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Tricks to Understanding Color.

By October 28, 2015Maker Blog

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When talking about color, the first thing brought to your attention would be the color wheel. The color wheel is the easiest way to show how colors can run into each other.  If you are having trouble understanding color and using color, the best thing you can do is forget about the “color wheel” all together.

The first person to really break down color scientifically would be Isaac Newton in about 1672. Color is not an object. Color is light. When we see an object as a certain color, what we are really seeing is that object reflecting light that our eyes pick up on as that color. In the study he released at that time he used a prism to take a single ray of white light and break it into the colors that we know as the rainbow. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Indigo, Violet, also known as ROY G BIV, and as the color spectrum. You all have seen this on the Pink Floyd album cover.

The first color wheel drawn from Isaac Newton’s color theory was done by artist Boutet and it looked like this:

What happens in the prism and where did the circle come from?

The most common geometric shape for a prism would be a triangle. colortriangle1The triangle shows how color is broken apart to create another, whereas the circle represents how the colors fall together after they’ve been fragmented away. If you start to think of color in a triangle the trick really helps to understand how color opposites work as well.

The white light enters the middle of the prism, and the prism shatters the beam into the three primaries. These three colors are going to naturally act as if they are all polar opposites of each other and will isolate themselves as far away from each other as they can in the corners.

The beam of light does not want to stop traveling and follows the edges of the prism. When the two colors hit each other in the middle of the line they stop each other, mixing together creating a new color, such as orange, green, and purple. If you were to think of it as a game, and each color its own piece, red could only move to yellow or blue, and same with the other two corners.

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Colors cannot cross the triangle to make a new “simultaneously contrasting
color,”the theory that some colors compliment each other by appearing just as bright as the one it is next to. Across the triangle is that colors opposite.

By mixing opposite colors you neutralize the color. Also known as “mudding” or “mucking.” If your intentions are to “dull” a color, you would slowly mix in the colors opposite until you reach the color you desire.  Below you will see that to Yellow’s opposite is purple. Red’s is green. Blue’s is orange.

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See your circle now?  So now that you understand it let me mix it all up for you. In theory you should be able to mix all colors from the three primary colors, and how many of you have tried to do that with complete success? Its ok to admit your failure here. I buy my green. I buy my purple and I definitely buy my orange. Why? It is still only that, a theory. Today, there are more theories, others that work better than using the three primary colors to make every color you need. All you have to do is take a look at your color printer cartridge. For purpose of printing, painting, the new normal is to use cyan, magenta, and yellow to create every color you will ever need.

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