Theory Week Four – What is Colour?


As a photographer I haven’t been as aware of colour theory as I should have! I have always worked in an intuitive way to create harmonious images, and sets of images:

‘In visual experiences, harmony is something that is pleasing to the eye. It engages the viewer and it creates an inner sense of order, a balance in the visual experience.’ (Color Matters)

The colour wheel

  • Primary colours – red, yellow and blue
  • Secondary colours – achieved by mixing two primary colours in the correct proportions – orange, green and violet
  • Tertiary colours – achieved by mixing a primary and a secondary colour in the correct proportions – red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.

Hue essentially means colour, saturation refers to the colour’s intensity, and tonal value refers to how black or white the colour is. A shade of a colour is achieved by adding black and a tint of a colour is produced by adding white.

Colour Relationships

I made some concept boards exploring colour relationships:  









Complementary colours on the colour wheel are opposite each other, so blue and orange, yellow and purple and green and red are complementary.  It is considered good practice to break up these colours with, for example, white.

Analagous colours are next to each other on the colour wheel, so for example oranges are analogous to yellows and reds. Monochromatic is a set of the same colour in different shades, tints and tones (achieved by adding black, white or grey), and split complementary refers to three colours: a principal colour and the two colours either side of its complementary colour.  

As well as creating colour concept boards were asked to paint a colour wheel: 



Color Matters. (Unknown). Basic Color Theory. Retrieved from



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