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FAST CLASS: Color for Designers: Exploration, Theory, and Application

Lesson 5 of 10

Color Illusion in Practice

Richard Mehl

FAST CLASS: Color for Designers: Exploration, Theory, and Application

Richard Mehl

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Lesson Info

5. Color Illusion in Practice

Lesson Info

Color Illusion in Practice

I talked a little bit about color illusion and joseph Albers a little bit earlier and of the relativity of color. And that's really what we're going to be focusing on in this series of exercises this afternoon. And this is his book. Um and we also have an ipad app. There's a great of ipad version of the book that is available that we're going to take a quick look at as well and maybe do some experimenting with. But this is also something that we're going to be using cut paper for mainly. Okay, so this is an example of what his book looks like and um, just kind of go back to this one. It's, You know, he has a lot of these experiments where we're trying to make one color look like two or two colours look like one experiments with the illusion of transparency and then applications using these same kinds of color concepts in Free Studies, what Albert's called Free Studies. Well, we might just call collage or something like that. Um but where you're employing similar ideas of say, how to ma...

ke yellow look different down here against the black. It has one kind of characteristic up there against the white. It has a very different kind of characteristic over there with the different the dark sort of brownish purple and the blues again, seeing these on different kinds of colours, enables us to go back and say, well, this is sort of a theoretical idea. Here's an actual in practice idea. Again, this great quote a in visual perception of color is almost never seen as it really is, as it physically is color the most relative medium and art. And that's kind of what we're here to prove this afternoon. Make one color look like to. So I showed you this before. Well, just kind of run through it again quickly. So you see the connection of the colors down below and the colours look dramatically different from one another. And there's a reciprocal relationship so that the X. That's against the blue green, the dark blue green looks like the background on the pink side and the X on the pink side looks like the background on the green side. And in fact, they're the same color. And it's kind of a middle color And then make two different colors look alike. What we call subtraction of color. So those colors, those two squares in the centre look very similar. They're not exact, but they're pretty close actually. Did this last night, my computer, but we see that they're actually two very different colors. So this is that and that is that. And you see how different they look on these backgrounds. So essentially what's happening is that the surrounding color is subtracting itself from the inside color. If you can conceptualize that it's kind of difficult. You know, a lot of my students, how do you subtract color? So you say, okay, light and dark. So a dark color. You put that on top of it, It's attracts itself, making it look later. The darkness is being subtracted from the color over here, the opposite. So this color, we put that on top. The lightness subtracts itself, makes it look darker. So that's a very simple principle and something that you'll be experimenting with.

Class Description


Try a Fast Class – now available to all Creator Pass subscribers! Fast Classes are shortened “highlight” versions of our most popular classes that let you consume 10+ hours in about 60 minutes. We’ve edited straight to the most popular moments, actionable techniques, and profound insights into bite-sized chunks– so you can easily find and focus on what matters most to you. (And of course, you can always go back to the full class for a deep dive into your favorite parts.)

Full-length class: Color for Designers: Exploration, Theory, and Application with Richard Mehl

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  • Effectively select and apply color to enhance your design projects
  • Utilize color theory language to justify your design decisions
  • Expand beyond preconceptions and your comfort zone in working with color


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; 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.

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

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.


This class is for designers and color aficionados of all levels working across various media, ranging from floral design to user experience design. It is also an appropriate refresher in color theory for experienced designers.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Color Grid Template.pdf

Playing With Color Color Design Glossary.pdf

Playing With Color Color Wheels.pdf

Playing With Color Leaf Collage.pdf

Playing With Color Patterns.pdf


Playing With Color Wallpaper 1280x800 Infographic

Playing With Color Wallpaper 1200x900

Playing With Color Wallpaper iPad

Playing With Color - Wallpaper iPhone

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