Skip to main content

art & design

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

Lesson 6 of 10

Illusion of Transparency

Richard Mehl

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

Richard Mehl

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

6. Illusion of Transparency

Lesson Info

Illusion of Transparency

I think this next thing we're gonna do is a little bit more fun, immediate fun, immediate fun. And it's the illusion of transparency and this is my book, by the way, a little plug for this playing with color. Um, so we see what's going on here and again, this is direct from Albers, he kind of invented this idea and what we're looking at are two parent colors and and in between color and it's all about illusion. There's no transparent colors here at all. It's not about this being a transparent ink and this being a transparent. Even then somehow mixing this truly is seeing colors with your eyes closed, trying to find that middle color. Now you've already done that, you've tried to find the middle color, but here we're working with something else, it's more of a dimensional experience. So when we see these two colours together against a background, we're trying to create this illusion of transparency by finding a middle color that gives us that illusion right from there. We're going to mo...

ve on. That's right to something a little bit different. Something where there's spatial illusion where we use the transparency effect to create the appearance of things emerging and receding. So for example, when I look at this, I don't really get a sense of one color being in front of another, but they're intersecting somehow they're just against this black background kind of equally important. This is that and this being somewhat in the middle. Now I look at that and do you guys agree that it kind of looks as if it's ambiguous as to what's in front and what's in back? Yeah. So one way you can, when you're working with the illusion of transparency and you're trying to find this middle color if you want to create that effect where the middle color doesn't create this spatial illusion, that is this being in front of this being a back or this being in front of this being a back, Then you look for equal contrast on these edges. That's really the key. Try to find equal contrast between these two colors and between these two colors. When we get to this effect is a little bit different here, we're actually going for colors that seem to emerge in colors that recede. So when you look at this, what part of the cube do you think is emerging red and blue, red and blue? Everyone agree. Mm Or or you can see that or the other way. Right. So you can actually shift your eyes right? So there's actually you can bounce back and forth depending on how you look at it. Right? But the key is these two colors over here. Again, these are mixture colors right now we all know that if you mix red and yellow together you get orange and if you mix these blue, green and blue together, you get something in between another very into blue green and to get to that point we start with this and we're going to be doing this, we'll experiment with these ideas of just pushing colors in a way that creates a spatial illusion, as you can see what's happening here. There's a clear distinction as to what's in front and what's in back. And that's the next thing I'd like you to do is 2-2 sets using the same color, but changing the middle color so that the spatial relationship changes. Yeah, So in one case the red looks like it's in front. In the other case the blue looks like it's in front and all you're doing is changing the middle color to achieve that effect. So we're gonna be working on something like this and this is really, it's pretty much right out of Albers book more or less, it's my own colour scheme. But again, picking up in the same colour as I've been using all along to demonstrate these illusions, but I think we all agree that the top band is on top and that on the bottom, it's a little bit more ambiguous, although it looks like that pink band is going behind and then in the middle we're not quite sure where it is, maybe in front, maybe in back. So that's what we're really talking about with spatial illusion. Yeah, and we can flip it. So now the green on top band feels like it's front, the pink looks like from the back and then as we move down to the bottom, the pink definitely emerges forward, the green goes to the background, and that's all accomplished by changing these colors. It could be this could be just as a model for the composition, essentially. You can look at the bottom part of this and just try to do this effect.

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

SUBSCRIBE TO CREATOR PASS and cue up this class and other FAST CLASS classes anytime.


  • 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

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes