Most of us have heard about Colour Theory - be it in school or on dA or as a term thrown about by someone somewhere. But what exactly is it? And how do you use it? This is what this article is striving to explain especially in regards to photomanipulation.
The Technical Part
Thankfully, there's tons of reading material about colour theory. Starting with the wikipedia article
on the subject (which seems rather dry and boring to be honest) and ranging to tutorials written by deviants for their fellow artists. Those are the ones I'd like to recommend to you to get started in colour theory:Still too dry and technical?
Okay, let me put it this way: the use of colours in your artwork can determine its mood and atmosphere. If you do it well, it can draw in the viewer and make them see what you want them to see by putting emphasis on certain parts. Colour theory gives you a way to know in advance how certain combinations of colours will affect the mood of your image. Let me give you some examples so you can see the different effects more clearly:
Ex. 1 - Colours & Atmosphere/Mood
Blues usually have a soothing, calming effect while red is associated with danger, passion and even blood and violence. Greens are connected with hope (think about how everything looks so much better as soon the first buds come out in spring) and yellow is a very cheerful colour (possibly because it's the brightest colour we have). Purples and violets have been reserved for royalty (and the church) in the old times (because the pigment to create fabric with those colours was very expensive), while today pinks/purple/violet is considered girly while blues and greens are for the boys. Blues and greens are called cool colours (think ocean, sky), while red and yellow are warm (think fire, skin).
Take a look at the following examples and ask yourself: what does that colour have to do with the way I perceive this image?
As explained above, the overall colour of the artwork can set a mood, but not only the colour itself (say for example "blue") helps to set it, but also its value: is it very saturated? Or ist it almost grey? The more saturated the colours, the more cheerful the atmosphere becomes (well, generally at least).
Ex. 2 - Colours & Focus
Now, if you start using more than one colour, how does that affect the image's mood and atmosphere? That pretty much depends on the kinds of colours you're combining!
a) Using complimentary colours
Colours on the oposite ends of the colour wheel, like green and red, blue and orange or violet/purple and yellow have a special way of getting your attention. Put side by side they are dynamic and powerful:
b) Using harmonious colours
Colours that are from the same side of the colour wheel (especially consecutive colours on the wheel) usually feel harmonious. You can still get them to feel dynamic (as shown in the first example) if the range is wide enough:
c) Using the absence of colours
A powerful tool to emphasize something can be to put contrasts next to each other, one of these is having an image void of colours and then emphasizing the most important bit by using a strong, saturated colour:
But, but, but!But the examples above are not all that clear as you make them out to be!
I hear you say and I have to agree: some of the examples could well be put in more than one of the above categories. For example, you can of course choose a harmoneous range of colours, maybe with less saturation and then use a complimentary, but saturated colour to emphasize the main subject. The question is always: What do you want to convey?
Let's say you're in a rather depressing mood and you want to create a manip about it - would you then choose a dynamic colour range and throw in some complimentary colours because, hey, you just learned it gives great effects? No, I didn't think you would. But with the above colour theory, it may now suddenly make sense to you on more than just a subconcious level, what kinds of colours (or lack thereof) you want to choose for such a project.
So, how do I put this into practice?!
As we photomanipulators have a different setup than, say for example digital painters - what with using photographs as starting points - we also have a dfferent approach when it comes to adding/adjusting colours in our work. While it certainly doesn't hurt to go through all kinds of tutorials concerning colours and colour choice (for painters), I'll try to keep with actual photomanip tips and tricks in the selection of tutorials below:
Note that interesting and relevant tutorials can not only be found in the Resources > Tutorials > Digital Art > Photomanipultation
section, but also under Resources > Tutorials > Application Reference
> *insert-programme-of-choice* and some may even be filed under the Photography Tutorials
section, as photographers will use a number of methods to post process their images.
I just found out about colorschemedesigner.com
- it lets you choose/play with colours and their complimentaries! EDIT 2:
and some more links: www.colormatters.com/colortheory.html
~~~Thank you IreneLangholm for suggesting this as a topic! - if anyone has a suggestions as to what to write about next (I was thinking "composition" for starters) or if you want to add anything to this one, feel free to comment!