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Study Unit


Mary Anna LaFratta

Reviewed by

Donna Pacinelli Corrigan

About the Author

Mary Anna LaFratta holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in
Art Education and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Visual
Communications/Design. Having taught for 13 years as an
associate professor in the School of the Arts at Virginia
Commonwealth University, in Richmond, Virginia, Ms. LaFratta
is currently certified to teach art in the state of Virginia for
grades kindergarten through twelve.

About the Reviewer

Donna Pacinelli Corrigan holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in
Painting from Temple University and worked as an art instructor
for nine years at Marywood College in Scranton, PA. In addition
to having published numerous articles on art, Ms. Corrigan
has worked as a commissioned illustrator for various magazines and several national book publishers, and has held
numerous exhibitions of her own work in both the United
States and Japan.

All terms mentioned in this text that are known to be trademarks or service
marks have been appropriately capitalized. Use of a term in this text should
not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark or service mark.
Copyright 1999 by Thomson Education Direct
All rights reserved. No part of the material protected by this copyright may
be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and
retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should
be mailed to Copyright Permissions, Thomson Education Direct, 925 Oak Street,
Scranton, Pennsylvania 18515.
Printed in the United States of America
Reprinted 2000

The colors we see around us are influenced by many factors,

and the goal of this study unit is to introduce you to the
concepts of color. Youll find your awareness of color and its
many subtleties heightened by your explorations in this unit.
As youll see, the figures provided in this study unit are in
black and white. However, the figures also correspond to
those found in the Art Color Cards provided with this unit.
Refer to these cards as you work through the unit.

When you complete this study unit, youll be

able to

Identify the primary, secondary, and intermediate colors,

as well as the colors considered warm and cool on
a color circle

Describe the differences between additive and

subtractive color and how this affects art on a computer

Provide examples of color hue, color value, and color


Create a color circle consisting of primary and

secondary colors

Explain how color temperature determines the color

produced by a given source of light

Use complementary colors to create shadows

Draw in color from still-life arrangements
Describe and implement different color compositions

Pr eview

Our perceptions of the world around us are affected

by an interplay of light and shadow, and every type of
environment is composed of thousands of color variations. In the hands of an artist, color becomes a powerful
tool; youll find it well worth your time to discover and
explore the aspects of this fascinating element of art.



Types of Color
Additive Mixtures
Computer Art
Subtractive Mixtures
Optical Mixing

Attributes of Color
Back to the Drawing Board 1:
Tints, Shades, and Intensities

The Color Circle

Primary Colors
Secondary Colors
Intermediate Colors
Complementary Colors
Dulling Colors
Back to the Drawing Board 2:
Making a 12-Segment Color Circle

Your Medium: Using the Colored Pencil

Colored Pencils
Gallery of Colored-Pencil Techniques
Back to the Drawing Board 3:
Using Complements







What Does Color Do?

Color in Art
The Psychology of Color

What Color Is It?

The Amount of Light
Local Color
Tonal Color
Reflected Color
Volume Color
Aerial Perspective
Color Temperature
Back to the Drawing Board 4:
From Values to Color

Principles of Color Composition

Color and Contrast
Color Ranges
Coloring Shadows
Back to the Drawing Board 5:
Colored Pencils and Water




Putting It All Together


Self-Check Answers





Color Theory
Color is a property of light. Have you ever seen a ray of sunlight pass through a glass prism? If you have, you know that
a prism refracts, or bends, white light into a range of colors
(Figure 1). This range is known as the visible spectrum. Each
of these colors has a unique electromagnetic wavelength; red
possesses the longest wavelength, while violet possesses the
shortest (Figure 1).

The visible spectrum

is the range of colors
that can be seen
when light is

The visible spectrum includes only a portion of the electromagnetic wavelengths that
exist. There are other
waves that the human eye
cant perceive, such as
ultraviolet radiation waves,
X rays, gamma rays,
infrared waves, microwaves, radar waves, and
the electromagnetic waves
used to broadcast radio
FIGURE 1The Visible Spectrum
and television signals.
Objects in our environment absorb certain light waves and
reflect others. The reflected light waves picked up by your
eyes and transmitted to your brain are interpreted as color

What Does Color Do?

Color is an extremely important aspect of our environment,
because it directly affects how we perceive our world and
how others perceive us. For example, color is used to reinforce printed warnings, such as Stop, Caution, and
Emergency. The flashing red light at a street intersection
instructs drivers to stop and proceed slowly. Blinking orange

Color Theory

lights are often used in road construction to alert people to

approach an area with caution. The flashing colored lights of
an ambulance tell us that when an emergency is in progress.
Red fire trucks, brightly colored childrens toys, and highcontrast, intensely colored posters are also examples of how
color is used to attract attention.
Similarly, color helps to identify products and businesses
visually. Many people can identify popular soft-drink containers or fast-food restaurant emblems at just a glance of
the items colors. As a result, manufacturers invest large
sums of money to determine the look and color of their products in the hopes of making them memorable to consumers.
Color is often used to designate the status of a machines
operation. Have you ever noticed the small colored lights on
certain devices that tell you when theyre warming up, in
operation, or in standby mode? Computers, printers, coffee
makers, and battery chargers all contain such indicators.
Wires inside cables are colored to help identify where each
wire goes. This is essential knowledge for those assembling
and/or making repairs on certain types of equipment.
Color can either set a mood or be determined by a mood. An
example of the former is the dark colors that seem to dominate the sets of television shows concerning mystery and
the supernatural. An illustration of the latter is the fact that
people often wear darker clothes in the dreary
and cloudy winter
months, while bright
pastels become more
noticeable in the

FIGURE 2Examples of National Flags

Colors are used to symbolize a country in the

form of its flag. Note in
Figure 2 how certain
countries, such as
Canada and North
Vietnam, opt for simple,
striking designs of two
colors, while others like

Color Theory

Bolivia and Norway implement several colors

to enhance their flags appearance.
Primitive artists often used color to establish
patterns of significance in their drawings and
paintings. For example, in addition to being
visually appealing, early African designs such
as the one shown in Figure 3 were used to
communicate stories or events.
Finally, color is a form of personal expression.
You can see this expression everywhere:
in the clothes people wear, the shades of
their hair or nail polish, or the color of their

Color in Art
FIGURE 3Early African Color Drawing
Color often speaks to people on a personal
level. For instance, a single splash of color without form can
arouse an intense reaction from a person. And when color is
used purposefully, it becomes a message carrier.

Light is seen only through its effect on color; thus, light and
color are inseparable. Impressionist and Postimpressionist
painters focused keenly on the quality of light and color in
their artwork. Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas,
Mary Cassatt, and Vincent van Gogh were among the many
painters belonging to these famous schools of art.

The Psychology of Color

Colors are strongly associated with moods and emotions.
Expressions such as in the pink, a rosy outlook, and
feeling blue all reflect these associations. For example,
most people consider yellow, orange, and red to be warm,
stimulating colors, associated with fire and the sun. Blues,
greens, and violets are usually thought of as cool and serene;
these colors are often visually associated with cool forests,
the sky, and bodies of water. Table 1 lists the emotional
impressions associated with six common colors.

Color Theory

The colors listed in Table 1 are all pure colors. But any
color can be made lighter, darker, duller, or sharper. This
generally alters the psychological associations of that color.
For instance, an artist who changes a dark royal blue into
a light, delicate sky blue is effectively converting the colors
emotional impact. The same is true of a bright red thats
turned into a rich, dark, wine-colored red. These shades and
variations are what make up the artists repertoire of colors.
TABLE 1Common Color Associations

strong, dangerous, aggressive, loving


cheerful, warm, festive (autumnal)


bright, radiant, sunny


restful, calm (grass, spring)


serene, cool, remote (winter)


majestic, royal, wealthy

Most artists have distinct color preferences. Despite the general common reactions to color, artists specific likes and dislikes may be conditioned by what theyve experienced in life
and by their individual dispositions. One artists color preferences may include rich reds, oranges, and yellows. Anothers
may consist of tranquil blues and blue-greens. Still another
artist may gravitate to earth colorswarm browns, golds,
and rust-colored reds. As an artist, youll soon discover a
specific range of colors that appeals to you most, and youll
find yourself using those colors over and over in your work.
Your favorites may prove to be subtle mixtures of color that
you arent even aware of now.

Color Theory

Self-Check 1
At the end of each section of Color Theory, youll be asked to check
your understanding of what youve just read by completing a SelfCheck. Writing the answers to these questions will help you review
what youve learned so far. Please complete Self-Check 1 now.
1. Color attracts attention, serves as a warning device, and is a
mode of personal expression. In this role, color becomes a
a. visual communication tool.
b. status symbol.
c. surface decoration.
d. therapeutic agent.
2. Which of the following comprises the range of colors from red
to violet?
a. Infrared waves
b. X rays
c. Visible spectrum
d. Ultraviolet region
3. We see the color of an object because
a. were familiar with it.
b. certain light waves are absorbed and others are reflected by
c. it contains particles of color on its surface.
d. the color is pure.

Color Theory

Self-Check 1
4. The sum of the colors in the visible spectrum produces _______
a. refracted
b. white
c. ultraviolet
d. infrared
5. Which of the following is fundamentally responsible for color?
a. The visual spectrum
b. A persons ability to see
c. Paint
d. Light
Check your answers with those on page 71.

There are two types of color systems; one applies to light and
the other applies to pigments. Light is additive color, while
pigment is known as subtractive color.

Additive Mixtures

Primary colors are

colors that cant be
made by mixing other
colors together.

The colors you see on television screens, computer and video

monitors, and rock concert stages are produced by mixing
red, green, and blue light in certain proportions. In the light
color system, red, green, and blue (often designated together
as RGB) are primary colors. Primary colors, or parent colors,
are colors that cant be made by mixing other colors together.
When artists and technicians mix light as in the previously
mentioned monitors and stage lights, the process is called
additive color mixing. In additive color mixing, one beam of
colored light is simply projected upon another of a different

Color Theory

color. If you were to project three lightsone red, one green,

and one blue and arrange them so that their beams overlap
equally, the result would appear similar to the illustration in
Figure 4.
Notice that the area in which all of the primaries overlap is
pure white. This is because adding equal amounts of red,
green, and blue light yields white light. Just as a prism
refracts a beam of sunlight into the visible
spectrum, the spectrum can
be refracted again into white light
via additive color mixing.

Additive color mixing

is a process by which
beams of light are
projected together to
produce a new color.

Looking at Figure 4 again, we

see that blue and green light yields
cyan; green and red light forms yellow; and red and blue light yields
magenta. Because theyre a
combination of primary colors, cyan, yel-low, and
magenta are known as
colors. Youll find that
adjusting the primary
additive colors to
various intensities results
in a wide variety of colors.
To create colored light, you place a
FIGURE 4Example of Additive Color Mixing
color filter, called a gel,
in front of a white light.
A gel allows only its
own color to pass through. For example, placing a red gel
A secondary color is
before a white light produces red light. This is the way tinted
a color formed by
sunglasses work, by keeping out certain color wavelengths.
a combination of
Green-tinted sunglasses allow only the wavelength of the color primary colors.
green within the lenses to pass on to your eyes.

Color Theory

In the back of most color televisions and monitors are three
electron guns (Figure 5). Electron guns emit light beams containing the red, green, and blue information used to create a
picture upon the screen. Each beam is focused to hit the
appropriate red, green, and blue phosphor dots along the
inside face of a picture tube. The stronger the information
signal, the stronger the illumination of the corresponding
dot. For example, if the blue and green electron guns hit
their dots with full intensity while the red gun is inactive,
you get cyan. When all of the guns hit their respective dots
with full intensity, the result is white light. And when the
beams hit the phosphor dots at various intensities, a varying
array of colors is the result.

FIGURE 5Inside of a Television Monitor

The difference between color television sets and color monitors

is that color monitors arent equipped to receive broadcast
signals. So a monitor by itself doesnt enable you to watch
your favorite television shows. Monitors are used with video
equipment in television studios, surveillance cameras, and

Color Theory

Standard television equipment is designed to operate with a

composite video signal. A composite signal combines color
information with luminance, or brightness, information. The
disadvantage of the composite signal is that interference
between the luminance and color signals can result in poor
picture quality.

A composite signal
is a signal that
combines color
information with
luminance, or

To remedy this problem, some videotape recording systems

and playback decks have separate R, G, B, and luminance
signals to enhance picture quality. RGB refers to the separate
red, green, and blue video signals.

Computer Art
Today, artists are able to work with the aid of computers.
Since the computer has become a medium in and of itself,
many art programs currently include its operation in their
curriculums. Computers are vital to professions such as
computer graphic design, computer animation, and video
production. Computer artists must understand additive color
The computer is a very flexible art medium. Its capable of
producing two- and three-dimensional imagery, static and
moving pictures, and sound. And, like other art mediums
color pencils, watercolor, oil paintthe computer offers its
own unique visual qualities.

Subtractive Mixtures
Coloring materials contain filters that subtract or filter out
certain color wavelengths and reflect others. When artists
employ subtractive color, they cancel a surfaces original
color with another color. Colored pencils, pastels, paint, ink,
and pigment are among the materials artists use to do this.
A pigment is a dry coloring substance that, when mixed with
liquid, produces a variety of paints and inks.

Color Theory

Subtractive color is
a color process in
which an artist
cancels the original
color of a surface
with another color.

Pigments can be employed in different ways. As an artist,

youll be involved in the physical mixing of pigment to produce specific colors. However, printing professionals employ
a layering of pigment to meet the demands of their work.

Four-color process
printing is a process
by which four colored
inks are blended by
adding one layer atop
the others.

The subtractive primary colors are cyan, yellow, and magenta. Artists produce a wide range of colors by mixing these
primaries in various intensities; the mixture results in black,
dark gray, or brown. This resultant dark color is used then
to create shades, shadow detail, and gray tones.
In the printing industry, Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, and blacK
are abbreviated together as CYMK. The four colored inks are
mixed by laying one layer of ink on top of the other layers in
a process known as four-color process printing (Figure 6).

FIGURE 6This figure shows the phases of four-color process printing. Studying the photos one after
another, you can see how each progressive layer of color contributes to the completed image. (A)
shows cyan by itself; (B) illustrates yellow added to cyan; (C) shows cyan, yellow, and magenta; and
(D) reveals the addition of black to cyan, yellow, and magenta, yielding the finished photo.


Color Theory

FIGURE 6Continued

Mixing equal amounts of the primary subtractive

colors results in secondary colors of red, green, and
blue. (As you may recall, red, green, and blue are
the primary colors when working with light.) If
you mix yellow and cyan, green is the result.
A mixture of cyan and magenta produces blue.
Combining magenta and yellow results in
CMYK is the color model used in certain
computer graphics software packages
(Figure 7). This model allows artists and
designers to prepare both work created
on the computer in RGB (an additivecolor process) and imagery created
for four-color process printing (a
subtractive-color process).

Color Theory

FIGURE 7CYMK Color Model


Optical Mixing
An early and important group of artists known as the
Impressionists employed a method of blending color thats
known today as optical mixing. The aim of this method is to
reduce color to its primary components and place fragmented
hues next to each other in an effort to strengthen the sense
of light within color. The optical mixture of these fragmented
hues then occurs in the eye of the viewers.

Self-Check 2
1. You would use an RGB color model to create _______ colors via
the medium of _______.
a. absorbing; television
b. additive; light
c. subtractive; pigment
d. reflective; colored pencil
2. If the image on your television set appears magenta, the
_______ electron gun isnt working properly.
a. red
b. green
c. blue
d. cyan
3. When using a computer to create art, an artist must be
knowledgeable about
a. additive color mixing.
b. subtractive color cancellation.
c. computer programming.
d. the CYMK color model.
Check your answers with those on page 71.


Color Theory


Every color has three attributes: hue, value, and intensity.
In this section, well look at how each of these attributes
translates to color.

The name of a colorred, blue, or green, for exampleis
called its hue. Only the colors in the visible spectrum are
pure hues. Most colors we see are impure, or mixtures of
several color wavelengths. For example, under the pure hue
known as red are such impure hues as scarlet, rose, and

A colors hue is
simply the name
its identified under,
such as red, blue,
green, and so on.

Value is the degree of lightness or darkness within a color.
Values progress from white (the lightest value) to black (the
darkest value), with graded values of gray in between. Tints
are light values that are obtained by adding white to a color
(Figure 8). Shades are dark values that are obtained by
adding black to a color (Figure 9). Tones are the middle
values of colors.

Value is the degree of

lightness or darkness
within a color.

FIGURE 8Artists create

tints by combining white
with another color.

FIGURE 9Shades of a
particular color are created by adding black to it.

Color Theory


In regard to color, the word shade is frequently misused. A

person may ask you what shade of blue your car is, while
really wanting to know the value of blue. Technically speaking, theres no such thing as a light shade. A shade (like
the shade of a tree) is always darker than the pure hue.
The value of a color is determined by light. Areas of an object
that receive less light appear darker in value, while too much
light causes a loss of detail. Without changes in value, we
wouldnt be able to distinguish shapes. Strong light and dark
contrasts allow us to focus sharply upon objects.

Intensity, frequently called saturation or chroma, refers to
the brightness or dullness of a color. But intensity is different
than valuevalue pertains to light, while intensity pertains
to color. For example, a pure red is high in intensity, whereas a deep, duller red is low in intensity. When you lower
the intensity of a color, we say that the color is being toned
down. The lower the intensity, the duller the color becomes.
Colors at full intensity are described as strong, rich, forceful,
and vivid.
Muted blues, rust colors, and other low-intensity colors are
generally described as subdued or soft. People often label
a color like dark olive-green as drab. Toning down, or
dulling, colors greatly expands the variety of colors one has
to choose from.
The intensity of a hue can be dulled in one of two ways:
(1) by mixing the hue with its complement color or nearcomplement, or (2) by mixing the hue with white, black, or
gray. Complement colors lie at opposite ends of the color
wheel from each other. For instance, in the color wheel in
Figure 10, we see that yellow is the complement of violet,
and blue is the complement of orange. As youll soon learn,
1, 2, and 3 signify primary, secondary, and intermediate
colors, respectively.
Examine the gradation scale in Figure 11 and in the corresponding figure in your Art Color Cards. You can see that the violet
becomes duller as its mixed with its complement of yellow.


Color Theory

FIGURE 10Complementary
colors are considered the
direct opposites of each other.

FIGURE 11As shown in

this illustration, combining
a color with its complement produces a dulling

Now examine a similar gradation scale in Figure 12 and in

the corresponding figure of your supplement. The violet in
each square becomes progressively duller moving from left
to right. In this scale, you can see that adding gray dulls a
given color just as adding the colors complement does.

FIGURE 12 As shown
in this illustration, adding
gray to a color also produces a dulling effect.

Not only do objects appear smaller as they become more

distant, but their colors become less intense and their forms
become less distinct. A red car parked close by will appear

Color Theory


more intense in color than an identical car parked farther

down the street. Similarly, trees in the distance seem a
duller green than trees that are nearby. This lessening of
intensity and clarity is due to aerial perspective, which is the
effect of the atmosphere, or air, on the space between you
and an object.

Self-Check 3
1. Forest, olive, and mint fall under the hue of
a. yellow.
b. blue.
c. green.
d. violet.
2. You can obtain shades of a color by mixing it with
a. black.
b. its complement.
c. white.
d. its primary.
3. One way to lessen the intensity of a hue without changing its
value is to mix it with a similar hue of
a. an intermediate color.
b. white.
c. gray.
d. its complementary color.
4. Middle values resulting from adding grays to a hue are called
a. tones.
b. tints.
c. shades.
d. shadows.


Color Theory

Self-Check 3
5. A new house is painted pale yellow. The correct description of
this color is a
a. light shade of yellow.
b. light value of yellow.
c. highly saturated yellow.
d. high-intensity yellow.
Check your answers with those on page 71.

Back to the Drawing Board 1:

Tints, Shades, and Intensities
Throughout your Color Theory unit, youll find Back to the Drawing Board exercises
that provide you with hands-on experience in applying the key concepts youre learning.
You may complete the exercises now, or you may wait until after youve finished the
unit. (Do not send your exercises to the school.)

Tools and Materials


Drawing pencil


4 colored pencils: one primary color (red, blue, or yellow), one secondary color
(orange, violet, or green), black, and white

Pencil sharpener

To practice mixing tints and shades and dulling a hues intensity

Color Theory


Back to the Drawing Board 1Continued

1. On a clean sheet of your sketchpad, draw a 1 by 5 in. block. Divide the block into
five 1 in. squares. Then make three more scales like this, one for each of the four
sections of this exercise. (The scales should look similar to the ones shown in
Figures 8, 9, 11, and 12.)
2. Decide on a hue, selecting either a primary or secondary color. (Use the same
hue for each section of this exercise.)

3. Begin by filling in the first block of the first scale with an even area of color. Fill in
the second block with this color as well, combining it with several strokes of
white. Gradually increase the amount of white within the color of each block as
you work toward the far right of the scale. When youve finished, you should see
the pure hue in the far left block. As you look across the four remaining blocks,
the hue should be seen gradually lightening in value (Figure A).

Completed Tint

4. Draw an evenly filled area of the same hue in the first block of your second scale.
As you work across this scale, mix layers of the hue with black, gradually darkening the shade as you work to the right. The finished scale should display blocks
ranging from light to dark, with the pure hue seen on the left and progressively
darker shades filling the blocks toward the right (Figure B).

Completed Shade



Color Theory

Back to the Drawing Board 1Continued

5. Fill in an even layer of the pure hue in the first block of your third scale. In the
second block, combine layers of the hue with its complement. Gradually add layers of the complement in each successive block, dulling the hue as you work
towards the right of the scale (Figure C).

Completed Intensity
Scale (Complement

6. In the fourth scale, draw an even layer of the hue in the left block. Working toward
the right, add increasing amounts of gray to the hue in each block (Figure D).

Completed Intensity
Scale (Gray Mix)

When youve finished Back to the Drawing Board 1, you can check the tint, shade, and
intensity scales you created against the figures on your Art Color Cards.


Knowing a colors ancestry, or the elements that produced
it, will save you a lot of time and frustration when youre
mixing colors. In this section, youll learn about what may be
the artists most important reference pointthe color circle.
So far, youve learned about mixing light (RGB) and mixing
process inks (CYMK). Light consists of the additive primary
colorsred, green and blue. Process inks use the subtractive
primary colors of cyan, yellow, and magenta. However,
the color circle that artists use is different than the color
models for both light and four-color process printing.

Color Theory


The artists color circle

is used for organizing,
locating, and mixing
colors for such materials as colored pencils,
pastels, paints, and
watercolors. Youll
recall that these
coloring materials are
subtractive colors. In
a color circle, the six
basic huesred,
orange, yellow, green,
blue, and violetand
six intermediate colors
are strategically placed
in the shape of a wheel
(Figure 13).
FIGURE 13An Artists Color Circle

Primary Colors
In the artists color circle, the hues of yellow, red, and blue
are primary, or parent, colors. This means that they cant
be created from other colors. Rather, every other hue on the
color circle is made through combinations of yellow, red, and
blue. As you see in Figure 13, the primary colors (designated
with the number 1) connect by way of a triangle on the color
The center of the color circle in Figure 13 represents the
color you would get if you mixed all of the colors together.
Notice that this hue is a deep graya neutral colorand not
black. In theory, when working with subtractive colors, mixing all of the primary colors together should result in black.


Color Theory

But pigments have impurities in them and arent pure in

color. Thus, when you mix the primary colors in equal
amounts, the actual result is a neutral gray or brown.

Secondary Colors
Whenever equal amounts of two primary colors are mixed,
another color, called a secondary color, is formed. If you mix
red and blue, the result is violet (or purple). Mixing blue and
yellow yields green. And a mixture of red and yellow produces orange. These three colors, violet, green, and orange,
are all secondary colors. Secondary colors, designated by the
number 2, form an inverted triangle on the color circle
(Figure 13).

A secondary color is
formed from equal
amounts of two
primary colors.

Intermediate Colors
When you mix a primary color with a neighboring secondary
color in equal amounts, the result is an intermediate color.
(These intermediate colors are designated with the number 3
upon the color circle in Figure 13.) For example, a mixture of
yellow (primary) and green (neighboring secondary) results in
the intermediate color of yellow-green. Similarly, combining
yellow and orange creates the intermediate color of yelloworange.

An intermediate color
is formed by mixing a
primary color with a
neighboring secondary color on the color

Mixing colors that are side by side on the color circle will
produce even more colors than those included on this circle
for as long as the eye can distinguish them. But for now,
these twelve primary, secondary, and intermediate colors
with their varying tints, shades, and intensities provide us
with a wide range of possibilities.

Color Theory


Complementary Colors
As you learned in the previous section, colors located directly
opposite each other on the color circle are known as complementary colors. Orange is the complement of blue, green is
the complement of red, and violet is the complement of yellow.
(Orange, green, and violet are also the secondary colors.) The
complement of red-violet is yellow-green.

Dulling Colors
When complementary colors are mixed together, they lessen
each others intensity. If various amounts of yellow are added
to violet (yellows complement), the violet becomes duller and
golden in color. As more yellow is added, the violet becomes
duller and duller until its a brown or a dark gray.
The ability to dull colors is one of the most important color
skills youll gain from this study unit. Utilizing this skill will
enable you to obtain any low-intensity color you wish to
paint or draw.
Many artists use very few pure hues. Then they can change
the value of the hues (make lighter or darker) or change their
intensity (make duller). Most paintings and colored drawings
are carefully thought-out combinations of hues, values, and


Color Theory

Self-Check 4
1. Label the following as primary, secondary, or intermediate
a. blue-green


b. yellow


c. blue


d. blue-violet


e. orange


f. violet


g. red-violet


h. yellow-green


i. red


j. red-orange


k. green


l. yellow-orange


2. Parent colors are also known as _______ colors.

a. intermediate
b. secondary
c. primary
d. tertiary
Check your answers with those on page 71.

Color Theory


Back to the Drawing Board 2:

Making a 12-Segment Color Circle
Tools and Materials

Drawing pencil

Color pencils: red, yellow, blue

Drawing paper

Pencil sharpener

To draw a color circle with 12 segments and to mix the secondary and intermediate
colors from only the primary colors using colored pencils

1. Trace the diagram for your color circle on a clean sheet of drawing paper from the
model in Figure A. Lightly print the names of the colors outside the circle.

Circle Model



Color Theory

Back to the Drawing Board 2Continued

2. Begin by filling in the primary colors on the color circle. (Check for the correct
location of each color in Figure A.) Slowly build up each area to a high-saturation
point by lightly applying layers of color. Move your colored pencil in the same
direction for each layer. This will allow you to fill the area evenly. For example,
begin with yellow. Apply strokes in a downward direction until the area is filled.
Then, lightly draw another layer of yellow, this time with the pencil strokes moving
in a different direction. Continue to layer the yellow until you have a rich, intense,
even area of color.

Colors on the Color

3. Repeat this process for each of the primary colors (Figure B).

Secondary Colors
4. Add secondary colors by mixing layers of the appropriate primary colors together.
(You may want to practice mixing colors on another sheet of paper before filling in
the colors on the color circle.) Lightly draw an even layer of one primary. Then
lightly add a layer of another primary on top of the first layer. Alternate the layers
of the two primary colors youre mixing to get the desired secondary color. Again,
changing the direction of the colored pencil strokes in each layer helps you to
blend the layers evenly. If your strokes are heavy in one section and too light in
another section, the color will appear uneven. Slowly build up to each secondary
color. If you feel a mixture contains too much of one of the primaries, add extra

Color Theory


Back to the Drawing Board 2Continued

Remember that

Yellow and red combine in equal proportions to make orange

Red and blue mix in equal proportions to produce violet

Blue and yellow blend in equal proportions to create green

Its important to keep your colored pencils sharp in order to draw light, even layers of
color. Consult the illustration in Figure A for the correct location of the secondary colors. Fill both the large and the small pie-shaped areas with color (Figure C). Later youll
dull the colors in the inner circle by changing their intensities.
Dont be concerned if the secondary colors you mixed dont quite match the colors you
get from your orange-, violet-, and green-colored pencils. Remember, most pigments
including those found in colored pencilscontain impurities. Mixing colors takes

Wheel Containing
Primary and
Secondary Colors



Color Theory

Back to the Drawing Board 2Continued

Intermediate Colors
5. Now youre ready to add the intermediate colors. Using only the primary colors
again, youll have to approximate the mixed amount of each color to get a specific
intermediate color. For example, to obtain the intermediate color yellow-green,
youll need to apply more yellow than blue. Again, practice mixing your colors on
a separate sheet of paper before filling in the colors on the color circle.
Now you should have a color wheel displaying primary, secondary and intermediate
colors, similar to the one in Figure D. Save this color circle; later on in the unit, youll
add mixtures of complementary colors to the inner area in order to dull the color

FIGURE D12-Segment
Color Circle

Color Theory



When adding tones to drawing-pencil or colored-pencil sketches,
you may have noticed the texture of the paper becoming
apparent. The rougher the texture of the paper, the more it
will stand out. Thus, youll probably want to try several different types of papersmooth, textured, or in-betweento
achieve the desired effect of your work. Just be sure the paper
is sturdy enough to withstand warping should you wish to
employ the technique of mixing colored pencils with water.
Its important to experiment before you begin an actual
drawing. Use different pieces of paper to try the colors and
techniques you plan to use for your artwork.

Colored Pencils
In general, youll want to sketch your subjects with a drawing
pencil. Always remember to use a light touch; if the marks
are too heavy, theyll interfere with your progress with the
colored pencils. Use your colored pencils carefully to create
colors that most closely match those of your subject. With
practice, youll soon learn to combine and modify colors to
achieve your desired effect. Remember to keep colored pencils sharpened; because theyre softer than drawing pencils,
colored pencils need to be sharpened gently and often.
Colored pencils come in a variety of colorsreds, yellows,
greens, and blues, to name just a few. You may notice that
the colors vary slightly from one brand to another. Brandname inconsistencies in coloring materials may even cause
your color models to appear different than those presented in
this unit. Although you cant prevent these discrepancies,
you should remain aware of them.


Color Theory

Berol Prismacolor is one brand of high-quality colored pencils.

Among the effective hues this company manufactures are
Canary Yellow, Scarlet Lake, and True Blue.

Gallery of Colored-Pencil Techniques

Colored pencils are a versatile medium. The following exercises will help you review certain methods youve covered as
well as introduce you to new techniques that you may find
The materials youll need for this section are as follows:


Drawing pencil


Set of colored pencils (primaries, secondaries, black,

brown, and white)

Plastic container

Small watercolor brush

Ballpoint pen

Paper towel or clean rag

Select a clean sheet of paper from your sketchpad. With your

drawing pencil, lightly divide it into no less than ten 2 in.
squares, with 14 inch of space between squares (Figure 14).
Then, fill a cup or small plastic container about 34 full with
water. Place the water, your brush, your colored pencils, and
a paper towel or rag all within reach.

Color Theory


FIGURE 14Drawing Your Squares


Color Theory

From Light to Dark

In your first square, try to obtain a wide range of values for
bluefrom light to medium to dark (Figure 15). You need
barely touch the
paper for the lightest value, seen in
the upper left corner
of Figure 15. Use
heavier strokes as
you move downward. When youve
finished with blue,
you may wish to try
this exercise with
other colors.

FIGURE 15Experimenting
with Blue Values

Combining Colors
You can obtain colors in addition to those in your set of colored pencils by laying one color over another. In Figure 16,
strokes of blue (as on the bottom) are laid over violet (as on
the top) to produce a violetblue color in the
middle area. Try
this combination, as illustrated, in your secFIGURE 16Combining Colors
ond square.
Then experiment
with other color
such as red over
orange or blue
over yellow.

Color Theory


Dulling Colors

FIGURE 17Adding
green to the top layer
of red in this square
lowers the reds intensity.

As you learned earlier in this unit, you can dull a color, or

make it less intense, by adding its complement. The complementary color of red is green; blues complement is orange;
and yellows complement is violet. As in
Figure 17, color the
top part of your
third square with
red. Fill the lower
part in with green.
Apply red to the
middle area; then
apply light strokes
of green, its complement. This should
produce a dull red.

Darkening Colors

FIGURE 18As this

figure illustrates, adding
brown or black to a color
darkens it considerably.


To make a colors value darker than you can with colored

pencil alone, you must add brown or black. Fill in your fourth
square with a violetcolored pencil. Add
strokes of brown to
the violet as in the
top strip of Figure
18 to create a darker violet. Add black
over violet in the
bottom portion of
your square, also
shown in Figure 18,
to create an additional dark shade
of violet.

Color Theory

Lightening Colors
If you have a white pencil, you can use it to obtain a lighter
color value in one of two ways. In the middle area of the
square in Figure 19, we see pure (or relatively pure) blue.
Apply blue like
this to the middle of your fifth
square. In the
top area of the
square, apply
white first; then
lightly add
FIGURE 19Two Ways of
strokes of blue.
Lightening Color
The bottom area
of the square in
Figure 19 displays your other
option: filling in
strokes of white
over a blue area. As youll see, both methods produce a
considerably lighter shade of blue.

Bruised Paper
To avoid dark, ugly areas, as in the upper portion of Figure
20, you must sketch lightly and erase gently over areas of
your paper that have been slightly damaged. On the other
hand, you can
deliberately rough
up the paper with
an eraser or a craft
knife to create special effects. In the
lower portion of
Figure 20, a knife
has been used to
create rain strokes
that appear as if by
magic when a colored-pencil tone is
laid over them.

Color Theory

FIGURE 20The top portion

of this square highlights a
bruised area of color that
can be remedied with light
sketching and erasure. The
bottom portion illustrates
how you can add effects by
applying a colored pencil to
areas that were gouged
with a knife.


Flowing Color

FIGURE 21Using
Moisture to Modify
the Color of an Area

As in Figure 21, fill in your seventh square with red coloredpencil strokes. Then wet a brush, shake off the excess water,
and moisten one
half of the square,
as shown in the
lower right portion.
What happens? The
pencil strokes dissolve and flow
together to form a
glowing area of brilliant color. The dry
area in the upper
left retains its grainy
pencil-tone look.

Pencil on a Wet Surface

FIGURE 22Adding a
second color to the moistened area of a first color
can produce interesting


With an orange colored pencil, fill in your eighth square.

Then wet a few small areas near the bottom of the square.
Into these wet areas, gently add a second color (red). The
second color will dissolve and flow within
the wet area, as
shown in Figure 22.
Use this technique
sparingly; the results
lack the subtle color
variations that result
from the preceding
technique of flowing

Color Theory

Ballpoint Pen
In your ninth square, write or draw words with a ballpoint
pen. Then, lay colored-pencil tones over the ink. Some of the
ink lines may
become obscured.
But if you wet
the colors lightly,
the ink lines will
reappear as the
colors dissolve
and become transparent (Figure 23).

FIGURE 23Adding coloredpencil tones and light wetness to ballpoint pen ink
results in an emphasis upon
the inked words.

Paper Texture
The texture of paper affects the texture of a colored-pencil
drawing. Pencil strokes over a rough watercolor paper produce
the texture shown in the upper half of Figure 24. When these
strokes are
moistened (as
in the lower
left), the color
dissolves and
settles into the
papers depressions. When
this area dries
FIGURE 24Using paper of a
(as in the lower
rougher texture results in still
more effects when water and
right), a second
colored-pencil strokes are
color, such as
blue, can be
added to produce a twocolor effect.
with both of
these techniques in your
tenth square.

Color Theory


Back to the Drawing Board 3:

Using Complements
Earlier in this unit, you learned that one way to dull the intensity of a color is to mix it
with its complement color. However, mixing all of the colors with just red, yellow, and
blue (the primary colors) is a challenge, and youll have to be careful blending color
amounts, because the proportions arent equal. You may find it necessary to study the
color circle youve completed before beginning this exercise.

Tools and Materials

Colored pencils: red, yellow, blue

Pencil sharpener

Color circle you made in Back to the Drawing Board 2

To mix the 12 colors on the color circle with their complements, using only the primary

1. First, study the secondary colors on the color circleorange, violet, and green.
These colors are made from combining equal amounts of the primaries on each
side of them. The intermediate colors are made from mixing 50 percent of a secondary color with 50 percent of a primary color. Thus, an intermediate color contains more of a primary color than it does a secondary color, since the secondary
color already contains 50 percent of one of the primaries needed to make the
intermediate color. Dont worry; this sounds more complex than it actually is!
Practice blending your colors on a separate sheet of paper before mixing the
colors with their complements on the color circle.
2. Recall that the complement of a color lies directly opposite that color on the color
circle. Then, when youre ready, mix each color with its complement in the inner
pie shapes of the color circle. Do this by lightly adding complement to the color
you wish to dull. Try to add the complement color gradually; its easier to add
color than it is to take it away at this point.
For example, the complement of yellow-orange is blue-violet. To blend blue-violet
with yellow-orange, begin by lightly applying a very thin layer of red to the yelloworange area of the inner circle. Then add thin layers of blue. (Blue-violet contains
more of the primary color blue than red.) When the yellow-orange appears dull in
contrast to the original yellow-orange, youll have met your objective. Continue to
slightly dull each of the colors around the circle until it resembles the circle in the
following figure.


Color Theory

Back to the Drawing Board 3Continued

You should know that some of the dulled colors may not come out exactly true,
because you may find it difficult to mix the proper amounts together. Working with colored pencils and learning to mix colors takes practice. The point of this exercise is to
understand where low-intensity colors come from and to know how to create them

Color Circle with
Low-Intensity Colors
Produced in the

Color Theory



Color is the most relative medium in art. This means that
color is subject to change. The color of an object is influenced
by many things, including the

Amount of light present

Color(s) of the objects next to the object in question

Type of light present

Distance of the light source from the object

Working with color requires a keen and sensitive eye. This

section will get you acquainted with aspects of color that you
see every day, defining them in terms of their effect on an
objects appearance.

The Amount of Light

Yellow can appear light, dark, bright, dull, golden orange, or
orange-yellow depending on how much light hits it, the kind
of light that hits it, and the colors of the objects surrounding
it. With adequate light, you can see an objects actual color.
But as light is reduced, the object reflects less light, and its
hue will seem darker. If too much light falls on an object, its
hue becomes washed out and the object begins to appear
flattened, as if it were lacking dimensionality. In this case,
the object is reflecting much of the white light that hits it in
addition to the wavelength of its own hue.
Have you ever been outside under a full moon? If you have,
you know that the moonlight allows you to distinguish forms
and objects. However, it isnt strong enough to reflect the
objects colors. This illustrates how important light amounts
are to the presence of color in objects.


Color Theory

Local Color
Local color is the color or hue of an object seen in natural
daylight. It doesnt include any hue, value, or intensity
caused by reflection or shadow. For example, a green ball
has a medium-green hue in natural daylight; thus, mediumgreen is the local color of the ball.

Local color is the

color or hue of
an object seen in
natural daylight.

The shaded area of the ballthe area turned away from the
lightis a duller green. In addition, the medium-green areas
may reflect some yellow from a yellow object placed in front
of the ball. The dull green and yellow colors seen on the ball
arent part of its local color; rather, theyre acquired colors, or
colors that result from shadows and objects located nearby.
Its important that you display acquired colors as well as
local color when painting or drawing an object. Acquired
colors help to establish the illusion of three-dimensional
space in your artwork.

An objects acquired
color is the color
resulting from
shadows and other
objects located

Tonal Color
Tonal color refers to the changes in value of a color from light
to dark. Mixing a hue with gray, which is a blend of white
and black, results in tonal color. You can produce different
tonal gradations by mixing a hue with different value levels
of gray. Tonal colors allow artists to infuse their work with
shape and proportion.

Tonal color is the

color resulting from
changes in value
from light to dark.

Shades and tints arent the same as tonal color. A shade is a

color combined with black, while a tint is a color mixed with

Reflected Color
The white ceiling of a front porch reflects the green of a
surrounding lawn. A boys face is brightened by the light
bouncing off textbook pages as he studies under a lamp.
The color yellow becomes visible upon a girls neck as a
friend holds a buttercup wildflower under her chin in the
sunlight. These are all examples of reflected color.

Color Theory

Reflected color is the

color produced by
light waves that are
cast from one object
to another.


Highly reflective surfaces such as mirrors, aluminum foils,

and polished metals reflect almost all of the light that hits
them. Wood, knitted fabrics, and rubber absorb more light
than they reflect. Velvet cloth is a highly light-absorbent fabric
and very effective as background material for the artist working with cameras under powerful lights. Other surfaces, like
the glossy pages of a magazine, or silk, can cast their colors
onto a nearby surface under the right lighting conditions.
A highlight is a
focused area of
saturated light that
results directly from
the light that falls
upon an object.

Reflected color is produced by the light waves that are cast

from one object to another. Thus, reflected color is also
acquired color. However, you wouldnt call reflected color a
highlight. Highlights are focused areas of saturated light
resulting directly from the light falling upon an object.

Volume Color
Volume color is a characteristic of three-dimensional transparent fluids. Tea, for example, appears darker in a cup than
it does in a spoon. Similarly, a swimming pool with blue
plastic lining makes the water within the pool appear blue.
And, as you walk down the steps into the pool, the water
looks progressively more blue.
Most watercolor paints are volume colors. This means the
intensity of the color increases as its volume increases, or as
layers of the color are added on top of each other. This isnt
true of oil paint, colored pencils, or colored pastels, which
are all considered surface colors.

Aerial Perspective
The atmosphere is
the surrounding
mass of air existing
between all objects
upon the earth.


The thin, transparent layer of air that exists between the eye
and all objects is called the atmosphere. As you learned in an
earlier section, aerial perspective refers to the lessening of
color intensity and sharpness of an object as the distance
between the observer and the object increases. This visual
phenomenon is an effect of the atmosphere. Aerial perspective
is observable from both ground level or above-ground level as
one looks down from a tall tower or an airplane.

Color Theory

For example, mountains in the distance appear uniformly

blue, even though you know they consist of trees, rocks, and
earth. Trees along the far side of a meadow may be barely
visible in a heavy fog; yet you know that their greenery exists.
Both of these examples illustrate the effects of atmosphere
upon an objects color and sharpness.
Artists use the effect of aerial perspective to create the illusion
of distance; they do this by dulling colors and making details
and outlines vague. Working with low-intensity colors and
blurring certain details in a picture can produce a striking
impression of depth.

Color Temperature
The color of an object appears to vary under different sources
of light. In addition to the sun, artificial types of light exist,
such as tungsten, neon, and fluorescent lights. These artificial
lights each affect the color of an object somewhat differently.
In addition, the color you perceive under any of these types of
light is never the true color of the object as seen in daylight.
When it rises and sets, the sun seems to take on a reddish
color. Yet at midday, sunlight contains a bluish tint. This
reddishness and bluishness of light is an effect of color temperature. The more blue that exists in light, the higher its color
temperature; the more red contained in light, the lower its
color temperature. The ordinary light bulb used in most homes
contains more red than a fluorescent light. Fluorescent lights
contain more blue and green, and therefore have a higher
color temperature. This type of temperature has nothing to
do with the amount of heat generated by the light source.
Color temperature is expressed in Kelvin degrees. Standard
indoor light is 3,200 Kelvin degrees; standard outdoor light is
5,600 Kelvin degrees. Outdoor light contains more blue than
indoor light, and thus has a higher color temperature.

Color Theory


Self-Check 5
1. The color we associate with objects under ordinary daylight is
called _______ color.
2. A large white ball is located in the background of a still-life
arrangement. A red plastic bucket and a yellow shovel are
placed in front of the ball. All three objects lie under a single
white light. The red and yellow that are visible upon the ball are
called _______ colors.
3. The loss of hue intensity and overall detail that occurs as
distance increases between you and an object is the result
of _______.
4. Watercolors are transparent colors that increase in intensity
with each successive layer; this is a characteristic of _______
5. When youre indoors drawing with color and using lamps with
ordinary light bulbs, the colors appear slightly different than
they do outdoors in daylight. This is due to a change in color
Check your answers with those on page 72.

Back to the Drawing Board 4:

From Values to Color
With the Gallery of Color experiments and the color circle completed, youre ready to
use your colored pencils on a specific subject.

Tools and Materials

Red, yellow, and blue colored pencils

Drawing pencil (2H and H are recommended; 2B will do if used lightly)

Pencil sharpener


Pencil compass (or equal-arm cross)



Color Theory

Back to the Drawing Board 4Continued

To draw an actual object with colored pencils using only the primary colorsred,
yellow, and blueand black and white

1. Select a real apple to draw. Although any type of red apple will suffice, Red
Delicious apples possess a deep red intensity and the classic apple shape,
a shape often reproduced in drawings.
2. Set your apple on display so that you have a good close-up view. Place the apple
on a white surface, such as a large piece of paper or a white cloth. Set a single
light source, such as a table lamp, above and off to one side of the apple.
3. Since part of the apple is ball shaped, you can use a pencil compass to draw that
portion of the apple. Then add the humps at the bottom and other irregularities
that you observe (Figure A). Be sure to draw light lines so that you wont need to
erase heavily. Such erasures roughen the surface of the paper, making it difficult
to apply even colored-pencil tones.

FIGURE AUse a compass or an

equal-arm cross to draw the round
portion of the apple and then fill in
the humps at the bottom.

4. Lightly erase your guidelines, leaving a light outline of the apple.

5. Lay an area of light yellow over the surface of the apple (Figure B). Allow the white
of the paper to show through this lightly colored area where the highlights (direct
reflections from the light) should be visible. Then fade the yellow away from the
edges of the apple.

Color Theory


Back to the Drawing Board 4Continued

FIGURE BOutline of Apple Showing

Applied Area of Yellow
and White Highlights

6. If your apple has a touch of green in the area surrounding the stem, add a small,
light layer of blue over the yellow layer. This will build up the green.
7. Next, apply a light layer of red, allowing some of the yellow to show through
(Figure C). Be sure the strokes of the colored pencils follow the curves of
the apple.

FIGURE CApplying a Layer of Red to

the Apple



Color Theory

Back to the Drawing Board 4Continued

8. Add another layer of yellow over the red layer. Alternate layers of red and yellow
until youve built the colors you see on your apple. Some areas may appear to
contain more yellow; other areas, more red. In certain areas of the apple, the red
may appear duller and less intense. Adjust the layers of red and yellow accordingly.
Mix the primaries of blue and yellow to make green if you need to dull the red.
9. The stem of the apple is a dull brown. To create brown, combine all three primary
colors. One way to do this is to draw the stem with layers of blue and yellow; this
will produce a light green. Then add a light layer of red to the green. Or, you can
draw a light layer of red in the stem and add light layers of yellow and blue to it.
The result will be a dull brown color.
10. Look carefully at the actual apple. Identify the areas of local color, tonal color, and
reflected color. Recall that local color is the color of the apple under normal lighting conditions; it appears in the middle values. Tonal colors are the light to dark
values of the hue across the entire apple. These values are a result of the way
the light falls over the apple. The reflected colors are the lighter areas that result
from light cast onto the apple from the white table surface.
11. To create depth, you can either dull the intensity of a color with its complement or
use grays to create the shaded areas. Shaded areas are found in the dips and
curves that the light doesnt hit directly (Figure D). Theyre found on the side of
the apple opposite from the light source and in the area where the apple makes
contact with the table. Use the color circle to find colors that closely resemble
the range of colors you see on the apple; the color wheel will also help you mix
colors. Test your mixing technique on a separate sheet of paper if you need to.

FIGURE DIn this figure, we see

how dulled colors are used to create
shaded areas.


Color Theory


Back to the Drawing Board 4Continued

12. To create the apples shadow, lightly draw an outline of the shadow area with your
drawing pencil. The shadow should have an elliptical shape. Notice, in Figure E, that
theres a lighter and a darker area within the shadow itself. Use a combination of
red, blue, and yellow colored pencils to make the shadow; or, you can use tonal
colors. Again, refer to your color circle and the exercises your completed earlier in
this study unit if youre having trouble mixing colors.

FIGURE ECreating the Shadow

The apples shadow may appear bluish in some areas and a dull violet in other areas.
Blue and red combine to make a light violet, and adding a light layer of yellow on top
dulls the violet. Combine alternate layers of primary colors and secondary colors to
produce the color that most closely represents the color you see. Or use mixtures of a
particular hue with grays to make different values of that hue.
13. If the outer edge of the apple looks ragged and uneven, even the edges with the
sharp point of your red pencil. Then add more strokes to blend the new strokes
with the colors already there.


Color Theory

Back to the Drawing Board 4Continued

14. Check to make sure that you havent covered too many of your highlight areas.
If necessary, carefully erase some of the red to reveal the white underneath.
When youre finished, your drawing should resemble the illustration in Figure F
or Figure G. Notice how each color area is clearly distinguishable.

FIGURE FFinished
Drawing of Apple with
Reflected Colors, Local
Colors, and Highlights


Color Theory


Back to the Drawing Board 4Continued

FIGURE GFinished
Drawing of Apple with
Reflected Colors, Local
Colors, Tonal Colors, and
Highlights Indicated

Some artists strive for a realistic, almost photographic look. But thats only one of
many artistic ways to interpret a subject. It isnt necessary that your rendering resemble a photograph for it to be a successful work of art. In fact, its the unique quality of
each medium that distinguishes a rendering from a photograph and provides an artistic
look. For instance, the textured quality of paper gives colored-pencil renderings a
uniquely grainy appearance.


Color Theory

Back to the Drawing Board 4Continued

Figures F and G show two finished drawings of an apple. The drawing in Figure F was
created using only the three primary colorsred, yellow, and blue. Because the same
colors are used throughout the entire drawing, including the apples shadow, a certain
harmony exists among the colors. The drawing in Figure G utilizes the primary colors
plus black and white. Black and white combine to form grays and are mixed with the
hues, changing the quality of the middle values from those seen in Figure F. In addition,
black is used to make shades and white is used to make tints in Figure G, while a dark
shade of red was used to produce the shadow.
Do you notice the differences between the two drawings? The dark and light areas containing black and white in Figure G are sharper and more distinct than the same areas
in Figure F. In addition, the drawing in Figure F has a stronger golden sheen throughout,
and the transitions between the darker and lighter areas arent as sharply delineated.
This is a result of mixing hues with their complements.
Note also the subtle differences in the apples shadow. The shadow made by combining the primary colors to get a dull brown (Figure F) is softer and blends more readily
with the apple. The shadow in Figure G is made from mixing red with black. Thus, its
dark, distinct, and high in contrast.

Certain color combinations create visual relationships. These
relationships rely on harmony, contrast, proportion, or a
mixture of all three. Color combinations apply to the various
intensities and values of the hues as well as the hues
Colors next to each other on the color circle generally blend
well together and have little contrast. Similarly, colors that
are equally spaced from each other on the circle tend to
harmonize readily with each other. However, colors opposite
from each other on the color circle are complementary and
thus contrast each other.

Color Theory


Color and Contrast

Combinations of colors with strong contrast create striking,
bold, attention-getting results in a composition. For example,
complementary color schemes use colors that lie opposite each
other on the color circle (Figure 25). As stated previously,
when you combine
complements in a
rendering, the result
is a high contrast. In
addition, when two
complementary colors
are placed side by
side, they seem to
intensify each other,
especially when fully
saturated hues are
used. Intermediate
complements create a
less striking effect
when paired together.
Artists create additional complements by
combining a tint of
one hue with a shade
FIGURE 25Color Wheel Illustrating a Complementary Color Scheme
of its complement.
Artists employ primary colors and their complements for
specific effects. For example, a red barn against some green
trees will appear more intense than a red barn against the
red, yellow, and orange colors of autumn.


Color Theory

Split Complementary
Although split complementary schemes display a more subtle
contrast than complementary color schemes, their overall
effect is still striking. The split complementary scheme uses
any three colors linked by points of an isosceles triangle,
which is a triangle with two equal sides (Figure 26). Therefore,
it uses a hue and the colors on each side of its complementary
color. The colors on each side of the complement combine to
form the complement color of the hue. For example, on a
twelve-segment color circle, yellow-orange and red-orange
combine to form orange. Orange is the complement of blue.

An isoscoles triangle
is a triangle with two
equal sides.

FIGURE 26Color Wheel Displaying a Split Complementary Scheme

Color Theory


Double Complementary
One color, its next-door neighbor, and the complements
of both form a double complementary color scheme. In
Figure 27, we see that this arrangement forms a thin
crosslike configuration on the color circle.

FIGURE 27Color Wheel Displaying a Double Complementary

Color Scheme


Color Theory

The triad color scheme uses the three colors touched by the
points of an equilateral triangle, or a triangle in which all
three sides are equal (Figure 28). Yellow, red, and blue form
a primary-color triad, and the effect can be very intense.

An equilateral
triangle contains
three equal sides.

FIGURE 28Color Wheel Displaying a Triad Color Scheme

Color Theory


The four colors in a tetrad color scheme form a square or rectangle within the color circle (Figure 29). This combination
uses the most color of any color scheme.

FIGURE 29Color Wheel Displaying a Tetrad Color Scheme


Color Theory

An analogous color scheme uses two or more adjacent colors
on the color wheel. Any three colors lying next to each other
on the color circle blend easily with each other, since at least
one is a mixture of another. As you can see in Figure 30, the
analogous color scheme lacks contrast.

FIGURE 30Color Wheel

Displaying an Analogous
Color Scheme

Contrast through Tone and Color

A monochromatic color scheme uses one hue in a full range of
values. In a monochromatic scheme, black, white, and grays
are combined with a specific hue to reveal subtle and harmonious gradations of light and shade.

Color Theory


Afterimage and Simultaneous Contrast

An afterimage is a
recreation of an
observed colors
complement created
by the eye when an
observer looks away
from the original

When you stare at a hue for approximately 30 seconds or

more and then look away, an image appears thats the color
of the hues complement. This image is called an afterimage.
Afterimages dont exist in physical reality.
Turn to your Art Color Cards now and look at the yellow
square in Figure 31. After staring at it for about 30 seconds,
move your eyes to the white square. Do you see an afterimage of violet in the white area?

The afterimage serves as an example of the way complementary colors enhance each other. One particular color is influenced by other colors
that surround it.
Generally speaking,
when one color is placed
within an area of color
that isnt its complement, the complement of
the foreground color
appears in the backFIGURE 31Creating an Afterimage
ground. This is because
the brain seeks this complement color even if it isnt present
and spontaneously creates it.
Simultaneous contrast occurs when a
color is placed
against one of its
colors; the background color then
instills qualities that
are opposite of itself
into the foreground


When you combine two fully saturated hues that arent

complements of each other, one will infuse in the other
qualities that are opposite from itself. This phenomenon is
called simultaneous contrast. For example, Figure 32 shows
a green circle against a field of dark blue and a field of
yellow, respectively. Notice how the circle appears brighter
and more intense against the dark blue background and
duller and less intense against the bright yellow background.
The intensity of green hasnt changed from one field to the
other, but your eyes may perceive that it has.

Color Theory

FIGURE 32Looking from left to right, the green circle appears to darken.

Color Ranges
Colors are often divided into two groups, warm and cool.
This is because certain colors are psychologically and symbolically associated with either warm or cool objects. Warm
colors tend to make us more active, while cool colors seem to
dampen our moods.

Warm and Cool Color Ranges

Yellow, red, and orange are considered warm, while green,
blue, and violet are considered cool. Warm colors have
longer wavelengths than cool colors. Therefore, warm colors
give an impression of greater size and seem more visible.
Cool colors tend to recede into the background. Artists often
add to the dimensionality of a composition by placing warm
colors in the foreground and cool colors in the background.
A color usually considered warm can also lend a cool
impression. For instance, a yellow with a bluish tone may
seem cool, whereas a yellow containing a lot of orange is
warm. Similarly, in Figure 33, violet appears cool when its
associated with blue (blue-violet), and warm when its combined with red (red-violet).

Color Theory


FIGURE 33Warm and

Cool Colors on the Color

Color Energy
Color energy describes the impact a color has on us. The
energy of a color depends on its hue, intensity (saturation),
the size of the colored area, and the contrast between the
foreground and background colors.
Color energy describes
the impact a color has
on us.

Warm colors usually invoke higher energy than cool colors.

In addition, highly saturated colors appear more energetic
than dull colors. When two colors of equal intensity, such as
red and blue, are placed side by side, the warm red exhibits
more energy than the cool blue. But if the red is dulled, the
blue becomes the color with more energy. Also, a color
appearing in a large area contains more energy than a color
of equal intensity in a smaller area.
High-energy warm colors seem to fit with generally agreedupon concepts of power, speed, intensity, and heat. For
instance, a red sports car and a rising orange sun usually
evoke more energy than the corresponding images of a blue
sports car and an overcast sky at dusk. Thinking of color in
terms of its energy can help you create specific emotional
effects in your artwork.


Color Theory

Using Contrasting Colors

Certain hues are more brilliant than their complements. In
these cases, a specific hue dominates when used in equal
proportions with its complement. For example, yellow is
brighter and more intense than violet, its complement. When
these two colors are used together in equal proportions, the
yellow will dominate the violet through contrast.
On the other hand, complementary colors can also exhibit
harmony and appear static. Static colors, when placed side by
side, give an impression of stillness and immobility, whereas
nonstatic colors seem to be vibrating when placed next to
each other. Figure 34 shows several harmonic proportions of
pure hues and their complements. If the value or intensity
changed in any of these hues, youd have to alter its proportion for the colors to
remain static and
in-balance. In addition, if the proportions of any of these
hues and its complement changed,
that hue would
begin to appear
more active than
its complement.

FIGURE 34Harmonic
Proportions of Pure Hues
and Their Complements

Coloring Shadows
Shades and shadows are different from each other. Shades
are values added to the surface of an object. You can usually
see them in areas that are either unlighted or partially lighted. Shadows are created by an object thats situated between
a light source and another surface or the ground. A shadow
is cast from an object; this means that the shadow falls from
the object onto another surface. Therefore, shadows reflect
the shapes of forms and textured surfaces.
Shadows and shades add dimension and depth to artworks.
Though the artist must sacrifice detail in these areas, shades
and shadows arent without color or value.

Color Theory


Using Complements
In this unit, you mixed hues with their complements to dull
colors and lessen their intensities. You also learned how hues
and their complements are used in shaded and shadowed
areas. The hues shared between the dark areas and areas of
local color should create a harmony within artwork. Mixing
hues and their complements expands your color choices with
a wide range of colors. They can add richness and depth to
shadows and shaded areas, conveying both emotion and

Black and White

White pigment isnt the same as white light. In addition,
black pigment isnt the same as an absence of light.
White pigment combines with other hues to make tints. The
variations of white on the surface of a sheet of paper or on a
white T-shirt are numerous, depending on the light that falls
upon them. Like other colors, white can appear either warm
or cool. Warm whites contain yellow or orange, while cool
whites contain tinges of blue or violet. Thus, although the
appearance of white in our environment is common, the
range of white that we see every day is quite broad.
Black is a unique color; the artist mixes it with other hues
to change their appearance. Black doesnt exist within the
visible spectrum. However, you still see it every day, both by
itself and within other hues, in which its used to change
value. Its tempting simply to use black for shadows and the
shaded areas of an object. But to do so greatly simplifies the
subtle range of values that may exist within an object.


Color Theory

Self-Check 6
Refer to the color circle below to answer the following questions. In addition, check the corresponding images for each question in your Art Color Cards before selecting your answers.
1. Which of the following rows of colors exhibits an analogous color scheme?






Color Theory


Self-Check 6
2. Which of the following rows of colors exhibits a split complementary color scheme?




3. Which of the following rows of colors exhibits a warm color range?





4. Which of the following rows of colors exhibits a cool color range?







Color Theory

Self-Check 6
5. Which of the following rows of colors exhibits a triad color scheme?




Check your answers with those on page 72.

Back to the Drawing Board 5:

Colored Pencils and Water
With the Gallery of Color experiments and the color circle completed, youre ready to
use your colored pencils on a specific subject.

Tools and Materials


Drawing pencil


Colored pencils (primary and secondary colors, black, and white)

Plastic container

Small watercolor brush (No. 2)

Paper towel or clean rag


Color Theory


Back to the Drawing Board 5Continued

To use a photograph as the basis for a colored-pencil rendering
1. With practice, you can readily transform the photographic image in Figure A into
the colorful rendering seen in Figure B. First, compare the photograph and the
finished rendering. Note that some of the reflections in the photograph have been
cropped out and the remaining reflections have been lightened, softened, and
made much more colorful in the rendering.

FIGURE APhotograph of Swan in Pond



Color Theory

Back to the Drawing Board 5Continued

FIGURE BColored-Pencil
Rendering of Swan Photograph

2. On heavy drawing paper that wont warp with water, lightly mark off a rectangle
thats 4 in. wide by 5 in. high with your drawing pencil. (Leave a few inches of
clean white space around this rectangle in case you want to place your finished
artwork in a 5 in. by 7 in. frame.)

Color Theory


Back to the Drawing Board 5Continued

3. In the rectangle, lightly draw an outline of the swan. Then draw outlines of the
trees and the tower reflected in the water (Figure C).
FIGURE COutline Drawing of

4. Now cover every area of your rectangle except that area showing the swan with
blue pencil strokes. Leave the swan completely white. Then, with a wet brush
(shaken to remove excess moisture), dissolve the blue stroke. Allow the rectangle
to dry completely before moving on to the next step.
5. When all areas are dry, start adding coloreither the colors shown in Figure B
of your Art Color Cards, or those of your own choosing. Draw vertical lines for
the tower reflections. Draw circles around the swan to show its movement in the
water. Use free, loose strokes for the reflections of the trees. If you wish, use
the damp brush to soften and brighten some of these areas.


Color Theory

Back to the Drawing Board 5Continued

6. While the reflections are still damp (but no longer shiny), add light horizontal lines
above and around the swans head. To do this, take a clean, barely damp brush
and drag it horizontally across the reflections, cleaning the brush after each
stroke. If you find youre having trouble producing the desired light lines, let the
areas dry completely. Then erase some color to provide space for you to draw the
lines again. Use either the damp brush or your eraser to create some light areas
in the concentric circles surrounding the swan. Let the rendering dry completely.
7. Now, with colored pencils, add the reflections of the swan. Shade the swan and
add color to its beak and tail. Finally, prop your drawing against a wall or an easel.
Then look at it from a distance to see if it needs any final touches.
8. Sign your name and date your work on the back of the drawing paper.


Now youre ready to complete an artwork using the techniques youve studied in this unit. Select a group of objects
as the subject of a colored-penciled drawing. Scout around
your house, your backyard, or a store for objects to portray
in your drawing. Choose objects with a variety of sizes and
textures but fundamentally basic shapescircles, spheres,
rectangles, squares, cones, and so on.
First, select a place to set up your still-life display and draw.
Youll need a single light source nearby, such as a table
lamp, to produce a direct ray of light upon the objects.
Overhead lights wont do for our purposes here; they tend to
cast a diffuse, all-over type of light upon objects.
Make one object in the group your center of interest, and
arrange the other objects in a way that focuses attention on
it. In this way, youll be creating a unified arrangement. Use
a viewfinder to help you locate a center of interest and a
good composition. A viewfinder is any device, such as a picture frame, that limits your view and reveals a portion of a
scene or object. Viewfinders help you to concentrate your
attention and see your subject better. If you wish, you can
create your own viewfinder. A sheet of paper or cardboard

Color Theory

A viewfinder is any
device used to limit
your view and reveal
a portion of a scene
or object.


with a rectangular or square shape cut from it will do. Hold

the viewfinder between you and the scene or subject. Move it
around until it encloses the best composition.
Think of your composition in terms of the principles of art:
unity, balance, rhythm, harmony, emphasis, and contrast.
Once youve decided upon your composition, make an outline
of the arrangement you see through your viewfinder. On a
clean sheet of drawing paper, sketch lightly with a drawing
pencil. Remember, you dont want the drawing pencil marks
to be so dark as to interfere with your colored-pencil marks.
Now select one of the color schemes you studied in this unit.
Plan the colors youre going to use in the background and
foreground areas, the color values, the areas of contrast, and
the main area of emphasis. Identify local color, reflected
color, and tonal color
in your composition.
Look carefully at the
shaded areas and the
shadows of your subject; including them in
your drawing will add
a crucial element of
Figure 35 is an example of a completed stilllife drawing using two
split complementary
color schemes: green
with split complements
of red-violet and redorange, and blue with
split complements of
yellow-orange and redorange.

FIGURE 35Still-Life Drawing Utilizing Two Split

Complementary Schemes


Fill in your outline by

building up the layers
of color gradually.
You can make color
changes if necessary
while the colors are

Color Theory

still lightly drawn. As the areas of color become visible, you

should be getting an idea of how the whole composition is
going to look.
Work across the entire expanse of the drawing. Completing
one section at a time is a method you might use when executing straightforward tasks, but creating art isnt a direct,
linear process. Ideas will come to you as the composition
Remember to step away from your work every once in a
while. View it from a distance. Youll see things differently
when you look at your drawing from different angles.
After youve finished your first composition, try another
using a different color scheme. If you chose a high-contrast
scheme first, select a low-contrast combination this time,
such as analogous or monochromatic. Remember that each
color scheme encompasses the values and intensities of each
hue. When youre finished, compare the two compositions.
Then be sure to sign and date your work.
The elements and principles of art provide a necessary
framework for you to work within. But art also represents
your personal vision. As you grow as an artist, the mechanics of art that youre learning now will blend with your own
unique visual ideas. The world of color offers endless
avenues to explore. This study unit is only the beginning of
your journey. Good luck with your compositions!

Color Theory


Self-Check 1
1. a
2. c
4. b
5. d

Self-Check 2
1. b
2. b
3. a

Self-Check 3
1. c
2. a
3. d
4. a
5. b

Self-Check 4
1. a.



3. b

2. c


Self-Check 5
1. local
2. reflected
3. aerial perspective
4. volume
5. temperature

Self-Check 6
1. b
2. a
3. b
4. d
5. c


Self-Check Answers

Color Theory

Whichever method you use in submitting your exam
answers to the school, you must use the number above.
For the quickest test results, go to

When you feel confident that you have mastered the material in
this study unit, complete the following examination. Then submit
only your answers to the school for grading, using one of the examination answer options described in your Test Materials envelope.
Send your answers for this examination as soon as you complete
it. Do not wait until another examination is ready.
Questions 120: Select the one best answer to each question.
1. The range of dark and light blue in the sky refers to the
_______ of this color.

color temperature

2. In the summer, youre assigned to take a photograph of a lighthouse. Its essential that the color temperature of this photograph
be cool. The best time of day for you to take this photo would

7:00 A.M.
11:00 A.M.
12:00 P.M.
3:00 P.M.



925 Oak Street

Scranton, Pennsylvania 18515-0001


3. A new house is being built and the designers want the indoor lighting to have a high color
temperature. Which of the following would be the best type of lighting to install?

Incandescent lighting
Flourescent lighting
Table lamps

4. Youre asked to set up a still-life arrangement of objects for a drawing class, including the
lighting. You know that if you add too much light to the objects, the

hues will be intensified.

objects will appear more three-dimensional.
surfaces will seem to flatten out.
tonal colors will become more pronounced.

5. You wish to darken a particular shade of blue, so you try adding layers of blue colored
pencil. However, this doesnt make the blue as dark as you would like it to be. Your next
step, then, should be to add layers of

blues complement.
red or violet.

6. Which of the following groups of colors would best communicate a solemn mood?

Shades and tints of yellow

Red and green
Red, yellow and blue
Blue, blue-violet, and violet

7. When your brain automatically seeks the complements of highly saturated colors, this
visual phenomenon is called a(n)

simultaneous contrast.
contrasting complementary color.
complementary split.

8. To make objects appear to recede into the background, your best bet would be to


use fully saturated hues.

accentuate details.
dull or lower the intensity of the color.
enlarge the objects.


9. Of the following mediums, only _______ are considered volume colors.


colored pencils
watercolor paints
oil paints
colored pastels

10. During World War I, a tabloid was published with the word revolution appearing in color
on the papers masthead. Which of the following colors do you think was used to attract
attention and reinforce the implications of this word?


11. If you wish to balance complementary colors so that theyll appear static and harmonious,
its important to

use the proper proportions of each color.

work only with split complementary colors.
combine one part of one hue with six parts of its complement.
mix the complements with black and white.

12. Youve been asked to create a color drawing outdoors at a time of day when the sun
produces high-contrast light and many shadows. Which of the following would make up
an appropriate palette for drawing the shadows?

Values of gray
Complementary colors
Analogous colors

13. Youre designing a poster thats to announce a rock concert. From the choices below,
select one essential visual consideration that will make the poster eye-catching.

Use textured paper.

Implement contrasting colors.
Include aerial perspective.
Use middle tones only.



14. You take the design for the poster from Question 13 to a commercial printer. Which of the
following abbreviations represent the range of color that he or she will use?


15. A stage director wants yellow light projected onto his actors. What filters should he place
over white light to achieve this effect?

Red and blue

Blue and green
Green and red
Cyan and magenta

16. Working with a limited palette of colors still allows for a wide range of colors. Of the following groups and combinations, _______ will give you the most variations.

hue + shades + tints

analogous hues
hue + complement
primary hues

17. A video technician must be knowledgeable as to


the inner workings of a computer.

RGB signals and additive color.
how broadcast signals are transmitted.
subtractive colors and the principles of mixing them.

18. Which of the following statements pertaining to color is most accurate?


Violet tends to suggest royalty or majestic splendor.

Making colors lighter or darker doesnt alter their overall emotional effect.
Green most often signifies warmth, festivity, and autumn.
An artist who allows personal experience to affect his or her color choices is still in the
beginner phase.

19. When an artist is working with _______, he or she is said to be working with additive
color; when an artist is working with _______, he or she is said to be working with subtractive color.


oil paints; watercolors

watercolors; colored pencil
colored pencil; light
light; pigment


20. If you were to take three photographs of the same object outdoors on a clear dayone
in the early morning, one at noon, and another near sunsetyou would expect the color
of the object to appear

the same in all three photographs.

orange-red in the picture taken at noon.
flat in the photos taken in the early morning and at dusk.
slightly different in each photo.