Immerse yourself in the vast world of color and strengthen your compositions with a crash course in color theory. As much a science as an art, color theory is a complex study that describes prismatic relationships and how the human eye perceives the spectrum. The foundation of color theory is the color wheel, a diagram invented by Isaac Newton that maps the colors of the rainbow to a circle. Color theory is particularly interested in the harmony of color combinations. He also identifies some colors as primary, others as secondary, and even more so as tertiary, and these identifications are used to understand spectral relationships. Find out all of this and more with the help of a color theory book. Browse our selection of the best books below.
1. Interaction of colors: 50th anniversary edition
Hailed as one of the most important color books ever written, canonical artist Josef Albers Interaction of color is an essential volume. A comprehensive course in book form, this text requires a high level of commitment and investment. Albers remains focused on his material and includes a series of exercises for readers to complete as they progress through the text.
2. Color by Betty Edwards: a course to master the art of mixing colors
This volume by Betty Edwards is an excellent introduction to color and color theory. A great choice for beginners and recreational artists alike, it covers all the information that would be presented in an advanced high school art class or an introductory college course. The book is written in clear and intelligent language and includes a variety of exercises so that the reader can gain hands-on learning experience.
3. Color Theory: An Essential Guide to Color, From Basic Principles to Practical Applications
In this guide, author Patti Mollica covers all the basics, from the properties of pigments to the psychology of color mixing. This book is less esoteric than practical, with specialist topics like how to create vivid black tones and realistic skin tones. Concise and clear, this edition is ideal for those who want to gain a basic understanding of color theory without getting lost in the weeds.
4. The Secret Lives of Color
More anecdotal than instructive, The Secret Lives of Color delves into the history of 75 shades. Check out the white that protected people from the plague and the brown that changed battle on the field. A history of science and art, this collection by Kassia St. Clair will enrich your understanding and appreciation of color.
5. A dictionary of color combinations
Sanzo Wada, the author of the six-volume work on which this book is based, was an artist, teacher and costume designer well ahead of his time. He published his original volumes in the 1930s, and his color combinations helped lay the groundwork for contemporary color research. This little book includes 348 beautifully designed and printed color combinations. Browse its pages for ideas to use in your work.