Color Theory: Hue, Value and Chroma

If you are a painter, it is helpful to know a bit about color theory and the hue, value and chroma of pigments. Basic color theory in oil painting is essential in the visual arts when it comes to mixing color and is a crucial skill in painting lessons for beginners.

There are more than a couple of factors when it comes to describing the hue, value and chroma of color. The value and chroma of a color has to do with how dark it is and how saturated the color is.

Color saturation ranges from intense to dull in hue. Color chroma ranges from light to dark and becomes as basic as white versus black. The actual hue of the color refers to what it exactly is – purple, yellow, green, red, pink etc.

Color theory originated hundreds of years ago. The first one was designed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666. The wheel is designed so that any of the colors in it will look great together. It would also make choosing colors to communicate your theme easier. There are many different types and versions of color wheels in existence.

There are number of color combinations that are considered especially attractive when put together. In painting these are known as color harmonies or color chords.

Color wheels can be primary, secondary and tertiary. The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. The three secondary colors are green orange and purple. Another six tertiary colors are created by missing the primary and secondary colors together.

Furthermore colors can be divided into warm and cool hues. The warmer ones are vivid and energetic and tend to liven up the energy emanating from a painting. Cool colors are soothing and give an impression of calm.

There are three hues that are considered to be neutral. These are white, black and gray.  These colors are also used to make different tints, shades and tones.  A tint is created by adding white to pure hue. A shade is created by adding black to a pure hue and a tone is created by adding gray to a pure hue.

Complementary colors oppose each other on the color wheel. They are high contrast, have full saturation and look vibrant. An analogous color scheme uses color that is next to each other on the color wheel and usual match well. A triadic color scheme uses colors in threes that are evenly spaced around the color wheel.  A split-complimentary color scheme uses two colors adjacent to its complement on the wheel.

There are many more variations on how colors can be used using a color wheel and if you are a serious painter you will find the possibilities to be endless and exciting when it comes to creating wonderful works of art.

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