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Spectral light

The visible frequencies of energy that humans perceive as light and colors, as in a rainbow.

Spectral color

the wave bands of solar energy that correspond to visible frequencies. From longest to shortest wave length, spectral colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet, as seen in a rainbow.

Colored pigments

A compound that is the coloring agent for apint, ink, crayons, chalk. Nonsoluble and held to surface with a resin binder.

Colored dyestuffs

Water soluable coloring matter used to make a dye bath solution

Subtractive color theory

The phenomenon in which the frequencies of light striking an object are absorbed, or 'subtracted' except for the frequencies corresponding to the colors with which the object is pigmented. the frequencies not absorbed are reflected, and we perceive them as colors.

Subtractive color mixing or optical color mixing

The phenomenon in which the frequencies of colors placed very near one another are blended. Subtractive color mixing is what enables us to perceive an almost infinite range of colors beyond the spectral colors.

Visaul acuity

An enhanced ability to see, and especially to distinguish colors

Visual deficiency

Inability to distinguish value (light and dark) of pairs of complements. Red and green, most common

Metamerism or metameric effect

A phenomenon in which colors appear different under different lighting due to the spectral energy distribution in the materials

Spectral energy distribution factors

The inherent color characteristics of an object or material due to the type and amount of dyes or pigments. This can cause the object or material to appear as different colors under different kinds of light; also describes the color of the light source.

Color theory

Theories of how color is made, what it's made of, how nature uses it, how people use it, etc.

M.E. Chevreul and his book, The principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors

French chemist who was head of dyestuffs at Gobelin Tapestry Works near Paris. Researched and published theories that were forerunners to the Standard Color wheel theory.

Standard color wheel theory or palette theory

Based on 3 primary colors, red yellow and blue, and variations based on mixing these, plus black and white. Arranged in a circle with secondary/tertiary colors between the primary ones.

Prang theory

Another name for Standard color wheel theory

Primary hues

Red, yellow, blue, as based on standard theory.

Secondary hues

Green, orange, violet, as based on standard theory.

Intermediate hues

Six hues on standard wheel produced with primary and secondary mixed together. Also know as tertiary

Monochromatic color scheme

Using one color and its varieties, plus black and white.

Analogous color scheme

Using colors next to each other on the standard wheel. Contains 3-6 adjacent colors

Complementary colors

Colors opposite on the wheel. Greatest contrast. Make each other more vivid.

Direct complement colors

Straight across

Split complements

Consists of a hue and two colors next to its opposite.

Triadic complements

3 colors equally spaced on color wheel

Double complements

2 sets of direct complements next to each other on wheel.

Tetrad complements

Variation of direct complementary scheme - four colors that are equally spaced on wheel

Alternate complements

4 color scheme - combines triad w/ direct complement of one of the hues.

Munsell theory, Albert H. Munsell and his book, Color Notation

American colorist. System based on hue, value, and chroma notation.


Another word for color.


Relative lightness/darkness of a hue according to white/black added to hue.

Normal value or natural saturation point

amount of naturally occuring white/black value in a pure hue.

Chroma or intensity

Relative brightness/intensity of a particular hue/color. Low-dull; high-bright.

Wilhelm Oswald theory and his book The Color Primer

Won Nobel Prize for chem and turned his research to color. Made a system for analyzing color based on white/black additions.

Johannes Itten and his books, The Art of Color and The Elements of Color

Colorist who taught at Bauhaus in Germany and Yale.

Josef Albers and his book Interaction of Color

Famous for studies of simultaneous and successive contrast. Experimented with the optics of color.

Color Harmony

Exists wherever colors are combines in a manner pleasing to the eye and senses.

Hue Identity

Colors can be persuaded by other colors.


addition of small amount of one hue to another, rendering the latter slighly warm or cool.

Color samples

When using small samples, you won't get the effect you will when you have a whole room that color. A sample might help, though.


A theory of harmonizing color so that combined hues are appealing for a long people of time. Based on ratios and proportions of nature.

Bold or high-contrast colors

Pure, bright, or intense colors of any hue. Often in retail design and fast-food places. Sense of hurrying is seen.

Neturalized colors

Mixed to become less pure or dulled in intensity. 4 categories.


Achieved by mixing black w/ a hue. Darker.


Hues made less pure by adding white. Pale.


Neutralized with a copmlement/contrasting color.


Lightened tones achieved by adding white. Dull/dirty. Rich and nonassertive.

The Law of Chromatic Distribution

"The more neutralized colors of the scheme are found in the largest areas, and the smaller the area, the brighter or more intense the chroma becomes" Backgrounds should use neutrals.


Families of whites, off whites, grays, blacks, and off blacks.

Whites and off-whites

Give interiors increased visual space. Cleaner looking.


Created by mixing black and white. Warm grays - welcome, invite. Cool grays - cold, uninviting.

Black and off-blacks

Sharpen and adds richness to other colors places near it. Can produce feelings of depression in some.


Produced by mixing colors on the color wheel.

Texture and materials

Catch, absorb, and reflect light. Changes colors depending on the light.

Color placement or juxtaposition

Putting colors close together will cause colors to affect each other.

Value distribution

The utilization or placement of value for a desired result.

High values

Light hues or light achromatics. Visually expand spaces.

High-key interiors

Have predominantly high value. Airy, carefree feeling occurs. Can seem romantic and less connected to the earth.


Colors at their normal value/natural saturation point. Give a sense of normality and calm. Safe, easy to live with.

Dark or low values

Shades and darker tones that close in space. Give warmth feeling.

Low-key interiors

Focus on dark/low values. Can produce a stable, anchored, ponderous, or historic effect. An intellectual or research/reading mode or even a cavelike coziness or theatrical setting.

High contrast

Light and dark values are used and give a sharp contract. Look professional and no-nonsense.

Value distribution based on nature

Placing of values in the general pattern seen in naturn. Dark colors on bottom, midtones in middle.

Color psychology

Valuable tool for designers to fulfill the needs of the users. Both physiological and cultural.

Common color associations for red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple or violet

Table 4.2; red: danger, love, wealth; orange: warmth, celebration, fame; yellow: optimism, sunshine, status, wisdom, cleanliness; green: nature, calmness, solidity, youthfulness; blue: loyalty, honesty, compassion, tentativeness; purple: imagination, royalty, depth, freshness, flowers, kindness

Color mood groups: light value, bright; light and dull; dark and dull; dark and bright

light/bright: spontaneity, happiness, spring; light/dull: calm, relaxation, summer; dark/dull: serious, profound, fall; dark/bright: jewel tones, richness, strength, winter

Afterimage or simultaneous contrast

Most evident in pairs of intense, high-chroma complementary colors of equal value placed in juxtaposition. Can cause headaches.

The color trend market

Color forecasts, fast paced society changes color preferences, technology,

Color organizations, Color Marketing Group

Choose colors and present it in the fall.

Color in residential interiors

Color is a good way to change the look without spending a lot of money. Can be made to fit individual needs.

Contract considerations

Complex. Differences between specialized needs of the users.

Medical facilities colors

Neutral and soft colors promote healing.

Hospitality facilities colors

Dictated by culture/climate. Different between lobbies and rooms. In warm climates, cool colors are used.

Office interior colors

Sophisticated in terms of equipment and furniture. Neutralized hues and complex neutrals are considered most professional.

Retail business interior colors

Objective is to entice customers to buy things.

Production plants

Light pastel reflect light that is more pleasing than stark whites. Safety is enhanced by using bold colors on dangerous parts.

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