Colourful Canvas : Colour Theory For Beginners | Nansu Laine | Skillshare

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Colourful Canvas : Colour Theory For Beginners

teacher avatar Nansu Laine, Self-taught illustrator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

11 Lessons (36m)
    • 1. Intro

      1:22
    • 2. Class Project

      1:36
    • 3. Hue, Value and Intensity

      6:11
    • 4. Additive Colour Theory

      3:18
    • 5. Subtractive Colour Theory

      5:04
    • 6. The Colour Wheel

      5:15
    • 7. Warm and Cool Colours

      2:49
    • 8. Complementary and Analogous Colours

      4:07
    • 9. More Colour Schemes

      4:10
    • 10. Colour Interaction: Saturation

      1:54
    • 11. Outro

      0:33
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About This Class

Hello everyone,

In this class you will learn some colour theory that you can use as inspiration when choosing your colour palettes.

This class will cover:

  • Hue, value and intensity
  • Additive Colour Theory
  • Subtractive Colour Theory
  • The Colour Wheel
  • Warm and cool Colours
  • Analogous and Complementary colours
  • Monochromatic, Split Complementary, Triadic, Tetradic and Square colour schemes
  • Saturation 

I have included a Study Guide in the Project resources that you can download which has all the information in bullet points and includes all important diagrams.

You can print this study guide and follow along whilst watching the class or use it as a refresher afterwards!

This class is suitable for beginners looking to learn about colour theory.

You do not need any previous experience to take this class.

The class project will be to create 1-4 colour palettes/schemes by using the colour theory from this class.

Please have a quick read of the Class Project description for more deails and for what materials you will need to complete the class project.

I hope that you will enjoy this class.

Happy learning!

Please follow the links below for my sources:

Hue, Value and Intensity

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Colour temperature and value

”What is Colour? Physics in Motion” on Youtube

”Understanding Colour” on Youtube

Mixing paints using the CMY colour Wheel

A little bit about the printing process

For a deep dive into the RYB and CMY colour wheels:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6ph_P8MS9g

https://www.instantprint.co.uk/printspiration/print-design-tips/what-is-cmyk

https://www.digitalcoloratlas.com/rgbcmy-color-wheel.html

I also used pages 82-89 from the book ”Graphic Design:The New Basics” by Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips.

Copyright free music used:

  1. ”Lofi hiphop raindrops full” via the Adobe Rush app
  2. Pyrosion-Day in Paris
  3. ”Lofi hiphop Wayside Full” via the Adobe Rush app
  4. Secret Crates- Springtime Stroll 
    Secret Crates Soundcloud

All sound effects are from My Instants

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Nansu Laine

Self-taught illustrator

Teacher

My name is Nansu and I'm a Finland-born digital illustrator living in London.

​I'm self-taught and draw inspiration from anime, fairytales, tattoo art and social media for my work.

​I like to mix psychedelic visuals with a healthy dose of attitude and sparkles to create ethereal illustrations with lots of detail.

​I'm known for my love of cats, tea and plants and you will seldom come across a piece without at least one of these elements.

I love art, it makes me happy, so I figured I’d spread the happiness by teaching what I love.

I really hope that you learn something valuable from my classes and that you have lots ... See full profile

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Transcripts

1. Intro: Hello everyone. My name is Nansu and I'm a self-taught digital illustrator from Finland. I'm known for my love of cats, plants, sparkles, and colors, and you will seldom come across a piece without at least one of these elements. I do mostly commission work and also illustration for print such as fliers, stickers, calendars, and t-shirts. In this lesson, you will learn about color theory. We will cover subjects such as the properties of color, additive and subtractive color mixing, the color wheel and color schemes. You don't need any previous experience to take this class, and it is suitable for beginners. I have also included a study guide in the project resources that you can download and use to follow along with the lesson or use as a refresher afterwards. The class project will be to create one to four colors schemes by using the theory that you learned from this class. But more on that in the next lesson. 2. Class Project: The project for this class will be to create 1-4 different color schemes inspired by the theory that you will learn today. You can make your own artwork, such as an illustration, this photography, or make a collage. Another alternative is that you can download one of the two coloring sheets provided in the project resources and color those in. So you can choose between one with two pallets or one with four palettes. A pallet is essentially a butterfly outline with a little box underneath where you can write a few words about why you chose those colors. Your project can be traditional or digital. Digital artists, you will need the following: you will need a tablet with an illustration program, such as Procreate or Illustrator. Traditional artists, you may need a printer, if you decide to print out the coloring sheet, and you will also need your favorite material to create art with, such as your promarkers or your camera. Please do post your finished projects in the class so that we can see your beautiful work and give you some feedback. Now, onto the next lesson, which will be talking about the three properties of color. I'll see you there. 3. Hue, Value and Intensity: In this lesson, we will cover the three properties of color, which are hue, value, and intensity. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, hue is a degree of lightness, darkness, strength, etc. of a color. A hue refers to a color family such as blue, and takes into account all variations from baby blue to navy. Hue is basically a fancy word for color. Although hue refers to a color family such as blue, it is often used to talk about the purest form of a color with no added black, white, or gray. This brings us onto the next point, which is value. Value is used to create light, shadow, texture, etc. Value is the darkness or lightness of a hue. It is the perceived brightness. It is the measurement of how much pure black or pure white is mixed into your hue. Value is the relative brightness of a color when compared with another color. If you're adding black to your hue, then it is called a shade, and if you add white to your hue, then it's called a tint. For example, a tint of red would be pink and a shade of red would be wine. If you would like to see the value of your artwork, you can convert it into black and white. Converting your artwork into black and white lets you see the value because you're taking hue completely out of the picture. Let me show you an example. Here, you can see two circles. One circle has two hues that are completely different. We've got red and green. The other circle has got one hue, which is red, but it's got a shade and a tint of red. But what about the value? Are you surprised? Because I sure was. As you can see, the red and the green are completely different in hue, but almost exact in value. Whereas the two shades of red are similar in hue but completely different in value. But what does this actually mean? To summarize, if values are close, then it will look flat. Nothing will stand out. If values contrast, then items will seem like they are separating. They will stand out more. This works both in black and white and in color. In this illustration, I made the woman stand out by making the background a similar hue and value across the entire illustration. I also made her skin tone a lighter value than the rest of the illustration, as well as making her hair a different hue from the background. I also made a different hue on her sweater. We have now covered hue and value, and next up is intensity. Intensity is the brightness or dullness of a color. You can dull the intensity of a color or hue by adding black, gray, or white to it. Saturation, also known as chroma, takes into account only adding gray and describes how pure your hue is compared to gray. If you keep adding gray, your hue will slowly neutralize to gray. Right now, I am increasing the saturation of this image, and now I am decreasing or desaturating the colors. Intensity, saturation, and chroma are often used interchangeably, and the way I separate them is by thinking of intensity as taking into account both value and saturation, making it a broader term. Saturation, also known as chroma, is a part of intensity. Those are the three properties of color. Let's move on to the summary. Hue refers to a color family such as blue and takes into account all variations from baby blue to navy. Value is the darkness or lightness of a hue. It is the perceived brightness and is the measurement of how much pure black or pure white is mixed into your hue. If you're adding black to your hue, then it is called a shade, and if you're adding white, then it is a tint. Intensity is the brightness or dullness of a color. You can dull the intensity of a hue/color by adding black, gray, or white to it. Saturation, also known as chroma, describes how pure your hue is compared to gray. If you keep adding gray to your hue, you will slowly neutralize it to gray. Saturation is a part of intensity. Intensity takes into account both value and saturation, making it a broader term. In the next lesson, we will talk about additive color theory. I'll see you in the next lesson. 4. Additive Colour Theory: What is color? To see color, we need light. Color is what our eyes see when sunlight is being reflected off an object or when an object is producing its own light. Each color is made out of a different wavelength of light; with red being the longest, and violet being the shortest. Objects that emit their own light use a process called additive color mixing. These could be objects such as television screens, computer screens, or laps. In additive color mixing, you start with black, which is the absence of light, and move towards white by adding more colors. It's called additive because you're adding brightness every time you add a color. The primary colors of light are red, blue, and green. What is a primary color? A primary color is one that cannot be mixed from any other colors, but that you can use to mix all the other colors. If you were to combine all three primary colors of light together, you would get white light. When you mix two primary colors together, you get what's called a secondary color. The secondary colors of light are the following: blue plus green equals cyan, red plus blue equals magenta, red plus green equals yellow. Tertiary colors of light are produced by mixing a primary and a secondary color of light. Some examples are red and yellow making orange; blue and magenta, making violet; and green and cyan making spring green. If you were to zoom in on the white sections of your computer screen, you would actually see that they are made out of red, blue, and green pixels and together, these three colors combine to form white light. Colors are wavelengths of light. Computer screens, television screens, and phone screens use additive color mixing to produce all the colors. Additive color mixing starts with black which is the absence of light, and moves towards white by mixing in more colors. It's called additive because you're adding all the wavelengths together, and they're all still reaching your eyes. The primary colors are red, blue, and green. Primary colors cannot be mixed from any other colors, but they can be used to mix all the other colors. The secondary colors of light are cyan, magenta, and yellow. In the next lesson, you will learn about subtractive color mixing which deals with pigments. 5. Subtractive Colour Theory: Daylight is the combination of all the colors of light. When daylight from the sun hits an object, that object will reflect the color that you can see back at you whilst absorbing and canceling all the other wavelengths. For example, these leaves are green because they are absorbing all of the color wavelengths except for green. I'm going to show you a few examples by using the primary colors of light: red, blue, and green. Here's a picture of my cat Dolly that I will be using to show you examples. The wall in the background is white, which means that this surface is reflecting all the colors back into your eyes. Dolly's far is black, which means that it is absorbing all of the color wavelengths. This section of the duvet appears red because it is absorbing all of the color wavelengths except for red. Here are a few more examples. When you see something magenta, it's because blue and red are being reflected whilst green is being absorbed. When you see something yellow, it is because green and red are being reflected whilst blue is being absorbed. When you're seeing something that is cyan, then it means that both green and blue are being reflected back whilst red is being absorbed. Subtractive color mixing works in the exact opposite way to additive color mixing. In subtractive color mixing, you start with white, which is the lack of color. Think of a white canvas and you're slowly moving towards black by adding more colors. Subtractive color mixing applies when using pigments. Pigments are substances that are used to add color to materials. This could be paint or dye, for example. It's called subtractive because you're subtracting brightness every time that you add a color, you are subtracting and filtering out more wavelengths. The primary colors of pigments is a debated topic. The traditional and conventional primary colors of pigments are red, yellow, and blue. But there has been a new set that's been introduced, which is cyan, magenta, and yellow. A little recap. The definition of a primary color is one that cannot be mixed from any other colors, but that you can use to mix all the other colors. See, this is where the traditional color primaries ran into trouble because as you can see, the CMY color primaries have blue and red as secondary colors. They have used yellow and magenta to mix red, and cyan and magenta to mix blue, which excludes them from being primary colors. But then again, I have seen videos on the net where people are mixing cyan from other colors. The way I will be looking at primary colors in this case, is just focusing on the set of three colors that you can get the most and the brightest and the clearest colors out of. I will be going more in-depth into RYB versus CMY in the next lesson. But let's do a quick summary of what we've learned in this lesson so far. When daylight from the sun hits an object, that object will reflect the color that you can see back at you whilst absorbing and canceling all the other wavelengths. In subtractive color mixing, white is the absence of color and you move towards black by mixing in more colors. It is called subtractive because you are subtracting and filtering out wavelengths each time that you add a color. The conventional color primaries for pigments are red, yellow, and blue. But there has been a new set of primaries introduced, which are cyan, magenta, and yellow. In the next lesson, we will be talking about the color wheel, as well as going deeper into CMY versus RYB. If that sounds like fun then I will see you in the next lesson. 6. The Colour Wheel: Now that we have covered primary, secondary, and tertiary colors, it is time to introduce the color wheel. A color wheel is a tool that shows the relationship between colors and helps to categorize them. On the color wheel, you can see the primary colors, the secondary colors, and even the tertiary colors. The color wheel is used by traditional artists to help with mixing colors. It is also used as a guide by both traditional and digital artists alike to create pleasing color schemes. Let's compare the CMY and the RYB, primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. The 1st thing that I noticed is how much brighter the CMY colors are. The 2nd thing I noticed is how red and blue have fallen from being primary to secondary if you're using the CMY color wheel. Purple, orange, and green have also become tertiary colors in the CMY system versus being secondary colors with RYB. What this is showing us in theory is that the CMY primaries will produce a larger gamut of colors than the RYB ones. The CMY primaries are my personal favorite because I am really drawn to vibrant and bright, quite unnatural colors. But I can imagine that the RYB colors would be a lot better for realistic work, such as a landscape portrait because the colors produced are not as bright and unnatural as the CMY colors. I have also read online that the CMY color wheel won't produce a rich black and that is, for example, why printers use CMY plus K, which stands for key, surprisingly, but is actually a black color. But more on that in just a minute. In conclusion to the whole RYB versus CMY debate, I think CMY is better for neons, whereas RYB is more suitable for earthy and more subtle colors. The one thing that I think we can all agree on is that yellow is the only true primary color. Back to talking about printers. If you've ever had to buy cartridges for a printer, then you will have noticed that they use CMY plus K, which is the black color. The black color is called a key, since it is the key plate used to align all the other three color plates. The black ink is there to create shading, whereas cyan, magenta, and yellow are there to combine to create a wide array of colors. Printers use CMYK because each color has the property of two primary colors. For example, cyan has properties of both blue and green, so they are more efficient when using subtractive color mixing. CMY are also lighter and it is easier to create darker colors by mixing two lighter ones, rather than getting lighter colors out of mixing two darker colors. A printer creates images by printing dots with these four colors. That's about all that I know about the printing process. I think that is more than enough for this lesson. Let's go through a summary of what we have learned so far. The color wheel is a tool that shows the relationship between colors and helps to categorize them. There are two color wheel primaries. They are RYB and CMY. The CMY color primaries are better for neon and vibrant colors, whereas the RYB primaries are more suitable for realistic and earthy tones. Printers use CMYK, which is cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. The black is the key plate that is used to align the other three plates. A printer uses dots and these four colors to make up an image. The black in CMYK is there to create shading. Cyan, magenta, and yellow are there to mix into all the other colors. In the next lesson, we will cover warm and cool colors. I will see you in the next lesson. 7. Warm and Cool Colours: The color wheel is divided into a cool and a warm side. On the cool side, you can see variations of blue, green, and purple. Cool colors are calming and soothing. They remind us of snow, ice, and nature, and help us relax. They are less dominant than warm colors, and will, therefore, recede when paired with them. Warm colors, such as red, orange, and yellow, remind us of fire and heat. These colors are energetic, passionate, and joyful, and can be used to convey a sense of urgency. Warm colors will stand out when combined with cool colors. With pigmented colors, such as ice blue or fiery red, it is easy to tell if they are warm or cool. But what about murky colors such as this gray? Is this a warm or a cool color? Our perception of a color can change massively when it's paired with another color. Take this gray, for example. Against the blue it looks like a warmer tone of gray, and against the red, it looks like a cooler tone of gray. This is called value or relative brightness. Perceived color temperature is completely dependent on the other colors that are surrounding it. A desaturated orange will look cool when paired next to a fiery red, but will look warm when paired next to a cold blue color. Let's move on to the summary. The color wheel is divided into a warm and a cool side. Warm colors such as red, orange, and yellow remind us of fire and heat. These colors will stand out when combined with cool colors. Cool colors, such as blue, green, and purple are calming and soothing, and will recede when paired with hot colors. Color temperature is dependent on the colors that are surrounding it. This is called value or relative brightness. In the next lesson, we will go through analogous and complementary colors. I will see you in the next lesson. 8. Complementary and Analogous Colours: You can use the color wheel to find complementary colors. Complementary colors are opposite of each other on the color wheel, and create a striking and contrasting look. In this illustration, the wall is blue. I really intended for the light coming in through the window to pop, so I chose the complementary color of blue in the CMY color wheel, which is orange. In this illustration, I made sure to make the sun pop by contrasting the pink color against a green sky. Complementary colors emit and absorb the opposite light rays, so if you were to mix them in pigments together, they would make black or almost black. Let me show you a few examples by actually mixing paints. I chose to mix purple and green. As you can see, they make a beautiful rich black when they are mixed together. But let's say that you did not want black, but you just wanted to dampen the green color, then you would just add a tiny bit of purple until you reach the shade of green that you are looking for. The next color scheme that I would like to cover is the analogous color scheme. Analogous colors are located close to each other on the color wheel and they usually come in sets of three. Analogous colors create a soft and less contrasting look, and can be used to camouflage a subject into the background. I love to use blue and purple to create cozy nighttime illustrations. In this illustration, I have used yellow, orange, red, and pink. I know analogous colors usually come in threes, but in this case, I decided to include four colors. When you are mixing two analogous colors, it will give you a color with less loss of brightness. This is because they have reflecting wavelengths in common, leaving fewer wavelengths of color to be absorbed, and in a way, deleted and canceled. But what happens if you're mixing two colors that are neither analogous nor complementary? That completely depends on your colors. If your two colors are close to being analogous, then you will lose less wavelengths, but the closer they get to being complements, the darker your mixture will be, since more wavelengths are being canceled. Let's move on to the summary. Complementary colors are located across from each other on the color wheel, and will create contrasting and striking looks. If you mix two complementary colors together, you will get black, since they cancel each other out. Analogous colors are located close to each other on the color wheel, and they will create soft and less contrasting looks. When mixing analogous colors, you will lose less wavelengths of light because they have more emitting colors in common. This leaves purer wavelengths to be canceled and absorbed. The closer two colors are to being complements, the more wavelengths they will lose when mixed. In the next lesson, we will cover more color schemes. I hope to see you there. 9. More Colour Schemes: In this lesson, we will go through a few more color schemes that you can use as inspiration for your palettes in your artwork. The first color scheme that I will cover is the monochromatic color scheme. A monochromatic color scheme uses a single hue and creates contrast and depth by using its different shades, tones, and tints. This type of color scheme forces the viewer to focus on the details of a drawing, and is therefore great for artwork where you want the viewer to pay attention to the whole scene rather than a predetermined focal point. The next color scheme that I would like to cover is the split complimentary color scheme. This color scheme is a variation of the complimentary color scheme. You take two complimentary colors and split one of them into the two colors adjacent to it. You will have a very high contrast image, but more creative freedom due to more options. A triadic color scheme takes three colors in an equilateral triangle from the color wheel. In this color scheme, you will get either too warm colors and one cool color or two cool colors and one warm color. Another fun fact is that you will get either three primary, three secondary or three tertiary colors. The triadic color scheme is vibrant and playful so you have to be careful with balancing the colors so that they do not become overwhelming. The triadic color scheme that I chose is also the CMY primary colors. A tetradic color scheme is in the shape of a rectangle and uses four colors arranged into two complimentary pairs. The colors on the short side of the rectangle are spaced one color apart. Since we are using two complimentary color pairs, the contrast can become quite overwhelming and it is best to use one dominant color and use the other three for accents. The last color scheme that I would like to mention is the square color scheme. In the square color scheme, you use four colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. The square color scheme is fun, vibrant, and playful. Just like the tetradic color scheme, it is best to focus on one main, primary color whilst accenting with the remaining three. Let's do a quick summary. A monochromatic color scheme uses a single hue and creates contrast and depth by using its different shades, tones, and tints. A split complementary color scheme is a variation of the complimentary one. You take two complimentary colors and split one of them into the two colors adjacent to it. A triadic color scheme uses three colors spaced in an equilateral triangle around the color wheel. A tetradic color scheme, also known as a rectangle color scheme, uses four colors that are arranged into two complimentary pairs. The colors that are spaced on the short side of the rectangle are located one color apart. A square color scheme uses for colors that are spaced evenly around the color wheel. In the next lesson, we will be talking about color interaction, specifically saturation. I will see you in the next lesson. 10. Colour Interaction: Saturation: Remember to leave areas in your artwork that let the viewers' eyes rest. These could be areas of white, black, or desaturated colors. If your whole drawing is made up of only saturated colors, it can become quite overwhelming. Here we have got the same illustration. But on the left, it's mostly saturated colors. Whereas, on the right, we have a mix of both saturated and desaturated colors. I find that saturated colors lose a bit of their power when they're not paired with any duller darker or lighter hues to contrast against. They will look like they're glowing when put next to darker, desaturated colors. I do this a lot in my drawings. This amazing neon, minty color is my favorite, and I use it to highlight smaller portions of my art, such as stars and moons, for example. When used for storytelling, desaturated colors convey a dull, lifeless, and sad mood. But when you're using saturated colors, they convey a vibrant and happy mood. Remember to leave areas in your artwork that lead the viewers' eyes rest. These could be areas of white, black, or desaturated colors. Desaturated colors convey a dull and sad mood, whereas saturated colors convey a vibrant and happy mood. The next lesson is going to be the outro of this class, and I hope to see you there. 11. Outro: That is it. You have reached the end of this class. I hope you had lots of fun and that you learned something new today. Please, please do post your finished class project so that we can see your beautiful work and give you some feedback. Thank you so much for joining my class, and I hope to see you in the next one.