Primary colours The three base colours from which all other colours are mixed.
Secondary colours Each of these is made by mixing two complementary colours together.
RED + YELLOW = ORANGE
BLUE + YELLOW = GREEN
RED + BLUE = PURPLE
These are the grades of colour that lie between the primary and secondary colours.
Neutral colours These are made by combining complementary colours in varying quantities.
As the quantities of each complementary colour become equal the colour created is closer to black.
Neutral colours or earth tones in natural pigments.
A chameleon showing a beautiful range of neutral colours, including black.
This image of spices in a market in Gujarat shows a range of neutral colours, burnt oranges, brick red, dull yellow and various browns.
TONE The tone or tonal value of a colour can be measured in terms of the saturation of the hue (how much pigment is present) or in terms of the degrees of tint or shade to which it subscribes.
Tints and shades If white is added to a colour or hue in gradual quantities, TINTS of various hue are created. When black is gradually added to a colour or hue, SHADES of different hue are made. Tints and shades represent different tones of a colour. They are used to create tonal range or tonal value of a colour.
This swatch chart shows the tonal range of each colour.
Two-tone green Lacoste tackies.
This picture shows high tonal contrast.There is great tonal distance between the white of the image and the balck, with no grayscale between.
High tonal contrast, some tonal range (grays) in between.
Not much difference in tone, low tonal contrast.
Similar tonal range, largely grays, little contrast.
Analogous colours These colours lie near one another on the colour wheel. They are seen as being similar to and amiable towards each other.
Warm colours and cool colours
Warm colours These are the colours in the red-violet to yellow-green range of colours. They are seen as being bright, happy, warm, sunny, cheerful colours which tend to jump to the foreground in images.
Warm colours come forward.
Cool Colours These are the colours in the indigo to green-yellow range of colours. They are seen as being cold, sad, melancholy, shaded or shadowy colours which recede into the background in images.
Cool colours recede.
Complementary colours These colours are opposite each other on the colour wheel.
Blue and orange are complementary. Each of these colours magnify the effect of the other when placed together.
Green and red work in the same way as blue and orange do to highlight each other as seen in these two blocks.
Colours in the purple and yellow ranges shine out similarly against each other.
Combining Neutrals with Primaries and Secondaries The contrast created between the ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ colours can be used to great effect to highlight and emphasise the qualities of the colours used.
Neutral or ‘dirty’ colours can be used to great effect with primary and secondary or ‘clean’ colours.
Varying degrees of neutrality make for beautifully contrasty colours.
Colour for camouflage
Chameleon: green on green
Chameleon: neutral on neutral
Red-eyed green tree frog on green leaf
The disappearing man.
The fly did not expect the presence of the spider.
Colour for warning
Poison dart frogs: highly toxic skin secretions
Chameleon in state of great agitation
Colour for appeal
Most fruits have intense jewel-like colours in order to attract creatures which may eat the fruit and spread the seed.
Flowers often have bright bold colour to attract insects, which inadvertently pollinate the flowers.
Insects are attracted to the yellow centres of these flowers.
The outer wall of this Ndebele homestead has been beautified with the use of colour.