The Color Wheel

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by acparsons, May 26, 2020.

  1. acparsons

    acparsons Photo Hunter Supporting Member

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    Hello All,

    I'm trying to explain how to use the Color Wheel when composing/taking a photo. What approach do you take when using the color wheel when taking photos on a photo walk?


     
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  2. dunfly

    dunfly No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    First you need to understand color theory and how the color wheel works. There are tutorials on color theory. Once you get this and can visualize the color wheel you can figure out how different colors relate to one another and how to combine them. I use kuler.adobe.com but it is more useful in painting and post production. In the field you have to deal with the colors in front of you, but knowing color theory, like any composition theory ,helps you recognize good combinations and how they are likely to affect the viewer of the photo.
     
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  3. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    I have a well worn one on my desk, but I don't carry it with me. As Dunfly says above you need to understand the theory behind it. Once you do, you'll be able to recognize the combinations without the aid.

    What you see on the outer rim of the Color Wheel, are "Hues", not colors. "Hues" are one dimensional defined by their wavelength in the visible spectrum. "Colors" are three dimensional and contain "Hue", Value, and Chroma. On the outside rim there's only three primary "Hues" - red, yellow and blue (these cannot be obtained by mixing any other). All the other Hues are a mixture of these three primaries. Some refer to this outer ring as the parent Hues, and those in between the primaries as Hue family of a primary. Once you move inward on the wheel you encounter Tints (Hue + white), Tones (Hue + gray), and Shades (Hue + black)

    Color schemes are combinations that compliment each other, pleasing to the eye. Once you learn the parent Hues and their families, it's relatively easy to pick the Complimentary (the one directly opposite your pick). From there the split complimentary is the pick plus the color on each side of the Complimentary. The Triad is a triangle of three Hues equally spaced around the wheel. If you set one of the points to a primary, the other two points automatically line up on the other two primaries. The Tetrad is a rectangle of four or more on the wheel. Interesting to note is that if you set one corner of the rectangle on a primary the other point of the long side will lead directly to the adjacent primary. Follow the short sides and you'll find they equally split the Hue family on either side of the remaining primary.
     
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  4. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    In addition to the above, another bit of color theory is that the warm Hues family (Red, Yellow) advance, while cool hues family (Blue) recedes. If you where to put a Green ball in the middle of a Red background it will appear to sink in, but put a Red ball on a Green background it will pop out. If you'll note the Compliment of any warm Hue includes one or more cool Hues, be it Complimentary, Split, Triad, and Tetrad.

    I didn't mention above but there's another scheme, Analogous (3 Hues side by side). I so rarely use it, that forget about it.
     
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  5. calmwater

    calmwater TPF Noob!

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    I beg to differ with smoke. I believe that the primary colors are Red, Blue, and Green. I have always believed this. Red, blue, and YELLOW are primary colors for pigment.(painters/artist) I know some artists. Red, blue, and GREEN are for light.(photographers) Image attached. I made this diagram many years ago and have used it constantly. Now, I could be wrong but I don't think so.

    IMG_20200527_0004.jpg
     
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  6. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Additive versus subtractive color is, I think, where differences in the fundamentals of color theory arise. Paint and light do not behave the same way when combined/mixed.
     
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  7. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    @calmwater By the definition (I was taught) a primary color is one that cannot be be created in pure form by mixing any other hues. Green can be created in its pure form by mixing equal parts of blue and yellow and is therefore not a primary by this definition. The OP specifically referred to the color wheel, which uses primary hues, as do the associated color schemes I discussed above. When you look at pure Red, Blue, Yellow or any of the associated family of hues, you are viewing the light reflected off them. As such this is considered "subtractive", meaning that when the white light containing the full spectrum strikes the color certain wavelengths are absorbed and others are reflected. That reflected light you see is the color. CMYK used in printing is also considered "subtractive", but after 10 years in that field, 2 yrs running a full color press as an apprentice to an overbearing master, and 8 years owning a publishing company, I swore not to go there again.:allteeth:

    What you see on your computer screen, tablet, phone, etc., is not reflected light, it is projected light generated by the pixels in your screen. I'm no computer guru, but my simple understanding is that each pixel on a computer screen is composed of three small dots of compounds called phosphors surrounded by a black mask. The phosphors emit light when struck by the electron beams produced by the electron guns at the rear of the tube. The three separate phosphors produce red, green, and blue light, respectively, or RGB. This type of color is considered "additive", meaning that by varying the amount of light emitted by each phosphorus dot they are adding different amounts of the three colors together to create a projected light beam which the eye views as a color.

    RGB was chosen as the color system on digital (as it was in color film) to use because it most closely resembles the workings of the human eye viewing it. The eye contains an array of of light sensing cells called cones and rods, with the cones being the ones that detect color. Those cones come in three varieties, red-detecting, green-detecting, and blue-detecting, hence the RGB format made the most sense.

    Since the advent of CMYK and then later digital, there's been a disagreement between camps as to what comprises a primary color. If you follow the purest definition I used above then it's RBY, but the reality is that primaries can be whatever you want so long as they can produce "enough" of the other colors. Consider for a moment that using a primary palette of RBY you can literally produce an unlimited amount of colors, RGB on the other hand is limited to 167,777,216 (256*256*256). However, the human eye can supposedly only see 7,000,000 separate and distinct colors, so RGB far exceeds the capability of our vision anyhow. As for me, I don't like loose ends, it is or it isn't, so I lean toward the purest definition as a starting point. Especially, when dealing with color theory and the associated schemes, as unless the primaries are equally spaced around the circle none of the schemes work. Old Isaac Newton was a pretty smart fellow.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2020
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  8. JBPhotog

    JBPhotog No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For the purposes of photography, and that specificity is quite important, the primary colours are RGB. If one casts a wider net into 4 colour press work or paints then the issue is more diverse as are the options on primary colours due to the additive and subtractive natures. My suspicion is the OP was referring to additive as it relates to photography.
     
  9. jcdeboever

    jcdeboever TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    I keep it simple. Opposite of said color.
     
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  10. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Possibly, however he refrences "color wheel" and "composing" which have more to do with art and the color harmony/schemes associated with same. I've seen a couple of attempts to match up the schemes with a color wheel modified with RGB equally spaced. Having blue-green be the compliment of red is not pleasing to my eye, nor or the other strange combos it generates, and regardless of if you are composing a painting or a photograph, the whole idea behind color theory is to produce a color scheme that's pleasing to the eye.
     
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  11. JBPhotog

    JBPhotog No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    It may be that the OP is unaware of the different categories of "primary colours" and their intended purpose, thus their version of the colour wheel is destined for the photography approach. However, the human eyes colour receptors are Red, Green and Blue and thus camera sensors, televisions, computer displays etc. contain an RGB array to display colour which is consistent to how our eyes perceive the world.
     
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  12. acparsons

    acparsons Photo Hunter Supporting Member

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    Hello All,

    Thank you for your input, it is appreciated.
     

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