Notes on Color Theory

    The name of a color. There are two classes: 
    1. Primary (i.e., blue, red, yellow). 
    2. Secondary (green, orange, violet)
    The amount of light reflected by a hue; the greater the light reflected, the higher the value.
    The purity of a hue; the higher the saturation, the purer the hue. Value and saturation are not constantly related: high saturation yellow has a high value (reflectivity); high saturation violet has a low value. Also called intensity
complementary colors:
    Pairs of colors, such as red and green, that together embrace the entire spectrum. The complement of one of the 3 primary colors is a mixture of the other two. 
    -- red/green -- blue/orange -- yellow/violet

Methods of Producing Color:
Subtractive Mixture


Additive Mixture


Combination of diferent pigments: 
    a) on the palette 
    b) on the canvas.

Mostly primary colors used; if any pair of complementaries are mixed, produces black. Mixture of all 3 primaries produces black. 

Combination of colored lights, not pigments. 

The additive primaries are different: red, green, blue-violet. 

red + green = yellow, or yellow-orange. 
green + blue-violet = blue-green or cyan blue. 
red + blue-violet = purple. 

All 3 primaries together = white. Any two complementaries together = white. 

* tiny dots of pigment on canvas may lead to the effect of an additive mixture in the eye from a distance




Color Wheel:

Sources of 19th Century Color Theory:

For further reading: