Color Wheels and Systems / by Angela Bandurka

The Munsell Color Wheel.

The Munsell Color Wheel.

Color is such an amazing thing. It's crazy to think that it's just an effect of different lengths of the light spectrum that bounce off of objects in such a way as to make us see color.

There are a few different kinds of color wheels out there to try to help us make sense of this vast amount of information!

Munsell Color Wheel. This wheel takes color and splits it into three elements: Hue (what color is it?), Value (how dark or light is it?), and Chroma (how bright or dull is it?). It is the most widely accepted color system, and the one most of us use to determine our palettes (for example; complimentary colors are opposite on the wheel, and you can group colors based on where they fall on the wheel and know they'll always work together).

There are even 3D versions of this wheel that can help you with all three elements of color. They can be a lot of work but incredibly valuable as a learning and resource!

Quiller Color Wheel. This is a very handy, practical version of the Munsell Color Wheel that was developed by Stephen Quiller. He uses the actual names we find on the tubes of paint to reference where they fall on the color wheel. This can also help students evaluate the color temperature of different tubes of paint more easily!

CMYK

CMYK

Process Color. This four color system is what most printers use on their presses. The colors consist of CYMK: Cyan (light bright blue), Yellow, Magenta (bright pink), and Black (shortened to "K"). These colors are printed in tiny, overlapping dots or hexagons to create the appearance of a mixed color.

RGB

RGB

Additive Color. Also referred to as RGB (Red, Green, and Blue) this is the main color system when using light to create color. TVs, Computers, Movie Projectors and such all use this system. When all three colors are combined, they make white! 

These are just some of the main color wheels out there, but there are more - explore the world of color through some amazing books or online resources! And if you'd like to jump into the deep end of the pool with me, join me for a color workshop: I have an Intensive Color Theory workshop coming up in November, 2014

My Favorite books on this subject: 

  • Color, by Betty Edwards.
  • Color and Light: A Guide for the Realistic Painter, by James Gurney.
  • Color Choices: Making Color Sense Out of Color Theory, by Stephen Quiller
  • The Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, & Violet, by Joann Eckstut and Arielle Eckstut