Color Explorations

Make a series of 8 designs exploring the characteristics of color: Hue, Value, Saturation and Temperature. Your designs can be simplified representational images or they may be non-objective or abstract but they must be thematically or stylistically linked in some way. Each design must have a minimum of 6 shapes or areas of different ‘color’. Each design should be 4”x6”, painted in acrylagouche on bristol board. The white of the paper should not be seen in any of the paintings. Mount all 8 designs together on a single sheet of black illustration board (no foam core please!).

A. CHROMATIC GRAYS-WIDE VALUE RANGE: In this you palette should be limited to chromatic greys but with a wide value range.

B. CHROMATIC GRAYS-NARROW VALUE RANGE: This piece is also limited to chromatic grays but further limited to a narrow value range. Choose a range with all the values congregating around the dark, middle or light part of the value continuum (maintain a broad hue range.)

C. DESATURATED HUES-WIDE VALUE RANGE: This piece is limited to desaturated hues. These hues should be more intense than the chromatic grays but less intense than a fully saturated hue.You should use a wide range of values in this piece.

D. DESATURATED HUES-NARROW VALUE RANGE: This piece is limited to desaturated hues with a broad hue range but a narrow value range.

E. FULLY SATURATED-WIDE VALUE RANGE: Saturated hues are purer and more intense in hue than desaturated hues. You should use a wide value range in this piece.

F. FULLY SATURATED-NARROW VALUE RANGE: hopefully you see the pattern here.

G. SATURATED-DESATURATED-CHROMATIC GREYS-WIDE VALUE RANGE: This is the everything piece use all the hue variations.

H. SATURATED-DESATURATED-CHROMATIC GREYS-NARROW VALUE RANGE: ALL the hue variations except limit your value range.





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Hue: Temperature

Temperature refers to the relative warmth or coolness of a hue. Temperature is often overlooked but can be used as a powerful tool in the creation of depth and emotion in a piece. Temperature has also been connected to saturation as desaturated colors are generally seen to be cooler than their purer, more saturated relatives.

Warm colors are generally seen as arousing, active or cheerful. Cool color, on the other hand can be seen as calming, passive and subdued. Warm colors also tend to come forward or feel lighter than their cooler companions which can recede.

Part 1: Using a secondary color create a range, using nine 1.5″x1.5″ squares that show the relative warmth and coolness.

Part 2: Choose a single color that has a clear temperature, blue for cool or red for warm for example. Create a range of nine 1.5″x1.5″ squares that show a change in temperature of that single color from warm to cool while retaining the overall nature of the color i.e. blue should look blue across the scale.

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Hue: Saturation

All of our color aspects are interrelated. Saturation is no different and we have, in fact, already dealt with saturation in our two previous assignments. Saturation is a hue’s intensity. A pure color is highly saturated, think of that pure, straight out of the tube purple. A desaturated hue is one that has lost it’s intensity, has become muted or dulled. Think now of those dull purples we mixed in the color wheel assignment.

A hue can be desaturated in many ways, mixing two or more colors together (that color wheel purple). Mixing a hue plus black or white also desaturates. Think about those duller value mixes we made in the value assignment.

Mixing different hues does desaturate, but the two colors that desaturate each other the best and fastest but with the most control are a hue plus it’s compliment.

That is Part One of todays work. Take a hue and it’s compliment and mix nine 1.5×1.5″ squares so that you have a desaturation of the hues with a good grey in the middle. When two colors mix to create a grey we refer to that as a chromatic grey.

While our color aspects are linked they can be separated and controlled to create different effects. All the mixes we have done so far have resulted in a value change as well as a desaturation. In Part Two we will separate value from from desaturation.

In this assignment you should pick a hue and then mix up a batch of a black and white grey, an achromatic grey of equal value to your chosen hue. Mix nine 1.5×1.5″ squares so that you move from your hue to the matching achromatic grey. in these the saturation should change from saturated color to grey but because there is no value change between the two there should be no value change across the saturation  gradation. This is one you can test by taking a black and white photo. Those chips should all be the same grey in that photo.

When we mix a hue with it’s compliment or a mixed grey the resulting hue is called a shade.

Saturation_1 IMG_2398


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Hue: Value

The relative value of a color seems to be an easy concept to grasp. However, in practice it can be very difficult to work with.

There are three parts we will be working with in today’s assignment. The first is value derived from mixing black and white together.

Part One: Achromatic Greys

Create a scheme of nine (9) value range changes from black to white. Each value should be painted on a 1.5×1.5″ square “chip.” All colors should be flat with no brushwork and even in color (no streaks).

Process: Paint out a black and a white chip. These are straight out of the tube colors. Then mix a “middle grey,” a 50/50 mix of black and white paint and paint a chip. Once dry, place the three chips together. The middle grey chip should look like it fits in the middle. A trick is to look closely at the edge where the two parent colors meet the mixed color. If that edge looks sharp on both then the mix is a good one. If, as is most likely in the first mix, the edge is blurry or fuzzy then the mix is too close in value to the parent. Once a middle grey is determined mix up the middle grey between it and the black and the white and so on until you reach the nine values.

The second part of the assignment includes the addition of color. A given hue plus white is henceforth referred to as a tint. A hue plus black is a shade. You will be mixing both.

Part Two:

Process: Pick a hue, any hue (not yellow), and paint out a 1.5×1.5″ chip using your good techniques and practices. Match that hue to a value on the value scale you created in Part One. Use your best judgment in matching, think of a black and white photo being taken of the chips. If they truly match they should be the same grey, white will remain white and black will remain black.

Now using various mixtures of black with your chosen hue, mix shades to match the darker values on your Part One Value Scale. Then mix White with your hue to match tints with the lighter values from the Part One Scale. Mix only black or white with your hue, Do not mix a grey with your hue. Repeat this process with another hue with a significant value difference than the first.

Part Three: Chromatic Greys

Mixing a hue and a grey is referred to as making tones of the color. Tones are also created by mixing to compliments together. We are going to combine both methods for a third set of nine values.

Start by mixing your original hue 50/50 with its compliment. Match that color back to your greyscale. Then mix your achromatic greys to create a third set of value scales.

For clarity:

Part One: mixing black and white to create a range of achromatic greys.

Part Two: Mixing a hue plus black and white to create a range of tints and shades.

Part Three: Mixing a chromatic grey (compliment mix) plus an achromatic grey to create a range of tones.


Top: Achromatic and chromatic greys mixed

Middle: Achromatic greys

Bottom: Hue plus black and white (tints and shades)

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Welcome to Color Theory

This blog is your go to location for all information related to Gaddy’s Color Theory class. On this space I’ll post your assignments, links to articles, class updates  and anything else I think is interesting. You can come here to communicate with me as well.

Here is a link to the Color Theory Syllabus

Here’s to an interesting and productive semester. Gaddy



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Create a color wheel with the primary, secondary and tertiary color represented. This may seem like an easy assignment but it is far more complex than it first appears.

Primary Colors: Not all primary paints are created equal. You may need to “modify” your primary colors to express them in their richest form. Remember this is a visual assignment make the colors look their best, don’t just trust your paint tube label.

Secondary colors: These should be mixed colors. A straight out of the tube secondary is not the same as a mixed secondary. Your mixed paints should look like a fifty percent mix of the two primarys. However, some pigments have different mixing strengths so mixing fifty percent of each primary probably won’t work. These should look like secondaries, not tertiaries.

Tertiary: These should look like a fifty/fifty mix of a primary and a secondary, but it’s not going to be that simple. You will have to mix several versions to find the right one.

Process: Create 1.5×1.5 inch (approximate) chips of paint on bristol board. These can be arranged in whatever fashion you want, but they should all visually “flow” properly, each color looking like a midpoint of the two adjacent colors.

Readings: Color (Zelanski/Fisher): Chapter 2 Color Basics  or  Color Basics (Pentack/Roth: p. 16-25)









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