Color Theory is a series of principles used to design harmonious color combinations. These colorful partnerships can be illustrated with a color wheel. The first circular representation was created by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666. Ever since, many variations have been examined and brought forward by both scientists and artists.
The color wheel is a circular design of colors, conventionally built upon the primary colors of red, blue and yellow. Primary colors are those that cannot be obtained by any mix of other colors, while every one of the other colors can be created from the three primary colors. Secondary colors are created by combining primary colors. Green comes from mixing blue and yellow, orange, from red and yellow, and so on.
Tertiary colors result from combining a primary and a secondary color. These color combinations are known by two-word names, such as: yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, etc. A lot of color wheels are built upon three primary colors, three secondary colors, and the six tertiary colors, for a total of 12 main divisions; some add more intermediates, for 24 named colors.
The color wheel may be segmented into warm and cool colors. Warm colors are energetic and vivid, while cool colors impart calm and a comforting impression. White, gray and black are considered neutral. A tint is a color lightened by adding white; if black is added, the resulting color is called a shade. Blending gray to a color creates a tone.
In addition to standing for colorful partnerships, the color wheel is used to design color schemes, or color combinations, that are harmonious and balanced. Harmony and balance are attained by the visual contrast that exists between color combinations. There are several kinds of color schemes that can be applied to achieve the final effect being sought.
Complementary color schemes are developed by partnering colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. This creates high contrasting combinations that are extremely vibrant; they should be used tactically, and are certainly useful if you need to feature something. The split-complementary color scheme is a variant on the complementary color scheme. It carries the same strong visual contrast, but with much less tension.
A triadic color scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. In the same manner to complementary color schemes, triadic color schemes often tend to be very vibrant. To use this scheme successfully, the colors need to be well balanced: one color dominating, the two others for accent.
The rectangle color scheme uses four colors set up into two complementary pairs each. It creates a rich mix that works best if one color is dominant. The balance between warm and cool colors needs particular focus. The square color scheme resembles the rectangle, however, the four colors are evenly spaced around the color wheel. Once again, it works best if one color is dominant, and the balance between warm and cool colors has to be managed.
Analogous color schemes unite colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. The end result is usually a tranquil, comfortable and calm color mix. Make sure to have enough contrast to avoid a washed-out look.
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