Shop Talk

An Introduction To Color Theory

Recent articles from Imprint Magazine on the history of the color wheel reminded us how rusty our color theory is so we’ve spent some time scrubbing up on our skills and gathering together some of the best resources we can find.

Goethe’s color wheel from his 1810 Theory of Colours

Getting To Grips With Color Theory

At its most basic, colour theory describes knowledge and principles that can be applied when using color in your work. Color theory is believed to date back to the 15th century so you can imagine there’s been quite a lot written on the subject. The following articles cover the basic principles as well as a few fascinating historical nuggets (check out the history of the color wheel for some lovely color charts dating back over hundreds of years). We recommend taking some time to have a browse through these articles as they contain information that should be of value to artists of all backgrounds and genres.

  1. Color Theory: Overview
  2. The Wonderful Color Wheel: Part 1
  3. The Wonderful Color Wheel: Part 2
  4. Simple, Practical Color Theory
  5. History Of The Color Wheel
  6. Color Theory For Photography
  7. The Creation Of Color In Eighteenth-Century Europe
  8. Color Theory On Wikipedia

Resources For Bookmarking And Printing

The following resources are useful for learning more about color theory, finding inspiration and making decisions about the colors you use in your work.

  1. The Color Wizard
  2. The ColorJack Sphere
  3. Color Theory Printable Quick Reference Poster
  4. Adobe Kuler
  5. Colourlovers

Exercises: Putting All That Knowledge Into Practise

It’s all very well having a good read but there’s much more to be learned from practising. And by that we don’t mean jumping straight in and applying these principles to a finished work – just playing and experimenting with color.

  1. Color Theory Exercise Referencing Patterned Fabric
  2. Watercolor Basics: Color Mixing Exercise
  3. Exploring Color In Photography
  4. Color Exercises
  5. Color Mixing Charts
  6. Color Workshops (Loads of exercises from blogger Liz Korutz)


Everything Color Circle installation by Brooke Inman

We’d be keen to hear how you work with color when it comes to your own art, design and photography. Have you studied color theory? Are there any useful exercises that helped you learn how to appy these principles? Do you begin with a particular palette in mind or make decisions as your work develops? And if you’re giving the exercises above a try, we’d love to see the results.


(Header Art by Janis Zroback)