Color Theory for Everyone!




Understanding color theory will impact everyone who gets dressed in the morning, which is just about everyone. It is especially helpful for beginner artists, but is certainly not limited to artists. Many people brush off color theory as elementary concepts, but understanding the way colors interact with each other can enhance paintings, designs, photographs, outfits, etc, etc, etc. If you think you know all there is to know about color, I encourage you to read on.

This instructable serves as a crash course in color theory. In this excercise, you will learn about different colors and their relationships, hue, purity, and value, and how these all interact with each other. 

This instructable is set up as a visual learning guide. Each photograph has a caption provided that will explain a little bit at a time. The use of paint chips to demonstrate certain relationships between colors enhances the efficacy of this crash course. After clicking through the entire series of photographs, you should have a better understanding and a new found appreciation of colors.

The only way to truly learn color theory is to take a hands on approach. Visit your local hardware or paint store and pick up a large number of paint chips. You want to get a vast variety of colors. Follow along with the pictures and captions, using your own chips to make the similar combinations and observations.

This can easily be taught in a classroom setting. Have your students bring in paint chips. Perform a couple of demonstrations explaining each concept, but then let the students work on their own. The only way to truly learn is to solve these problems on your own.

Outside Resources

A color test - Find out how color blind you are and how you rank among your demographic. A fun extra credit supplement that reinforces the students knowledge of hue.

basic color combinations
  • color schemes
  • monochromatic
  • analogous
  • complementary
  • split complementary
  • triadic
  • tetradic (double complementary)

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Hands-on Learning Contest

Participated in the
Hands-on Learning Contest

Back to School Contest

Participated in the
Back to School Contest

Be the First to Share


    • CNC Contest

      CNC Contest
    • Teacher Contest

      Teacher Contest
    • Maps Challenge

      Maps Challenge

    6 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry, you have spoken only of subtractive colors, the painters serving. The TV and other screens use additive colors.

    The first system is the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) and it is used by color printers and painters.

    The second is the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) and it is usually handled in programs, HTML, etc.

    Examples (you can deduce the method following these few models):

    RGB(255,255,255) = White
    RGB(0,0,0) = Black
    RGB(255,0,0) = Red
    RGB(0,255,0) = Green
    RGB(0,0,255) = Blue
    RGB(127,127,127) = Mid gray
    RGB(200,200,200) = Light gray
    RGB(50,50,50) = Dark gray
    RGB(50,0,0) = Dark Red
    RGB(0,50,0) = Dark Green
    RGB(0,0,50) = Dark Blue
    RGB(100,255,100) = Light Grayish Green
    RGB(0,255,255) = Light Yellow

    BGCOLOR="114411" = Grayish Green
    BGCOLOR="441111" = Grayish Red
    etc, etc.

    To pass a color from one system to another there are very simple algorithms.

    On the other hand, it is not true that the only primary colors are red, yellow and blue: you can use any combination of three colors in order to generate any other color, adding black and white paint.

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, I agree. I think that this information is also very very valuable, but not necessarily as applicable to most people. CMYK are not colors that we are relating to the world. Even though the most basic printer is printing in CMYK, most people learned the rainbow when they were in grade school, and continued to relate to colors in that way. Same with RGB. I created this instructable with a goal in mind, that is, serving as a middle-high school teachers guide to a wholesome introduction of color theory.

    That being said, you have pointed out a void in my instructable, and I don't think it would be serving anybody well to totally ignore these other types of color structures.

    I am going to make a drastic formatting change, and will dip into this information as I make those changes.

    Thanks for your helpful advice!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Maybe I was a bit rough, forgive me.

    When I read "Color Theory", I thought this was an in deep explanation, because that I said what I said.

    If you add some references to additional investigations, please PM me. TV history is a good source of information, surely.

    Another solution would be to add "Basic" at first in the tittle.

    Thanks for sharing this, and for not having answered badly to me.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I don't feel that you came off too rough. I appreciate your comments.

    I have not yet made the changes, but will be doing so this week. As of right now, as I don't have a visual way to go into additive colors, I don't think I will be adding them to the instructable, but I will probably dedicate a slide to the different veins of color theory. (It's already so long!)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This might be an easier read if you broke the slideshow into individual steps. As it is, this is a LOT of scrolling and hunting for image notes. The step by step format will make it easier to add meaningful text as you explain each component in color theory.

    This is valuable information. But it's being presented in a way that few people will be able to access.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for your advice! I agree that it is a cluster. I will take your advice and do that :)