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Color!

Color!

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will explore some of the basic aspects of color and how artists use color as an element of composition.

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Tutorial

Exploring the basics of color and how artists use color in a composition.

Source: Citations: Image of Color Wheel Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:RGV_color_wheel_1908.png; Image of The Haystacks Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Old_guitarist_chicago.jpg

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello, I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. I am Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about color. We'll take a look at the basis of color and also show you a few examples of how artists use color to affect the overall feel of a work of art. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move, forward or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, explain the basic qualities of color, give examples of how artists can use color in their artwork. The big idea for today is that color is an important element of composition, and a tool used by artists to enhance their artwork. Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson.

The first key term is color wheel, the arrangement of prismatic colors on a circle so that complementary colors are across from each other. Primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Secondary colors are orange, green, and purple, the colors made by combining primary colors. Hue is the type of color, blue, green, red are examples, are all different hues. Key terms continued, next one is saturation/intensity, which is the intensity of color dependent on the amount of white added. Lavender is a low intensity shade of purple. Value is the amount of black added to a color. Hot colors are colors in which yellow and red are dominant. And cold colors are colors in which blue is dominant.

So we'll begin with primary colors. But before we get into it, it's important to note that we are talking today about pigment based colors as opposed to the color spectrum of white light. And the reason I point this out is that the primary colors for pigments are different than the primary colors of light. And this can sometimes introduce a bit of confusion for new learners. So for pigments, the primary colors are blue, red, and yellow. Now these basic colors, along with white and black, can be combined to create an infinite number of colors by adjusting the type of color, as well as the amount of color.

Secondary colors are those colors that are created by combining equal amounts of the basic primary colors. As you can see here, blue plus red will create purple. Blue plus yellow will create green. And red plus yellow will create orange. Now purple, green, and orange are secondary colors because they can only be created by combining primary colors.

Now the color wheel is a useful reference tool that helps artist to identify complementary colors, those colors that are of an opposite hue. For example, if you look at the color wheel, every color's complementary color is directly across from. It so yellow's complementary color is violet. Red's complementary color is cyan blue. And blue's complementary color is orange.

Next, we'll take a look at color value, which is the amount of black added to a color. We'll start with our secondary colors of orange, green, and purple. I'm going to add a dollop of black to each, and you can see them darkening a bit. And then we're separate them so that you can see how black affects the change in color. Now color saturation or intensity refers to the amount of white added to a color. So let's take our newly darkened secondary colors from the bottom and add a bit of white. And notice how colors are not only lightened a bit but seem to pop a bit more off the screen as their intensity has increased.

Now hot colors refer to colors in which yellow and red are the most dominant. And here's a painting of haystacks by Vincent van Gogh, where yellow is clearly the dominant color. Now how does this choice of color affect the feel of the painting? And how would the feeling change if the dominant color was blue or green? Now on the other hand, cool colors are colors in which blue is the dominant color.

Now Pablo Picasso's Blue Period of paintings are great examples of how an artist uses color to evoke a particular mood. Picasso's Blue Period was a consequence of some upheaval in the artist's personal life, including the death of a friend, a bout of depression, and changes in his political ideology. Now the choice of color enhances the subject matter, which usually consisted of solitary figures and or depictions of the poor. Now imagine how different the feel would be of the images, particularly this image, if it was in, let's say, hot pink. Have a very different feel.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you explain the basic qualities of color? Can you give examples of how an artist, or how artists, can use color in their art work? Once more, the big idea is that color is an important element of composition and a tool used by artists to enhance their artwork.

So that's it for today. Thank you for joining me. I'll see you next time.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Color wheel

    The arrangement of prismatic colors on a circle so that complementary colors are across from each other.

  • Primary colors

    Red, yellow, blue.

  • Secondary colors

    Orange, green, purple—the colors made by combining primary colors.

  • Saturation/intensity

    The intensity of a color, dependent on the amount of white added. Lavender is a low-intensity shade of purple.

  • Hue

    The type of color—blue, green, red, are all different hues.

  • Value

    The amount of black added to a color.

  • Hot colors

    Colors in which yellow and red are dominant.

  • Cold colors

    Colors in which blue is dominant.