ccolor - Produced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes.

An element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the color name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a color, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a color.

When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colors are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colors; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colors.

Colors can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed.

Some words used to describe colors are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime.

Sometimes people speak of colors when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc.

Photographers measure color temperature in degrees kelvin (K).


Examples of art especially concerned with color:


see thumbnail to rightJohannes Itten (Swiss, 1888-1967), Space Composition, I (Raum Komposition I), 1944, oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 19 3/4 inches (65.1 x 50.1 cm), Museum of Modern Art, NY. See Bauhaus and Swiss art.



see thumbnail to leftJohannes Itten (Swiss, 1888-1967), Space Composition, II (Raum Komposition II), 1944, oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 19 5/8 inches (65.1 x 49.7 cm), Museum of Modern Art, NY.




  • Color is "a phantasm of the sense."
    David Hume (1711-1776), British philosopher.

  • "The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most."
    John Ruskin (1819-1900), English art critic.

  • "Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment."
    Claude Monet (1840-1926), French Impressionist painter.

  • "Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul."
    Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), modern Russian painter, one of the first creators of pure abstraction in modern painting and founder of Der Blaue Reiter.

  • "Color has taken hold of me; no longer do I have to chase after it. I know that it has hold of me forever. That is the significance of this blessed moment. Color and I are one. I am a painter."
    Paul Klee (1879-1940), Swiss painter.

  • "Blue is the male principle, stern and spiritual. Yellow the female principle, gentle, cheerful and sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy, and always the color which must be fought and vanquished by the other two."
    Franz Marc (1880-1916), German painter of Der Blaue Reiter. In a letter to Auguste Macke.

  • "Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions."
    Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Spanish artist. "Conversation avec Picasso", in Cahiers d'Art, vol. 10, no. 10 (Paris, 1935; translated in Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Picasso: Fifty Years of His Art, 1946).

  • "Anybody who paints and sees a sky green and pastures blue ought to be sterilized."
    Adolph Hitler (1889-1945), German dictator and perpetrator of genocide, who painted as a very young man. Also see degenerate art.

  • "I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music." Joan Miró (1893-1983), Spanish Surrealist artist.

  • "I make black and white prints because I want to go back to the beginning, and because in prints black and white are absolute: these two colors express the most delicate vibration, the most profound tranquillity, and unlimited profundity."
    Shiko Munakata (1903-1975), Japanese.

  • "Artists can color the sky red because they know it's blue. Those of us who aren't artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we're stupid."
    Jules Feiffer, contemporary American cartoonist and writer.

  • A riddle:
    Q: What colors should you paint the sun and the wind?
    A: The sun rose and the wind blue!
    (Contributed by Reid Delahunt, 10 years old.)


Related Links:

  • "Chalkboard" on color theory, painting materials and techniques. With excellent text and graphics, several pages thoroughly explain various aspects of color, along with color mixing with pigments, light, and optics. Chalkboard is produced by Ralph Larmann, an art faculty member at the University of Evansville, IN.

  • The causes of color.

  • The Russian emigrant conceptual artist team Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid are responsible for the projects they titled "The Most Wanted paintings" and "The Least Wanted paintings", reflect the artists' interpretation of a professional market research survey about aesthetic preferences and taste in painting. Intending to discover what a true "people's art" would look like, the artists, with the support of the Nation Institute, hired Marttila & Kiley, Inc. to conduct the first poll. In 1994, they began the process which resulted in America's Most Wanted and America's Least Wanted paintings, which were first exhibited under the title "People's Choice." Their research resulted in data on the favorite colors of peoples of numerous countries. See conceptual art.

  • Color Theory on the Computer is an online course teaching fundamental color theory concepts through exercises and tutorials on working with color using Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements software. This course is posted on the site as created by Patricia Johnson, a computer graphics educator and consultant.

  • What's YOUR favorite color? Want to know mine?! conducts an online survey of its visitors' favorite colors, and then formulates THE ultimate color that results from its visitors' responses.

  • Color Matters. The concept of color can be approached from several disciplines: physiology, psychology, philosophy, and art. Starting points for an exploration of color. Explore how color affects appetite, vision, sexuality, energy conservation, and its relationship to architecture and interior design.

  • Color Theory Overview and Tutorial offers essays on a number of aspects of the theory of colors and the aesthetics of color combinations.

  • Basic color schemes - Introduction to Color Theory offers great information from, the maker of ColorImpact, a Windows-only software application that helps users create color schemes.

  • offers Pantone color guides and books, especially useful in incorporating the Pantone palette in graphic design.



Also see angstrom, ASTM International (American Society for Testing and Materials), bias, CMYK, colorant, colorblind, color look-up table, feather, feng shui, fluorescent colors, fugitive colors, local color, marbling, monochrome, nuance, palette, Pantone Matching System (PMS), pattern, pigment, push and pull, RGB, saturation, spectrum, stain and stain removal, texture, synesthesia, theory, ultraviolet, and value.


Coming soon (available now only in early stages of construction): articles on individual colors: magenta, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, purple, brown, white, gray, and black.






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