Author Topic: A little basic colour theory  (Read 11765 times)

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Offline Trevor Ellis

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A little basic colour theory
« on: November 24, 2009, 01:20:47 PM »
In an earlier posting, I mentioned that plants usually work together colour-wise if each have some of the colour of the neighbouring plant within it even if only in small amounts in the petals, or indeed any other part of the plant. George seemed to think that something further on this topic might be of interest so further to this, if anyone is interested/doesn't know colour theory, just a point of two. Adjacent colours affect each other in the sense that each colour takes on a tinge of the opposite colour of it's neighbour. So for instance, when red is next to green, both colours become stronger since the opposite colour of red is green so the green is intensified & vice versa. In interior decorating similarly, a neutral grey will be modified by the colour next to it i.e. it will take on a tinge of the opposite colour to it's neighbour. Great painter/colourists are adapt at using the theory to their advantage. Many a person has for instance, bought a neutral grey only to find that it doesn't look the same in situ on the house wall and it's more than likely that that is the reason why. It may be modified by a carpet or a colour next to it on the wall. True, not everyone knows what colours are opposite (or 'complementary' to use the theorist's term) but anyone can get an idea if they're not sure simply by staring, preferably without blinking, at any colour for several seconds and then looking at a sheet of white paper. The image of the object stared at will 'appear' on the paper in the complementary colour. Just staring at a colour will produce it's complementary colour as a sort of 'border' around it. I suppose most people will have played as a child at drawing a 'ghost' in black with a small white eye in it and then looking at a sheet of white paper and seeing a white ghost with a black eye.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2009, 12:17:04 PM by ideasguy »

Offline Eric Hardy

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2009, 07:22:08 AM »
Very interesting Trevor, and thank you for posting it. Unfortunately it is a little late in the year to put your "staring at white paper" into practice in the garden. Thank goodness I have had the cataracts removed from my eyes. Before then all whites were looking a dirty yellow. I only discovered that when the first eye was done and I could compare by looking through each eye in turn  ;). In our garden a lot of the flowers we plant seem to change colour after they have been in the ground for a while. In particular, pale pinks become much darker. It must be something in the soil.

Offline Trevor Ellis

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2009, 12:23:28 PM »
Good to know that your sight is back to normal Eric. Colour is such a fascinating subject and is so powerful in it's affects. Some years ago, a dentist was getting complaints about his waiting room being cold and he was talking to a friend about having to get extra heating in it. However, the friend happened to be knowledgeable about colour and suggested an experiment before spending a lot on appliances. Relative to his advice he changed the colour/s in the waiting room. You guessed it - people were commenting on how much warmer the room was. Of course the temperature was the same under specifically prior regulated conditions. I once took a student from the art college were I taught to the emergency department of the nearby hospital. The A & E waiting area had wallpaper that comprised entirely of aggressive looking chevrons in red and orange. Unbelievable - just what you need when you're in A & E!!
Anyway, our interest here is gardening and much can be done not only in terms of neighbouring plants but in the larger context as well. Distances can be optically lengthened or shortened by use of colour. I've seen gardens wherein a sense of distance has been required and various things designed to give the illusion, only for this to be totally destroyed by inappropriate placement of colours. I thought that winter time might be the time to consider and plan changes if necessary.
As the subject of colour popped up, I thought I'd have a quick look to see if there might be anything on the subject on the net. When I retired computers were just creeping in there but there's a good deal on currently. An interesting site which gives the opportunity to very easily and quickly experiment with colour effects is as follows: http://www.worqx.com/color/index.htm

If anyone's interested in having a play (might give some ideas for subjective colour combinations in next years garden), check out the 'Palette Picker' at the bottom of the list on the left of the home page.[/color]

Edited by George:
Hopy you dont mind Trevor. Ive edited the link to make it work.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2009, 07:31:32 PM by ideasguy »

Offline Eric Hardy

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2009, 12:52:02 PM »
Thank you Trevor. That is interesting, the the phsychological effect of room colours. What were they thinking of on that A & E  :o

I tried your link http://www.worqx.com/color/index.htm] and I got "Problem loading! Server not found". Is there an error in that address please?


Offline Eric Hardy

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2009, 12:54:44 PM »
How curious, although the link in your post did not work, I copied and pasted it in my reply and found that if I clicked on that it DID work. Very strange!

Offline Trevor Ellis

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2009, 01:13:25 PM »
How curious, although the link in your post did not work, I copied and pasted it in my reply and found that if I clicked on that it DID work. Very strange!

Strange things these devices that we're hooked into Eric to be sure. I tried and the same thing happened! Hope that you find the site interesting/useful. Might be interesting to use it to find out the colour bias range of both you and Anthea. Maybe you could try a combined effort - that could be interesting.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2009, 01:19:05 PM by Trevor Ellis »

Offline Eric Hardy

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2009, 02:53:27 PM »
Hello Trevor. Anthea and I have been reading the site together but are not quite sure how to find our colour bias range. Are we missing something?

Offline Trevor Ellis

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2009, 03:46:24 PM »
Hello Trevor. Anthea and I have been reading the site together but are not quite sure how to find our colour bias range. Are we missing something?

It's purely subjective Eric/Anthea. Just click on one of the blank spaces to the right of the small colour squares in 'Picker' and it'll turn yellow. Then click on a colour that you're drawn to for whatever reason amongst the small colour squares. A number will appear will appear where the yellow is and at the same time the colour that you've chosen will appear somewhere in the large white box on the right. The number is irrelevant to you at this time at least since it's just the reference number of the colour. Keep repeating the process and other colours that you've chosen will also appear in the box. Do this until the box is filled with colours. You can then play around changing the colours, see how they react with each other and when you get a colour composition that you feel happy with, then that's your colour bias. You'll probably find that you're aware of some of them anyway. The great thing is that you can explore an infinity of colour combinations using the method and discover combinations that you'd maybe not have thought of otherwise. Seeing how one colour change can dramatically change a composition is fascinating and you can of course apply the combinations in the garden or to anything else on either a macro or micro level. Exploring colour in this way, much more easily and quickly than is possible with paint, can be very exciting. Through the process of discovery, you may well start to appreciate colours in a very different way and even your preferences may modify.
Hope this explains what you need to know. I think it's great that you're having a go.

Best regards,

Trevor



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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2009, 03:58:54 PM »
This is an excellent topic you have started here Trevor, very informative, and I'm sure will be of enormous benefit to our members.

The web site link you gave is also an excellent resource, explaining in depth colour combinations with interactive colour testing features.  8)

Let's get more input from our other members here, with their own experiments using different colours, and keep this topic alive.  ;)

Well done Trevor, and great input from you too Eric.  Keep up the good work.

Laurie.

Offline Eric Hardy

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2009, 05:19:58 PM »
Thank you for the explanation Trevor. A little project for tomorrow, I think.

Offline Eric Hardy

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #10 on: November 26, 2009, 05:51:53 PM »
Hi Trevor. Anthea and I have been having a bit of fun with Peter Piper's Palette Picker. We wish we could have been a bit more subtle.

This was my first attempt


Anthea was a bit bolder


We felt they looked a bit crude so we looked for something we liked the colour scheme of and I copied part of a picture showing the three kings


I then tried to apply colours within the picture to the Peter Piper diagram and felt it looked crude again.


I think it might be a bit of fun to try a less rigid pattern with different shaped areas and small spots where you can put accent colours. Perhaps a garden picture with flowers and play about with the colours on that. I was staring at a pink geranium on the kitchen window sill at tea time and the colour range was so subtle there is no way one could reproduce it as flat colour.

Anyway, thank you forgiving us a bit of fun  :)

PS The last one I did in Photoshop so that I could pick the colours out of the picture and copy them exactly on the diagram.

Eric H

« Last Edit: November 26, 2009, 05:57:51 PM by Eric Hardy »

Offline Trevor Ellis

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2009, 10:17:17 PM »
We felt they looked a bit crude so we looked for something we liked the colour scheme of and I copied part of a picture showing the three kings

I think it might be a bit of fun to try a less rigid pattern with different shaped areas and small spots where you can put accent colours. Perhaps a garden picture with flowers and play about with the colours on that. I was staring at a pink geranium on the kitchen window sill at tea time and the colour range was so subtle there is no way one could reproduce it as flat colour.


Hi both,
please don't dismiss your selections as crude - these sorts of things look simple enough but are far from it and the biggest problem is in recognising the value and significance of seemingly simple things. It's interesting to see the differences in your overall selections. Eric's being rather cooler but with a dominance of yellow which is a colour of communicating and having the desire to communicate. Anthea's has the orange and red which are tonally very close (if you look at two or more colours the gradually closing eyes i.e. squinting more and more, colours of the same tonal value 'vanish' or merge at the same time even though they may be different hues (red, green, blue etc etc). This would account for not being able to reproduce the pink geranium in flat colour - because the geranium wouldn't be a flat colour anyway. It would likely be a collection of tints (hue + white) of the same tonal values, reflections, etc. If you imagine (or create another image containing oranges in Anthea's image and other oranges of slightly different hue) and one filled with just the one orange, you'll see a huge difference in the energy of the colour. A similar thing happens with the light yellow and light blue in Eric's image. Squinting at these two colours, they will tend to merge/vanish as you reduce the light entering your eye, whilst the other colours stand out much more. Simply because the light yellow and light blue are tonally similar - the blue being a little darker. This is a way in the garden to bring extra life into an area that overall has unity of overall tone but is composed of different or closely associated colours.
I appreciate your need to apply colours to more interesting shapes. Have you thought of exploring colour using a plan of your garden or part of it? The 'Picker' is just a way to see how colours work together without added complications. I don't know if you noticed in the list on the left of the home page, the name of Johannes Itten (it might say 'Ittens contrasts' or something similar). He devised seven types of colour contrast and they are well worth checking out and exploring. These aren't to do with subjective colour - but are simply to do with how colour works objectively. Gardening is just a form of abstract painting really - think of Matisse and Gertrude Jekyll (also a painter I believe) to name but two.

I must stop or I'll go on for hours and probably bore you to death. Just one more thing. When I found the colour site, I noticed a link to a site called, if I remember correctly, Colorology. It attempts to draw connections between birth dates and colour preferences/character/personality etc. Whether there's anything in it is up to individual assessment but you might find it at the very least a few minutes of entertainment. On the other hand, it might be interesting to see if you find any resonances in it and whether there is any relationship to the colours that you've both used.

Best wishes,

trevor

Offline Eric Hardy

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2009, 11:04:28 PM »
Thank you Trevor for your very detailed reply. It is past my bedtime now (Anthea went to sleep an hour ago) so we will explore a bit more tomorrow.

Goodnight  :D

Eric H

Online ideasguy

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2009, 11:51:40 PM »
I'm looking forward to having a go at this Trevor. Great topic youve started 8)

Offline Brian Denison

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2009, 11:17:56 AM »
It?s interesting to read Trevors comments on colour and all the responses. Colour is something I have been closely associated with in my career, so here are my comments. It is a subject which is potentially very complex but it needn?t be from a gardening point of view. The most practical reference for identifying pleasant combinations and avoiding colour clashes is the colour wheel or circle as mentioned by Trevor and illustrated on the website he refers to. Guides on choosing colours advises the use of adjacent colours to create harmony, colours at 120 degrees to create contrast, complimentary (opposite) colours for drama/vibrations/excitement. Often the odd splash of complimentary colour amongst a format of harmonising colours creates a pleasing result, especially in home decorating. In a garden environment, a splash of ?Lucifer? amongst of a bed of green and pastel colours has the same effect. Black and white may of course be used in any combination and should be regarded as part of the colour palette. In practice a colour is defined using three attributes: hue, saturation or value, luminosity or intensity. Colour harmony is more clearly achieved if these factors are understood.
Hue is the attribute which answers the question ?What colour is this??
Saturation answers the question ?How is it coloured??. Pink and red, for example are the same hue but pink is less saturated than red, ie it contains a smaller amount of the red hue.
Luminosity represents the sensation of light and dark given by each colour in its own particular way in relation to the intensity of the light that illuminates the object. See picture for guidance.
A good rule of thumb on colour harmony in addition to those above, is for one of these attributes to be roughly the same. For example, we all know that pastel shades harmonise irrespective of colour ? this is because they have the same degree of saturation. A bright red flower harmonises with pinks because they are the same hue. It is difficult to find an example of constant luminosity in the garden but look around at company logos on adverts or vehicles ? some of them use unlikely colour combinations but are often of low but constant intensity and it works. Having said all that, nature breaks all the rules and gets away with it. I could go on but don?t want to be boring. As ? says there are lots of web sites and books to be found, even specifically on colour in the garden. The latter talk about ?effects? such as bright colours bringing things closer, pastels giving distance.  How the light source can change colours ? my garden takes on a different mood in twilight, the greens and yellows being much more vibrant. The other topic which I won?t go into is the difference between additive and subtractive colour mixing, however if you intend to use coloured lights in your garden  it is worth studying this aspect. 

Offline Eric Hardy

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #15 on: November 27, 2009, 12:25:01 PM »
I find Brian's diagram interesting because it shows texture and appears to be photographed fabric. That was my difficulty with the Peter Piper's Palette Picker. Thinking garden is thinking hues, saturation and textures. I am gazing out of the window at a tall conifer in our garden with the sun shining on it. As Brian says it is all the same hue, green but with an infinite number of variations. It is terrific of Trevor to have started this thread and your contribution Brian has started me thinking more about it. I have usually relied on Anthea for advising on colour and she does have an instinct for it. What she does always seems to work for me. The garden seems to have it's colour seasons beginning with a generally white and yellow start to the year with a gradual change to white, pink, blue and mauve followed by more mellow colours in the autumn. When I was an architectural student in the 1940's I was a bit nervous of colour. We did elaborate presentation drawings on stretched Whatman paper using Chinese stick ink which we ground into a palette with water. I eventually found a formula which was very safe and I tended to stay with it, it was basically Pain's Grey, Cobalt Blue and white in different intensities.  Not very adventurous I will agree but it seemed to work.

Offline Trevor Ellis

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Re: A little basic colour theory
« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2009, 12:03:11 PM »
Having said all that, nature breaks all the rules and gets away with it.

Great extension of the topic there Brian. Your observation above, it's certainly true. It's often when a problem occurs, for instance  if someone is trying to achieve a feeling of greater or shorter distance that is denied by an intensity or area of colour and they aren't aware of what's actually happening in frustrating their efforts/requirements. Maybe the postings and replies will just raise awareness of a few aspects of the subject in a helpful way. Of course relative to the subject as well is the condition of colour deficiency but I don't know of an easy way of determining if anyone is deficient or not other than the Ishihara colour test and I should think that few people have easy access to a copy. Maybe they're available through libraries - I don't know. Being a predominantly male issue anyway, maybe it's easier for men to check with women that what they think is red is red etc!

PS
Have just checked on the net and there is an online version of the Ishihara test for colour blindness at http://colorvisiontesting.com/ishihara.htm. There are some other sites dealing with it too. http://www.robinsonscamera.com/color_blindness_test.htm is one of them.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2009, 12:21:22 PM by Trevor Ellis »