Color theory encompasses a multitude of definitions, concepts and design applications – enough to fill several encyclopedias. However, there are three basic categories of color theory that are logical and useful : The color wheel, color harmony, and the context of how colors are used.
Color theory is both the science and art of using color. It explains how humans perceive color; and the visual effects of how colors mix, match or contrast with each other. Color theory also involves the messages colors communicate; and the methods used to replicate color.
In color theory, colors are organized on a color wheel and grouped into 3 categories: primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary colors. More on that later.
Color theories create a logical structure for color. For example, if we have an assortment of fruits and vegetables, we can organize them by color and place them on a circle that shows the colors in relation to each other.
Primary Colors: Red, yellow and blue
In traditional color theory (used in paint and pigments), primary colors are the 3 pigment colors that cannot be mixed or formed by any combination of other colors. All other colors are derived from these 3 hues.
Secondary Colors: Green, orange and purple
These are the colors formed by mixing the primary colors.
Tertiary Colors: Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green
These are the colors formed by mixing a primary and a secondary color. That’s why the hue is a two word name, such as blue-green, red-violet, and yellow-orange.