Introduction – properties of color

February 24th, 2016

In this article we are going to introduce some of the properties of color. First we are going to define what the 4 properties of color are. Then we’re going to define temperature. Finally we’re going to explore the properties of temperature.

There are 4 properties of color, 3 are fairly well known and the 4th is a little lesser known. The properties of color are hue, saturation, brightness and temperature. Now Hue is what color it is, so is it red, yellow, green, blue or violet? Saturation also known as intensity refers to how much of a color there is, how rich, how intense, how much pigment versus how grey – also known as ‘desaturated’. Brightness refers to the value – how light or how dark a color is. And temperature refers to how warm or how cool a color is, and we’ll explore temperature next. To learn more about how to see color view our oil painting training.

Temperature is how warm or how cool a color is. Now there’s a lot of debate as to which colors are warm and which set of colors are cool. Some artists would say that green can be warm or cool, violet can be warm or cool – yellow can go either way as well. But for the sake of this course and for the sake of this video I’m going to define the warm colors as the spectrum ranging from red to orange to yellow and the cool colors as the spectrum ranging from green to blue to purple or violet. One of the interesting properties of temperature is that temperature is relative, the terms warm and cool is a relative term. So that means there’s not only a set of warm colors – the red, yellow and orange, and a set of cool colors – the green ,blue and violet, but each color in itself  can have a warm and cool version of itself. So for example if we look at the pallet here we can see that we have a warm and cool yellow, we have a warm and cool orange, warm and cool red, warm and cool violet, warm and cool blue, warm and cool green and even each one of these individual colors can have a warm and cool version of itself thought he key to remember is that temperature – warm and cool is a relative term. When we look at the color wheel, there are two colors that represent a unique problem in terms of their temperature, and those two colors are orange and blue, now orange is what I define as the warmest on the color wheel and blue I define as the coolest color on the color wheel. And the reason for that is if we look at orange – if we go to either side of the color wheel we will get a warm color, so for example if we add red to our orange, move orange to the right towards red we get red-orange which is still a warm color, if we go the opposite direction, add yellow, we get yellow-orange which is still a very warm color and the inverse is also true for blue. Now if we take blue and add a little bit of red or violet we’ll get blue-violet, still cool, and we go the opposite way, we adding yellow or green we’ll get blue-green, still a very cool color. So because of their location on the color wheel there isn’t really such a thing as a warm or cool orange or warm or cool blue, actually the only way to make a quote “cool orange” is to go down into the middle of the color wheel to the grey, actually add blue to orange and go straight at the complement and it’ll create a grayish orange or in other words a cool orange and vice versa for blue, the only way to truly make a warm blue is to go up into the middle of the color wheel, add its complement, add orange and create a grey blue which will be a warmer version of itself. Because orange and blue present this unique problem I propose that another way to refer a colors temperature is by the location on the color wheel. So if we go back to the pallet, we saw that we had a warm and cool version of each color, so to refer to them by location starting with yellow, instead of saying warm and cool yellow we can say we have yellow-orange or yellow green depending on which way we go on the color wheel. Orange as we say depending on which way you go, either a red-orange or a yellow-orange going towards yellow, if you take red and a little bit of yellow-orange you’ll get  red-orange, go the opposite way you’ll get red-violet and same is true with the cools, violet you can either go red-violet, blue-violet – blue we saw earlier, it can either go blue-green or blue-violet, the green  itself  can either become a  yellow-green going towards yellow or blue-green going in the opposite direction.

Ok so that was a brief introduction to the properties of color, Hue, Saturation, Brightness and temperature – we want to remember that temperature is a relative term so we want to become familiar with the color wheel and the colors location on the color wheel [6:00] which will really help us to shift and  move the temperature of a color as we begin to paint, as we become more familiar with temperature and more familiar with the color wheel, we’ll not only get a better understanding of color but we’ll have better control of color as we begin to mix and use color in paintings.