Final Project: Film Reconstruction

I want to begin the class with a brief discussion of the [final project].

Color Theory

Color theory encompasses a multitude of definitions, concepts and design applications - enough to fill several encyclopedias. However, there are three basic categories of color theory that are logical and useful : The color wheel, color harmony, and the context of how colors are used.

The Color Wheel

A color circle, based on red, yellow and blue, is traditional in the field of art. Sir Isaac Newton developed the first circular diagram of colors in 1666. Since then, scientists and artists have studied and designed numerous variations of this concept. Differences of opinion about the validity of one format over another continue to provoke debate. In reality, any color circle or color wheel which presents a logically arranged sequence of pure hues has merit.

Three color wheels - Harris, Today, Goethe 

There are also definitions (or categories) of colors based on the color wheel. We begin with a 3-part color wheel.
Primary Secondary Tertiary Colors

Primary Colors: Red, yellow and blue
In traditional color theory (used in paint and pigments), primary colors are the 3 pigment colors that can not be mixed or formed by any combination of other colors. All other colors are derived from these 3 hues. 

Secondary Colors: Green, orange and purple
These are the colors formed by mixing the primary colors.

Tertiary Colors: Yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green & yellow-green
These are the colors formed by mixing a primary and a secondary color. That's why the hue is a two word name, such as blue-green, red-violet, and yellow-orange.

 Color Harmony

Harmony can be defined as a pleasing arrangement of parts, whether it be music, poetry, color, or even an ice cream sundae.

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. When something is not harmonious, it's either boring or chaotic. At one extreme is a visual experience that is so bland that the viewer is not engaged. The human brain will reject under-stimulating information. At the other extreme is a visual experience that is so overdone, so chaotic that the viewer can't stand to look at it. The human brain rejects what it can not organize, what it can not understand. The visual task requires that we present a logical structure. Color harmony delivers visual interest and a sense of order.

In summary, extreme unity leads to under-stimulation, extreme complexity leads to over-stimulation. Harmony is a dynamic equilibrium.

Some Formulas for Color Harmony

There are many theories for harmony. The following illustrations and descriptions present some basic formulas.

1. A color scheme based on analogous colors

ctheory leaf 

Analogous colors are any three colors which are side by side on a 12 part color wheel, such as yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange. Usually one of the three colors predominates.

2. A color scheme based on complementary colors

ctheory orchid  

Complementary colors are any two colors which are directly opposite each other, such as red and green and red-purple and yellow-green. In the illustration above, there are several variations of yellow-green in the leaves and several variations of red-purple in the orchid. These opposing colors create maximum contrast and maximum stability.

3. A color scheme based on nature

cteory nature

Nature provides a perfect departure point for color harmony. In the illustration above, red yellow and green create a harmonious design, regardless of whether this combination fits into a technical formula for color harmony.

Color Scheme Generators

  • is a very simple and straghtforward color scheme generator, and it has a pretty slammin iOS app as well! I use this all the time.
  • provides a really excellent color scheme generator. Let's check it out!
  • alows you to create a theme from an existing image. Very cool.
  • And finally, the generator Adobe would have you use,

Color Context

How color behaves in relation to other colors and shapes is a complex area of color theory. Compare the contrast effects of different color backgrounds for the same lavender square.

A washed out lavender appears more brilliant against a black background and somewhat duller against the white background. In contrast with orange, the lavender appears grayish; in contrast with blue-green, it exhibits brilliance. Notice that the lavender square appears a little larger on black than on the other background colors.

Different readings of the same color

I know this is bizarre, but that's the same dull lavender (#988ea6) across the four different backgrounds.
In the image below, the same lavender color is used as one background for a sort of dull blue. The same dull blue appears on a more saturated cyan background as well. The result appears to be two different foreground colors, but I assure you, they are the same dull blue on either side. 
Though the exact same color, the less saturated blue squares look different depending on their background. 

Observing the effects colors have on each other is the starting point for understanding the relativity of color. The relationship of values, saturations and the warmth or coolness of respective hues can cause noticeable differences in our perception of color.

Examining Color Interaction

Now that we have a basic understanding of color theory, we are going to do a few hand-on exercises that explore design elements and principles surrounding color. First we will explore the Josef Albers Homage to the Square series, wherein he experimented with basic form and color relativity. Color relativity is the concept that the same color will appear different depending on the colors it is juxtaposed with, and it permeates many aspects of 2D design. This phenomenon is also called, more generally, color interaction.
Albers explored color relativity and color interaction in many ways during his impressive career, but chief among these explorations was the Homage to the Square series, begun in 1949. He painted hundreds of these homages over a period of years, each composition featuring three or four nested square forms of solid colors.  His gameplan? To understand how colors appear differently when they overlap, and to see what kinds of emotions, movement, and meanings the juxtapositions could create.
Today we will begin exploring color interaction and relativity by using colors found in our favorite films or television episodes, and then using these found colors to build our own homages. These will be useful for finding which colors we could use in our final projects, but also how these colors interact with each other and how they should be juxtaposed.  I found some interesting colors in stills from the Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite chapter of 2001: A Space Odyssey:
Below are the interaction studies I created from the colors found in the above images: