A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO COLOR THEORY FOR CONCEPT ARTISTS

A FREE INTRODUCTION GUIDE 

BY IAMAG MASTER CLASSES



The Color Wheel

The color wheel is a fundamental visual tool that artists use to comprehend and organize colors. The wheel comprises a circle that is divided into segments, each of which represents a distinct color. The primary colors, red, blue, and yellow, are located equidistant from each other on the wheel, forming a triangle.

When two primary colors are mixed, a secondary color is produced. The secondary colors, orange, green, and purple, are located between the primary colors that they are derived from. For instance, orange is located between red and yellow.

Moreover, when a primary color is mixed with a secondary color, a tertiary color is formed. Tertiary colors are located between the primary and secondary colors that they are derived from. For instance, yellow-green is located between yellow and green.

The color wheel is an indispensable tool for artists because it enables them to comprehend how colors interact with each other. For example, complementary colors are positioned opposite each other on the wheel, such as red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple. Utilizing them together can create a strong contrast in an artwork. Analogous colors are located next to each other on the wheel, such as blue, blue-green, and green. Using them together can create a harmonious and calming effect. Moreover, the color wheel is not limited to just primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

Color Schemes

Color schemes are a crucial aspect of artwork that can significantly impact the final result. A color scheme is a collection of colors that work harmoniously together to create a specific mood or effect in an artwork. With that said, here are some of the most common color schemes used in artwork:


Complementary Colors: Complementary colors are two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. For example, red and green, blue and orange, or yellow and purple. Using complementary colors in an artwork creates a striking contrast that can make it feel vibrant and dynamic. This can draw attention to specific elements in the artwork and create a sense of excitement.


Analogous Colors: Analogous colors are three colors that are located next to each other on the color wheel. For example, blue, blue-green, and green. Using analogous colors in an artwork creates a harmonious and calming effect. This can make the artwork feel unified and balanced, and can be an effective way to convey a sense of tranquility.


Monochromatic Colors: Monochromatic colors are variations of a single color. For example, light blue, medium blue, and dark blue. Using monochromatic colors in an artwork creates a subtle and sophisticated effect. This can make the artwork feel cohesive and polished and is an effective way to convey a sense of elegance.


Triadic Colors: Triadic colors are three colors that are evenly spaced apart on the color wheel. For example, red, yellow, and blue. Using triadic colors in an artwork creates a balanced and dynamic effect. This can make the artwork feel playful and cheerful and is an effective way to convey a sense of energy and excitement.


Split Complementary Colors: Split complementary colors are a variation of the complementary color scheme. Instead of using two complementary colors, you use one color and the two colors adjacent to its complementary color. For example, blue, yellow-orange, and red-orange. Using split complementary colors in an artwork creates a more subtle contrast that can make it feel interesting and unique. This can draw attention to specific elements in the artwork and create a sense of depth.


When choosing a color scheme for an artwork, it's crucial to consider the mood and message you want to convey. For example, using warm colors like red and orange can create a sense of energy and excitement, while using cool colors like blue and green can create a sense of calmness and relaxation. Using a monochromatic color scheme can create a sophisticated and elegant effect, while using a triadic color scheme can create a playful and cheerful effect. Ultimately, the right color scheme will depend on the specific artwork and the effect you want to create.

Hue, saturation, and value

Hue, saturation, and value are three essential properties of color that are important to understand when working with color. However, there are more properties that you can learn about to make the most out of color.

Hue: Hue refers to the pure color, such as red, blue, or green. It's what we typically think of when we think of color. When you adjust the hue of a color, you are changing the color itself. For example, if you change the hue of a blue color to green, you are changing it from a blue hue to a green hue. It is important to remember that there are different hues of each color as well. For instance, there are different hues of blue, such as sky blue, navy blue, or baby blue.

Saturation: Saturation refers to the intensity or purity of a color. A color with high saturation is a pure color, while a color with low saturation is a more muted or grayed version of that color. When you adjust the saturation of a color, you are changing how vivid or dull it appears. Saturation can also be referred to as chroma or colorfulness. High saturation can make colors more vibrant and striking, while low saturation can make them more subdued and calming.

Value: Value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. It is also known as brightness or luminosity. When you adjust the value of a color, you are changing how light or dark it appears. For example, if you take a bright yellow color and decrease the value, it will become a darker yellow color. Value is important because it can affect the mood of an artwork. Dark colors can create a sense of mystery or danger, while light colors can create feelings of happiness or serenity

Temperature: Temperature refers to the warmth or coolness of a color. Warm colors are those that have a red, orange, or yellow undertone, while cool colors have a blue, green, or purple undertone. Temperature can affect the mood and atmosphere of an artwork. Warm colors can create a sense of energy and excitement, while cool colors can create a sense of calmness and relaxation.

Complementary Colors: Complementary colors are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. For example, red and green are complementary colors. When used together, complementary colors can create a sense of balance and harmony in an artwork. They can also create contrast and make each other appear brighter or more vivid.

Warm and cool colors

Warm and cool colors are two broad categories of colors used in artwork to create a variety of moods and effects. Warm colors are often associated with fire, heat, and energy, and include hues such as red, orange, and yellow, as well as shades like pink, peach, and gold. These tones can evoke feelings of excitement and enthusiasm in artwork, making them great for designs that need to grab the viewer's attention. They can also create a sense of warmth and comfort, which can be useful in designs that want to create a welcoming or friendly environment.

On the other hand, cool colors are often associated with water, ice, and the natural world. These colors include blue, green, and purple, as well as variations like turquoise, teal, and lavender. Cool colors can create a sense of calmness and relaxation in artwork, making them perfect for designs that want to convey a sense of serenity or tranquility. They can also create a feeling of sophistication and elegance, which can be helpful to in high-end, luxurious designs.

When warm and cool colors are combined, they can create interesting contrasts and effects in an artwork. For example, using a warm color like red against an excellent color like blue can create a strong contrast that can make the artwork feel dynamic and energetic. Using warm and cool colors together can also create a sense of balance and harmony, as the opposing colors complement each other nicely.

It's worth noting that while warm and cool colors are often used to create specific moods and effects in artwork, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to color usage. Ultimately, the choice of color palette will depend on the artist's personal preferences, as well as the specific needs of the artwork or design.

Color temperature

Color temperature refers to the perceived warmth or coolness of a color. It is a key concept in the world of color theory and can have a significant impact on the mood and feeling of an artwork. Warm colors, such as those that appear to be on the red, orange, or yellow end of the spectrum, tend to create a feeling of energy, passion, and excitement. On the other hand, cool colors, such as those that appear to be on the blue, green, or purple end of the spectrum, tend to create a feeling of calmness, tranquility, and relaxation.

When used strategically, color temperature can be a powerful tool for artists and designers to convey specific emotions and messages through their work. For example, a painting that uses warm colors like red and orange might create a sense of urgency or passion, while a painting that uses cool colors like blue and green might create a sense of peacefulness or serenity. Similarly, the use of warm colors in an advertisement or marketing campaign might be more effective at capturing the attention of viewers and creating a sense of excitement or urgency.

In addition to affecting the mood of an artwork, color temperature can also be used to create the illusion of depth and distance. Warm colors tend to appear to be closer to the viewer, while cool colors tend to appear to be further away. This can be useful for creating a sense of space and depth in a painting or drawing and can be especially effective in landscape paintings or other works that depict a sense of vastness or distance.

Color psychology

Color psychology is a fascinating and multifaceted field that explores the ways in which colors can impact human emotions, behavior, and perception. At its core, color psychology is concerned with understanding how different colors can elicit different emotional responses in people, and how those responses can be harnessed to create powerful and impactful works of art.

While there are many different factors that can influence how colors are perceived, there are several common associations and emotions that are often linked to specific colors. For example, red is often associated with passion, energy, and excitement, while blue is linked to trust, tranquility, and depth. Other examples include yellow (happiness, joy, and optimism), green (nature, growth, and balance), and purple (royalty, luxury, and spirituality).

When used in artwork, these colors can be combined and manipulated in a wide range of ways to create specific moods, messages, and effects. For instance, a painting that features bright, vibrant oranges and yellows might create a sense of energy, playfulness, and excitement, while a piece that relies heavily on cool blues and greens might convey a sense of calmness, serenity, and relaxation.

Of course, color psychology is not limited to just these basic associations, and there are many other factors that can influence how colors are perceived. For example, the saturation, brightness, and hue of a color can all play a role in how it is experienced, as can the context in which the color is used.

Ultimately, understanding color psychology is an essential tool for concept artists who want to create powerful, impactful works of art that resonate with viewers on a deep and meaningful level.

Images Credits :
Color Wheel, Color Schemes , Hue Saturation Value ( Wikicommons copyright free images )
All other illustrations from Jason Scheier's Master Class on IAMAG Master Classes

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