Some of you may be familiar with the work of James Gurney. He is the artistic genius behind the Dinotopia books. I stumbled across his blog yesterday and found a most fascinating three part article on color theory and the color wheel. Now for someone who is relatively color challenged, I found this to be very interesting. I wrote asking if I could link my blog to his articles or reproduce the articles. He gave me permission to reproduce the articles as long as I gave the appropriate credit. I would not do anything less. There is a lot more to learn from James on his site and I recommend you explore the site for yourself. It is a gold mine of useful information. You can find him at: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com What follows is his three part article.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 27, 2008
In the intervening time, if you get a chance, I recommend that you can paint or digitally create your own color wheel to use as a tool for your own experiments.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2008
On the right is a mathematically correct digital color wheel based on the red-green-blue “additive” primaries of light. Spaced halfway between RG and B are cyan, magenta, and yellow, the subtractive colors used in printing inks. My photographer friend Tobey Sanford created this wheel (downloadable here). It may be less familiar to traditional painters. It places the component colors differently around the wheel, but for the purpose of exploring the world of color, especially on our computer screens, it will serve us better in some respects, and we’ll see it again from time to time on future Color Sundays. Regardless of which wheel we use, most color schemes are built from three component colors or primaries arranged in a triangle called a triad. The area inside the triangle is called the “gamut.” It includes all the possible mixtures from those three primaries, whatever they are.
The primaries don’t have to be red, yellow, and blue. You can use any three colors as primaries, even orange-green-purple—which in fact is what early color photographs called “autochromes” used. In the case of the limited palettes we looked at a couple weeks ago, for example, we talked about using a less saturated pigment like yellow ochre instead of cadmium yellow. This reduced or muted yellow corresponds with a point well inside the margin of the wheel. By using a paper mask and rotating it around the wheel, we automatically get interesting reduced gamuts, each with a dominant full-intensity hue and two subordinate, weaker “primaries”.