The five senses

Color Theory Essay

Humans see and understand the world around them primarily with the help of our five senses, touching, smelling, hearing, tasting and seeing. Nearly 90 percent of the world around us is brought together by our visual reception. Imagining a world without colors is so revolting that man has accepted color to a part of his life. 'Color of all the forms of non verbal communication is the most instantaneous method of conveying messages and meanings'1. Before the aesthetics of color was even appreciated by humans there were more practical usages of color. 'An example of color's power in marketing, as consumers speed down the market aisles, their eyes rest on a package for about 0.03 seconds. In that blink of an eyelash timing, the package must rivet the observers eyes, inform the about the package contents, and more importantly, appeal to their psyches'1.

'Color is an important influence in our surroundings; it is a positive force which affects our nervous system most probably by an electrochemical reactivity'2. A normal human being with a normal eye sight can perceive all colors with the help of his visual receptor. The influence of color is felt by us due to breakdown of light by reflection or refraction into its various wavelengths falls upon our vision. Instead of somber grays we see beautiful hues. Each hue exerts its particular effect on us, the impressions produced by each specific hue is so particular that even animals and insects have their particular marked preferences.

When a color is felt by us when we are infants for the first time we formulate feelings for those colors and without doubt carry them to our adult life as well. 'Some experts believe that humans have an "ancient wisdom", that throughout evolutionary history going back to the beginning of time, we have an associative memory concerning space, forms, patterns and colors'1.

Records of eye tracking of infants indicate that red and blue are their most preferred color. Red, in particular as it improves the connection of brain neurons. Childhood memories are so involved with color that they are incredibly stamped on our psyches for ever. We may not even be aware that we are remembering the incident about the color but the memory on our minds make us respond in a positive or negative way to the color even in our adulthood.

Another important factor that has influenced our understanding of color is our cultural background and traditions and also our learned to response to color as well. 'For example, Indian believes that the color green is the one that brings great harmony. Each culture has its own unique heritage of color symbolism and each of us is a product of our early environment and so we are clients'1. With shrinking cultural differences and barriers there is a greater homogenization of color exchanges, especially as companies reach out to embrace broader markets throughout the world and old color concepts are changing and expanding.

Color through the eyes of Science

Light or electromagnetic radiation is characterized by its frequency or wavelength and its intensity. Wavelength when is in the visible spectrum (approx. 380nm to 740 nm) is known as visible light. The color of an object mainly depends on the structure and the characteristics of the eye and the brain. Although Aristotle and other ancient scientists had already written about the nature of light and many of its properties, Newton was the one that identified light as a source of color. The ability of the human eye to distinguish colors is based upon the varying sensitivity of different cells in the retina to the different wavelengths. The retina contains three types of color receptors cells, or cones. These are the ones that help the human eye to perceive color. Each cone type is different from the other.

'The reaction to color is largely (but not entirely) inborn. It is important to understand the process of seeing color in order to appreciate how complex the system we take for granted really is'. The eye just like the ear responds to signals or waves of energy. The perception of color is determined by the wavelengths which bounce back into the retina. The rods and cones of the retina respond to light and by an electrochemical process send signals to the visual centre of the brain. Visual information in the form of light energy is continuously reaching the retina and forming an image to the visual cortex which acts much like a computer and assesses retinal information and the related data stored in it and stores it in our memory.

Anchoring the Color Wheel

The color wheel is anchored by three primary colors- red, yellow and blue, which articulate an equilateral triangle within the wheel. Complimenting these colors are three secondary hues- green, violet and orange. These form a secondary, opposing equilateral triangle. This geometric color structure is further augmented by a tertiary palette of six mixed hues, derived by combining primary and secondary palettes. Together these twelve segments create a complete, graduated color wheel.

Color wheel is an important graphic tool used for creating color combinations. It visually illustrates color "temperature" - warm vs. cool- as vital components in delivering a particular colors message. Colors are perceived as warm or cool colors because of ancient and universal associations. Red, Orange, Yellow are associated with warmth of fire and sun, while blue, green and violet connect in mind's eye with the coolness of sea, foliage, sky and outer space.

Combinations of warm colors send a more energetic, outgoing, aggressive, active message that demand attention while cool colors are more restrained, reserved and calm- more contemplative than physical. But cool colors show less restraint when they are brightened: as cool become more vibrant so does their personalities.

Primary Color Scheme

Primary color schemes are simply those that combine the pure values of red, yellow and blue primaries. Red and blue are often used to balance each other out, while for logos, yellow is often used as an accent. These form the basis of the color spectrum. In theory, these can be mixed with each other to produce all the other shades.

Secondary Color Scheme

These fall on the points of a second equilateral triangle positioned opposite the primary. Also called complementary colors, they are formed by mixing equal parts of the primary colors they bisect.

The segments between the primary and secondary color segments are occupied by a range of tertiary hues created by mixing one primary and one secondary. Tertiary colors are named for the two colors used to create them, with primary being the first.

Complimentary Color Scheme

Complimentary color scheme pairs direct opposites on the color wheel. They provide effective contrast, and can be used to complete or neutralize each other. Pairing a warm color like orange with a cool color blue, for example, is an effective way of creating a balanced yet dramatic mood.

Split Complimentary Color Scheme

Split complimentary color palettes are created by combining a color with the hues on each side of its compliment. These combinations still allow high contrast, but with more subtlety than a direct complimentary combination.

Triadic Color Scheme

Triad is a set of three colors equidistant around the color wheel. This can be better known by placing an equilateral triangle in the centre of the color wheel. The end points of the triangle point towards the triad colors. In the color wheel, you can see that blue, yellow and red are triadic colors and a combination of them is quite harmonic and vibrant.

Tetrad Color Scheme

Tetrad color schemes are formed by using a square or a rectangle inside the color wheel. The end points of the square and rectangle and the various schemes are developed from it.

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