Art and Design Terminology 101–THE COLOR BASICS!

I have been reading several blogs over the past couple of weeks and one thing that I have noticed is the lack of proper terminology or the incorrect usage of terminology (this drives me crazy!)  Maybe because I went to Art College and also studied Art Education, I feel that proper uses of terms is important.  This post is not to sound superior or snarky I just feel it is important to use the correct terminology when it comes to Art and Design Terms. 

First I want to state color and the interpretation of Color is a THEORY it is a hypothesis it is not proven fact.  Yes there has been research done on the subject but no one can prove why or how the brain processes color or why some people can see it and why some people can’t see it.  That is important to remember when discussing color it is all theory.  Some things can be proven:  red + yellow = orange, yellow + blue = green, blue + red = violet.  If you add white to a hue it will get lighter, if you add black to a hue it will get darker but no one knows why this happens or why the brain interprets it this way.  Color is a fascinating subject and there is so much out there to read about color and how the brain interprets it.  I hope this sparks something and everyone reads more about this fascinating subject.  Remember knowledge it power!


The following terms come from:  Fisher, Mary Pat ant Zelanski, Paul.  Color.  2nd Ed.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994.  Print.

Chromaticity:  In lights, a measure of the combination of hue and saturation in a color. 

Complementary Hues:  Colors that lie opposite each other on a color wheel.  When placed side by side they will intensify each other visually: when mixed as pigments they will dull each other.

Hue:  The color quality identified by color names, such as “red” and “blue.”  This is determined by the color’s wavelength. 

Local Color:  The color sensation received from a nearby object under average lighting.

Neutral:  A black, white, or gray – nonchromatic hues

Pigment:  Powdered coloring materials used to give hues to paint and inks.

Sfumato:  Softly graded tones in an oil painting, giving a hazy atmospheric effect, highly developed in the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

Saturation:  The relative purity of a color, also called intensity.

Synesthesia:  The ability to gather sense perceptions from perceptual systems not usually associated with them, such as hearing color.

Value:  The degree of lightness or darkness in a color.

There are numerous other terms but then I would have to get into Albert Munsell or Wilhelm Ostwald’s Color Models, who they were and why they were important to Color Theory – I just don’t want to do that.  I can handle reliving some of my Color Theory days but not all of them – lol.

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