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  • Writer's pictureVishakha

Meaning of Different Colors in Art

Your use of color in art can make or break your entire artwork. Every color carries a different meaning in art, evoking different emotions and setting up the mood of the space. Novice artists often struggle with the correct color choice and thus get discouraged when they don’t get the desired results. In this blog, we’ll briefly discuss the relationship between color and art and also discuss the usage of different colors to enhance your results. 



What is Color in Art?

Colors, in general, are a sensation that the eyes perceive after the light waves hit an object and then bounce back to the optic nerve. The interplay of colors in art possesses the capability to immerse the viewer in a world of imagination and interpretation where the colors guide their experience of looking at an artwork.

Artists often use different colors to play with shadows, light, mood, perspective, and imagination of the spectators with their art. If you take the example of the color red, it can be used to depict love, fear, tension, and passion all depending on the shades of the same color. A deeper understanding of the different terms of color theory and the basics of the color wheel will help you understand it better. 

Important Terms of Color Theory

Color in art isn’t just about mixing and matching different colors on a palette and then transferring it to the canvas. It is the capability to understand how each color affects the outcome and how you can control it with your understanding of color theory. Before we proceed further, here are some terms that can help you get a better understanding of the theory. 

  1. Hue 

Most people often use this term interchangeably with color but it isn’t entirely accurate. Color is an umbrella term for hue, tint, and shades. Hue, on the other hand, is the dominant color family that is reflected in a color. For example, the hue in navy blue is blue and in burgundy, it’s red. 

  1. Value

The value of a color is how light or dark it is. It can be measured on a scale of black and white, where white is the highest value and black is the lowest value. Hence, to increase the value of a color, you can add more white or yellow to it, to make it lighter. Similarly, adding black or blue to a color will decrease its value and make it lighter. 

  1. Tint

When you add a portion of white to any pure color or a mixture of pure color, it is called tint. The ideal way to go is to take some white and gradually keep adding your choice of color to get a tinted version of the same color. 

  1. Shades

As opposed to tint, shades are created when you add portions of black to a color, without adding any gray or white to it. The shade is used to darken the color but the hue remains the same. For example, if you add a portion of black to your red color, it will make it darker, but the hue will still be red.

Color Wheel 



In simple terms, the color wheel is a circular presentation of different colors, illustrating the relationship between different shades. The first color wheel was developed by Sir Issac Newton with the seven colors of the rainbow, i.e. Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red also termed as VIBGYOR. Not just artists, but also fashion designers, interior decorators, and even businesses use the color wheel to create the desired psychological effects through their products and services. 

Features of a Color Wheel 

To make the best use of the color wheel, it is imperative to understand the different components that make up the wheel. 

  1. Primary colors: The three colors, red, yellow, and blue are called the primary colors. These colors can be combined among themselves or with other colors to make new shades. 

  2. Secondary colors: When two primary colors are combined to make a new color, the resulting color is secondary. These colors are mainly green (made by mixing yellow and blue), orange (made by mixing red and yellow), and purple, (made by mixing red and blue).

  3. Tertiary colors: If you mix a primary color and a secondary color to make another color, the resulting color is called a tertiary color. If you take a look at the traditional color wheel, there are six tertiary colors on it. Another quality of these colors is that none of the colors used to create a tertiary color is more dominant in the resulting color.

  4. Complementary colors: The colors that are placed opposite to each other on the color wheel are complimentary colors. When you place them opposite each other, they create a contrasting effect. Unless an artist is aiming to create a jarring effect, they often avoid overusing them. Otherwise, it is best to use a dominating color and use others as an accent to the dominant shade.

  5. Analogous color: If you choose the colors that are placed next to each other on the color wheel, then it creates a relaxing color combination to look at. Analogous colors are placed next to each other and are made up of a set of three colors. The colors share a common hue and hence match each other

  6. Warm colors: These colors are traditionally used to indicate activity and light. On the color wheel, red, yellow, and orange are the warm colors. If you want to paint sunlight, you will add more yellow to your canvas to create the effect of light. 

  7. Cool Colors: The blue, green, and purple colors are the cool colors on the wheel. When you place a cool color next to another cool color, it creates a harmonious effect. These colors are also used to create the effect of gloominess and darkness if used accordingly. 

  8. Neutral colors: White, black, gray, and shades of beige are the neutral colors. These colors form a great foundation for you to work with other brighter colors. For most artists, these colors work best when they mix them with other colors to neutralize their effects. 


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