Frequently Asked Questions
are the correct primaries in the color wheel, in regards to mixing
guache paint? Is it magenta, ultramarine and primary yellow?
The correct primaries for pigment-based color are cyan, magenta and yellow.
Ultramarine is too "warm" a blue to be used as a primary color. Instead you
should purchase a phthalocyanine blue. Most paint companies now offer "primary
yellow", "primary magenta" and "primary cyan".
kind of color wheel would be best for working in motion graphics?
We are currently working on a wheel/video combination for use with motion graphics.
The problem here is that we are dealing with light, and this is difficult to
represent on a pigment-based wheel.
The same principles of color apply here (i.e. color contrast, complementary
colors, triadic relationships, etc.) as in pigment-based color, except
that when you mix colors, you will of course get a different result
with light than with pigment.
Also, when you are dealing with color for video, luminosity and
saturation become important factors, as high luminosity or saturation
tends to bleed on the TVscreen.
For finding color relationships, our new CMY wheel (which will
be available in a month or two) sounds like a good place to start.
This wheel shows all the color cords, or relationship "themes" to
use for dynamic color effects.
it matter whether the warm colors are on the left side of the color
wheel or the right side?
This is an interesting question, and one that took a bit of research to come
up with our answer.
We believe that, although there seems to be no specific rule pertaining
to this, warm colors should be on the right, for the following reasons:
In 1931, the CIE (Commission International de l'Eclairage) developed
an international standard of color by measuring the wavelengths of
The CIE "triangle" is a horseshoe shaped schematic of color wavelengths
ranging from around 400 millimicrons (blue) to around 750 millimicrons
(red). This is laid out on an x:y coordinate system. Pure colors
are arranged on the outside of the triangle, with white light in
the middle. Using this coordinate system, virtually all visible colors
can be mixed.
Green is placed at the top of the CIE triangle (being the middle
wavelength, around 520 millimicrons), moving clockwise to red on
the right, variations of magenta to violet along the bottom line,
blue on the bottom left, and cyan on the mid-left. The placement
of the colors is based on color temperature, and wavelengths.
(Interestingly, this is the color space upon which all computer
based color systems operate. RGB color is calculated from CIE Lab
color, and when RGB color is converted to CMYK for printing, it first
must be translated through the CIE color space.)
Around 1975, Gerritson improved upon the basic (subtractive) color
wheel by adding missing hues, and placing colors according to their
inherent value levels (light to dark), with yellow being on top because
it is lightest. In doing so, he essentially rotated the pure hues
of the CIE color triangle counter-clockwise to place yellow on top,
with green being passed to the left, blue at the bottom, and so forth.
Another interesting item is that red is the topmost color of the
color spectrum seen in the rainbow, and through a prism. Western
civilization traditionally reads from left to right, and it seems
to make sense that from yellow, the next most visible color in the
spectrum is red, flowing in a left-to-right fashion.
Of course, the color wheel is only a 2-dimensional representation
of the color solid, and in 3-dimensional space, the question of right
and left flies out the window, as the solid can be rotated.
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