and seen things that you want to try yeah every time I go to a museum every time I go to a gallery I get ideas about color and knowing something about color theory and enables me to say ok, I'm going to try that I think I know what that the artist is trying to do here so it's not simply a matter of saying oh I like those colors I'm going teo appropriate that pallet for my own use majken sale that's contrast of light and dark or that's contrast a warm and cool with those particular color variations and really becomes kind of interesting and it's fascinating once you understand color theory you can really see colors in art it becomes really clear what people are doing and uh it simplifies art in a way it enables us to understand it more easily and I didn't really say this at the top of but you want to sit in was all about this he devised a teaching method that enabled us to break down these ideas to understand them and very easy ways so you know every single painting or a photograph or a movie uh something we see on television we see colors and were always very very aware of them but we're not really thinking about say how the designer or the photographer was thinking when they made them maybe they weren't even necessarily thinking about it. Maybe it was more of an intuitive thing, but I like the idea of breaking it down. It's. Kind of like learning how to play a game. You know, you, you dribble a basketball, and at first you dribble it one way, and then you dribble it behind your back, and then you go through your legs. And each time you do this, you learn more about it, and the same thing is true for color, so we become more aware of it. We are, our confidence, develops s o. We're not so necessarily tied to the colors that were comfortable with. I'm staying with our comfort zone, were able to move outside of that and unable to employ these ideas as if they're a creative took it.

Class Description

Our response to color comes from the place in our brain where trust, loyalty, behavior, and decision occur – every successful project relies on a designer making smart choices about color.

In Color for Designers: Exploration, Theory, & Application, Richard Mehl will give you a foundational understanding of color theory principles and demonstrate how to apply them. Richard has studied alongside design legends, Paul Rand, Bradbury Thompson and Herbert Matter and in this class he’ll share insights gleaned from 12 years of teaching and writing about color in design.

Richard takes an accessible approach to the serious study of color theory for designers. You’ll be exposed to a relevant series of ideas and skills by exploring a range of analog and digital projects. Richard will discuss:

  • Color terminology and meaning
  • How to view color in context
  • Contrast grids and color illusion
  • Tips for creating harmonious color palettes

In Color for Designers: Exploration, Theory, & Application you’ll develop a new awareness and sensitivity to color that will bolster your confidence in your personal and professional design work.