Color Palette
Color Select System
Historic Color Palette


click image to change


Color Center

Color Learning Center
Color Palette
Colors for residential and commercial interiors
colorSelect System
3 Step colorScheme system
Creating color schemes 
About Color
How we see color 
Learning to use color
Advanced color principles 
Historic Color Palette
Color Theory Books
Color Theory Store
Design Archives
artSparx Store
Step-by-Step Tutorials
Bookmark this site




"We all know that success is harder than failure."

--Frank Gehry






The artSparx Advanced Color theory center is designed for those interested in taking their color knowledge - and applications - to the next level. Ideal for Interior designers, Fine artists, Graphic designer and Illustrators.
Using one color to imply its complement.

The eye requires any given color to be balanced by its complement and will spontaneously generate the complement if it is not present, because of this complements establish an equilibrium. If you stare at a red square for a couple of minutes and then look at a white surface you will see a green square, the eye generates the complement. If two complements of strong hue and similar value are placed side by side they seem to vibrate and are difficult to look at.


Yellow-Violet are complements and
also contrast the most in value.


Red-Orange – Blue-Green are complements and have the strongest warm-cool contrast.


Red-Green are complements and have the same value.

Creating grey tones using color complements

Dull colors are made by adding some of a colors complement. Contrast of dull and vivid colors is an important compositional and spatial element in making art. The more of the complement added to a color the duller it will become until it becomes gray.

Additive color effects

Colored light:
The additive system of color mixing is principally involved in working with the effects of colored light rather than paint. The methods of photography being a primary example. By recombining light rays, we can mix colored light as we would mix paint. This system is called additive because the mixed hues are obtained by adding light rays instead of absorbing or subtracting them.

Transparent paint glazes:
The effects of transparent or glaze paints (as opposed to opaque paints) are a little like that of additive colors, because transparent pigments reflect less white light from their surfaces than do the opaque pigments.

Diffraction colors

A color effect is caused by the refraction of light in all directions without the use of pigments. This often occurs in nature, and until recently was thought to have little to do with painting. The brilliant colors of certain plumage and minerals are caused by the refraction of light from surfaces that have structures equivalent to a myriad of tiny lenses or prisms, peacock feathers being a fine example of this color effect. The iridescent colors in soap bubbles or oil films on water are examples of refracted light.

In contemporary paint effects, particularly decorative finishes, the principles of diffraction are becoming more common. Pearl and opal effects utilize the refractive qualities if tiny mica or ground shells added to a suspending medium or binder.

The effects of color or pigment can be altered by a variety of methods.
1) the nature of the surrounding medium.
2) its degree of gloss or the sheen it has.
3) the quality and intensity of illumination.
4) the effect of the surrounding areas of color.

How to Use Color

Each primary, secondary and tertiary hue is at a level of full saturation, or brightness. Which means there is no black, white, or gray added.

Color is described in terms of value, which is the lightness or darkness of a color, or the relative amount of white or black in a hue.

White added in increments to any of the twelve colors results in lighter values of the hue called tints. For example, pink is a tint of the primary color red.

The incremental addition of black or gray to a hue results in darker values of the hue known as shades. A shade of red is burgundy.

Manipulating the same color

Colors are relative.

That is to say a single color can be affected by a number of circumstances that will appear to make that color different.

Other colors can affect a color.

On a white background, color X appears bigger, weaker.

On a black background, color X appears smaller, lighter and stronger.

On chromatic colors, color X appears tinged with compliments

Achromatic: gray, white and black are Achromatic colors
Chromatic: red, purple, pink, etc. all other colors with Hue, are Chromatic colors.


On warm colors, color X looks cooler

On cool colors, color X appears warmer



On dark colors, color x looks lighter

On dull colors, color x looks more intense

On intense colors, color x looks duller.


Using Analogous colors

Colors next to each other on the color wheel. For example, yellow, yellow-green, green. The are most similar to each other and make the lowest contrast of hue.

They produce a harmonious feeling, they are non-contrasting colors. This sameness helps unify compositions. In art it’s important to have contrast (interest, liveliness, spice) and to have harmony (balance). Like in life, if things are too much the same things get boring. If things are too crazy our lives seem too disconnected and unfocused and life seems not to make any sense.

Value of colors  -add value chart-

Colors with the same or similar values tie different hued colors together, and relate unlike colors to each other.


Values of hues

Each addition of white or black reduces the vividness of a hue.

Pure saturated hues differ in value.

Pure Yellow is very light. It is not possible to have a pure dark yellow (dark yellow would imply the addition of black or a shade)

Saturated blue is very dark. It is not possible to have a pure light blue (light blue would imply the addition of white or a tint)

Pure hues have their own values and to change their values white or black must be added and the hue will be diluted.


Order by value

Limiting a composition to a few principle tones, planes or groupings through limiting the value gives order, clarity and vigor to a composition. An eye for hues of equal value is important for this purpose.

Pictorial space is achieved by the organization of planes through tonal values. It is possible to negate perspective (or create perspective) and make a flat over-all effect through manipulating value. Create a flash animation that shows different color hues of same value, creating a flat plane. Click a button to tint or shade some of the colors, to create perspective, maybe a mosaic effect and a face appears…

Neutral grays;

The infinite grays between white and black are called neutral grays. They are characterless, indifferent, Achromatic, sterile and neuter. These neutral grays are easily influenced by contrasting shades and hues. A gray next to a hue will appear as its compliment, subjectively in the eye, not the color. A gray depends on its neighbors for life. A gray mellows colors and reconciles violent color contrasts by absorbing the colors’ strength and assuming it’s own life.

Achromatic- rigid, abstract

Chromatic- vibrant, complex

Achromatic colors loose their achromatic character when next to a chromatic colors (they take on their compliment). To keep their neutral character they must be of a different value or adjusted with hue ( a little of the adjacent color must be added). If a gray is next to a red it will appear greenish unless it is a much different value or unless a little red has been added to the gray.

Gray = black + white (neutral gray)

Gray = primaries mixed together

Gray = complementary colors mixed together.

Dark and light contrasts of color

It is difficult to distinguish between Shades (in terms of hue). Tints are easy to distinguish between.


Red, yellow, orange appear darker in reduced light.

Blue, and green look lighter.

Spatial effects of color

Any light tones on a black background will advance according to their degree of lightness. On a white ground the effect is reversed, light tones are held to the background.  Near black tones are thrust forward relative to their degree of darkness.

Cold and warm tones of equal value. Warm tones advance and cold tones retreat. If light-dark contrast is also present it will exaggerate the depth effect, subtract from the depth or cancel it out.

 Blue-Green and red-

Range of the same value on a black ground, B-G retreats and R-O advances. If R-O is lightened it advances more and if B-G is darkened it recedes more. If B-G is lightened it advances to the same level of the R-O, if lightened enough B-G will advance more than the R-O.

Depth effects of Saturation contrasts. Pure colors advance relative to Dull (colors are dulled by adding the complement) or grayed colors of equal values. If light-dark or cool-warm contrasts is also present the depth effect shifts accordingly.

Contrast by extension (the size of areas of color –much and little, great and small).

When a small yellow patch sits on a large red area, red acts as a background and the yellow advances. If yellow expands, a point is reached when the yellow becomes dominant, yellow expands into a background and pushes the red forward.

About Color 
How we see color
3 Step colorScheme System

Create your own paints and glazes with the
Advanced color principles 
Historic color palettes




Join the artSparx community! Become a registered member now.

Capture your target market!
Advertise at artSparx and reach over 100,000 unique visitors per month!
artSparx Advertising Information

Become a link partner
Add features to your site! Free

Media Support Center
 Copyright 2010 Media Center Except as otherwise expressly permitted under law, no copying, redistribution,
retransmission, publication or commercial exploitation of material or concept are permitted without the express written permission
of and Copyright owner. Legal       San Francisco, Ca.   415.407.5097

DIY, home improvement, kitchen cabinets, tools, lighting, ceramic tile, home decor, kitchen design, gardening, home decorating,
patio furniture, paint, insulation, home improvement, fencing, appliances, plumbing, power tools, hardware,
home improvement, bathroom remodeling, kitchen remodeling, plumbing supply