Color Curiosity



Color is a powerful visual stimuli and an essential communication or design element. It is a reflection of Light as perceived by human eyes and accepted by the human brain receptors.

LET THERE BE LIGHT! (this is something my dad always said to me while turning on the lights whenever I would study in low light – guess it has a connection with me becoming a designer, anyways!!) Light or Sunlight encompasses all the colors of the spectrum. These colors are perceived by human eyes, through light and color sensitive receptors called RODS ( receptive to amount of light) and CONES (sensitive to colors).

A Color is defined by four essential qualities:

Hue – distinction by their wavelengths
Saturation – dullness or brightness
Temperature – warmth or coolness
Value – lightness or darkness

Hue is a term used for color identity, the perceptibility of color as red, blue, green etc When light is reflected by an object, the object absorbs some wavelength and reflects others, these reflected wavelengths are what cause humans to understand an object’s hue. e.g. Red objects look red since they absorb all the colors except red. They reflect red light back. All color perception is relative i.e. color identity or hue is known only when there is another color adjacent with which it can be compared.

A color wheel or a color model, created around the fifteenth century by artists and scientists, is a circular organization of color hues that helps artists, designers, scientists see the relationship between colors.

color wheel-web
Some hues humans are able to perceive are absolutes of a sort, what are called primary colors.
These colors are RED | BLUE | YELLOW
These colors are different from each other in terms of their frequency as can be perceived by the human eye. A slight change in frequency in any one primary colors will cause the eye to perceive secondary colors e.g orange, green, violet(in-between colors of 2 primary colors). Further intermixing produces tertiary colors, red-orange, orange-yellow, yellow-green, blue-green, violet-red.

There is a lot more to color relationships, which I will cover in my future color posts.

Saturation – is the intensity or the vibrancy of a color. Saturation defines the dullness or brightness of color. Colors that are dull are said to be desaturated. White is the ultimate saturation.

Temperature – a color’s perceived warmth or coolness is what defines color temperature. Color temperature is subject, like all color relationships, to relativity. Mainly color temperature can be easily understood by comparing colors from red via yellow to blue on the color wheel. Colors closer to red and yellow on the wheel are ‘warm’ colors, colors like that of sunsets, candles or fire whereas colors closer to blue are ‘cool’ colors like color of sky, water or grass.
Color temperature, Kelvin(the unit of temperature) above 5000K defines cool colors while colors below 2700K are warm colors.The temperature of any color will be thrown in one direction or another if compared to any other color.

Value – a color’s value is know by it’s relative degree of lightness or darkness. One can define colors as dark or light only when they are compared to one another. Yellow, for example, is a light-valued color as compared to violet or blue. However when compared to white it appears darker then white. this is why darkest color elements in a composition are read or noticed first because they have the most value contrast compared to lighter colors used.

Color is varied, one perceives color differently under natural or artificial light. Light makes all the difference in defining the qualities of color – hue, saturation, temperature and value.

More on color in the next color post.

Ref: Design Elements by Timothy Samara
Design by Nature by Maggie Macnab
Color – messages and meaning by Leatrice Eiseman



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s