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Colour theory books for math nerds?

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I'm at a point where, aside from my blending, I need to bring up my colour-composition skills. I have a rudimentary grasp of colour theory (complements, analogues, and so forth) which I want to improve. Right now, I can look at a high-end miniature and notice that its use of colour makes it far better than what I've painted lately, but I struggle to articulate why the colours work the way they do and am nowhere near being able to synthesize something similar myself.

 

So off I go to the library, and I pick up John Gage's Colour in Art, which is more or less a set of histories of colour from different perspectives, and Philip Ball's Bright Earth, which is a rather technical history of pigments. Both came highly recommended as "colour theory" books, and neither one is helping all that much. I'm looking for something a bit more systematic and technical, hence the thread title. I don't expect to find a Theory Of Everything Colour-Related, but I imagine there's better stuff out there than what I've found. Any suggestions?

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Blue and Yellow don't make green by Wilcox.

 

Keep in mind it's focused on artists colors.

 

One of the linch-pin points in the book is that paints use pigments vs. pure colors, so you need to pay attention to the bias of each color. That is, each color has variations that either lean towards the top (warm) of the color wheel or towards the bottom (cool) of the color wheel and you need to be aware of which it is for the purpose of mixing 'em.

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These are some 'art school' books about color theory:

 

Albers Albers

 

Edwards

 

Itten Itten Itten

 

Wong

 

I present these more as a review (warning) than a recommendation. They are the typical texts that would be on the reading list for a college level course in the subject of color theory. I have owned (and may still possess) a couple of these titles. (But I forget exactly which...sorry...it's been awhile.) My guess (based on dimming memories of whatever older editions I have) is that none of them are what you are wanting. But they are some of the big-name titles in the field.

 

Written by art professors, their approach to the subject was not exactly mathematical or technical. However, I do recommend Amazon's preview pages feature. You ought to be able to get a sense of whether one of these is the sort of book you want using that. And, here is the Amazon link to the book Michael recommended:

 

Wilcox

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Thanks for the links, folks. The Wilcox and Albers books both look like something I'll be able to use. With any luck my university library has them in the collection. ::):

 

I present these more as a review (warning) than a recommendation. They are the typical texts that would be on the reading list for a college level course in the subject of color theory. I have owned (and may still possess) a couple of these titles. (But I forget exactly which...sorry...it's been awhile.) My guess (based on dimming memories of whatever older editions I have) is that none of them are what you are wanting. But they are some of the big-name titles in the field.

 

Written by art professors, their approach to the subject was not exactly mathematical or technical.

 

I think I might've mislead you with the "math nerd" title. I'm finishing up a PhD in computer graphics, so I'm well-versed in reflectance and transmission models for light transport and all manner of different ways to quantify colour. I've even done a little paint simulation. That doesn't really help me choose colours in a more artistic setting.

 

I'm not looking for a way to derive colour palettes symbolically or anything like that. What I'm hoping to find is something that breaks down different principles (say, the interaction of complementary colours) and shows the effects that can be achieved. ("In Plate 26, Renoir used such-and-such colours in such-and-such a context to achieve such-and such effect. On the other hand, in Plate 27, Monet used the same colours to achive such-and-such completely different effect, using them in a different overall context.")

 

Sorry if I'm being vague; part of the problem is that I don't really know what I want, though I assume I'll recognize it when I see it.

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I'm not looking for a way to derive colour palettes symbolically or anything like that. What I'm hoping to find is something that breaks down different principles (say, the interaction of complementary colours) and shows the effects that can be achieved. ("In Plate 26, Renoir used such-and-such colours in such-and-such a context to achieve such-and such effect. On the other hand, in Plate 27, Monet used the same colours to achive such-and-such completely different effect, using them in a different overall context.")

 

Sorry if I'm being vague; part of the problem is that I don't really know what I want, though I assume I'll recognize it when I see it.

 

I don't know that there's one book that gives the sort of advice you're looking for... There are many books explaining color theory, and some do a better job than others.

 

Personally I like Color and How to Use it because it follows the KISS principal. Clear explanation of the theory of color, including the elements, color wheel combinations (complimentary, triad, etc.), and some simple methods to follow to get good color mixes without losing color intensity. Powell emphasizes value quite a bit (very important for any art) and I like that he shows real-world mixing between shades so you see the range achievable by mixing certain paints.

 

The demos do a good job of showing how different colors can work together, even when using cool/warm tones in the same painting. I'd say the only down-sides are the style is a bit dated (think Bob Ross) and he mixes primarily in artist's oil paints. Art paints all have standardized names, which makes it easy for a painter to know what Alizarin Crimson is, but not so easy for mini-painters who get equivalent colors like Ral Partha's "Blood Red" for example. You'll have to eye-ball the mix charts or use something like this to find the mini company equivalent.

 

If you're looking for colors that work well together, there's dozens of "design" books on canned color schemes for graphic artists and interior designers. As well as some good online tools to help pull together a cohesive color scheme. Here's an incredible one, which lets you get pretty detailed about the results (control saturation, contrast) and even get a break down of the colors in hex. It's aimed at web designers but the principles are the same.

 

If you want tricks and tips specific to minis, you're better off trolling the forums here or reading the web pages of top painters. For example, adding contrasting color to your shadow tones helps make the main color appear to pop more. So if you paint a yellow shirt, for instance, adding a small bit of purple into the shades of the folds makes the whole shirt have a color contrast. Hence makes it pop to the eye.

 

Likewise, making your colors work together may be as simple as desaturating them all (i.e. adding grey to give all the colors a common "base" hue.) This is why you sometimes see minis bordering on pastel - by tinting with white you desaturate all the colors equally. This makes even color complimentaries appear less contrasting. Some painters like to mix a tiny bit of the fleshtone shade they use into all the paints to get a similar effect - each area has a subconsciously-perceivable underlying tone. Sort of the like the old masters used to do with a toned ground over which they painted with translucent oils.

 

Etc. Etc. :poke:

 

Later,

Laszlo

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I don't know that there's one book that gives the sort of advice you're looking for... There are many books explaining color theory, and some do a better job than others.

You mean I'll have to buy more than one book? Oh noz! ::D:

 

Personally I like Color and How to Use it because it follows the KISS principal. Clear explanation of the theory of color, including the elements, color wheel combinations (complimentary, triad, etc.), and some simple methods to follow to get good color mixes without losing color intensity. Powell emphasizes value quite a bit (very important for any art) and I like that he shows real-world mixing between shades so you see the range achievable by mixing certain paints.

Looks good, thanks. Between the three posts in this thread that aren't mine, I should have a good shot at finding something useful in the library.

 

Likewise, making your colors work together may be as simple as desaturating them all (i.e. adding grey to give all the colors a common "base" hue.) This is why you sometimes see minis bordering on pastel - by tinting with white you desaturate all the colors equally. This makes even color complimentaries appear less contrasting. Some painters like to mix a tiny bit of the fleshtone shade they use into all the paints to get a similar effect - each area has a subconsciously-perceivable underlying tone. Sort of the like the old masters used to do with a toned ground over which they painted with translucent oils.

That's rather clever. Thanks!

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I own the book Color Theory by Jose Parramon. I got it out of the library, and found it so incredibly good that I got my own copy. I highly recommend it.

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I managed to find the Albers and Edwards books at my university library. So far I've flipped through Edwards and found it less annoying than the presentation would suggest, but Albers seems like exactly what I thought I was looking for. Thanks for the help, folks!

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You should look for the Parramon book, too. It was perfect for me, and I'm a comp sci geek myself.

I'll keep an eye out for it next time I go to an art shop -- Amazon's preview makes it look pretty amazing. Sadly, my library catalogue doesn't think it exists, or I'd be paging through it by now.

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