Hints, Tips & Techniques: The Terminology of Colour Theory

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Colour itself has been quite inseparable from art throughout the generations. However, since the mid 19th century, Impressionist painters and subsequent movements, have very actively utilised colour theory to progress their art.

The choice of palette and handling of colour in painting are significant subjects for the present day artist and this Hints & Tips section aims to explore the subject and help through a presentation of terminology, applications, and practical tips.
The Terminology of Colour Theory
Hue: Colour, eg. red, blue or yellow.
Chroma: The purity, saturation or intensity of a hue.
Tint: Hue mixed with white.
Shade: Hue mixed with black.
Tone: Hue mixed with Grey.
Value: The extent to which a colour reflects or absorbs light.
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The Cadmium reflects a significant amount of light to give a high value whilst Yellow Ochre absorbs more light to give a lower value.
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Undertone:  The colour of a pigment as it appears in a thin film; as opposed to its Top or Masstone straight from the tube.
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Tinting Strength:  A measure of the ability of a pigment to tint a white.
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Transparency:  The ability of the pigment to transmit light and allow previous colour layers to show, eg. a violet can be obtained by placing  a transparent red over a transparent blue, or vice versa.
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Opacity:  Opposite to transparency, eg. an opaque red will cover up any previous colour layers (N.B. Opacity in water colour is low due to thinness of film).
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Temperature:  A colloquial term used by artists to indicate the colour relative to red (warm) and blue (cold).
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Primary colour:  In paints: red, blue and yellow, or more correctly, magenta, cyan and yellow.
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Secondary colour:  A secondary colour is the result of mixing two primary colours.
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Complementary colour: The complementary of a primary colour is the combination of the two remaining primaries, e.g. in paints, blue and yellow mixed gives green, which is the complementary of red. Mixing complementaries, for example red and green, makes deep intense darks (blacks, browns and greys).
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Additive colour mixing: The mixing of coloured light is additive, secondary colours are purer, ie. away from black. This is the opposite to what happens when artists’ colours are mixed and is the reason for much of the confusion regarding colour mixing.
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Subtractive colour mixing: The mixing of pigments is subtractive, secondary colours become less pure, ie. towards black. This is the opposite to what happens when coloured light is mixed.
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