Monthly Archives: February 2014

Color Psychology


Color psychology is the study of color as a determining factor of human behavior. Some examples of various color significances and impressions are listed below:

Significances & Impressions

Assignment One

Using Color-Aid Paper, answer six different personal questions involving the psychological responses to hues, shades and tints based on ordinary color experiences.

Assignment Questions

DiscoveryColor Answers

I began this project by choosing the colors that I thought answered each question starting with the color that would represent me. I chose a deep, dark purple for a couple of reasons: first, purple has always been my favorite color; second, purple is a royal, strong, bold color that signifies authority, influence and complexity. I grew up in a stereotypical “boys should like green, blue and red; girls should like yellow, pink and violet” type society, so I instantly wanted to be different and I picked purple. I’ve loved the richness and strength of not only the color but the decision to be diverse.

Wearable ColorsThe colors I like to wear were chosen basically based on clothes I wear to work. As a white-collar worker in Information Technology, I dress casually but in professional attire. Unwearable ColorsBlack and tan slacks along with red and blue shirts are common, along with black shirts and blue slacks. Other colors are obviously common but we were limited to four. Conversely, colors I do not like to wear include yellows, peach hues, dark greens and plum shades.

House Colors I chose the colors I’d like to see in my house by starting with a couple colors with which I have already decorated my home:  dusty-rose and moss-green. To compliment these light and unsaturated choices, I added a light violet and sky blue.

Video ColorsFor the music video colors, I chose bold and bright yellows and oranges balanced with dark and solid greens and blues. The feeling I experienced from this combination of hues reminded me of many of the music videos of the 1980’s, when the extreme, loud styles clashed with the realistic colors in nature.

Shopping ColorsI chose some interesting colors based on the challenge of finding three hues that might make me want to shop. Normally, bold, bright primary colors have this effect but I chose an analogous combination of green, blue and teal that indicate expensive, sophisticated purchasing; not that I could actually afford to go through with such an acquisition.

Bristol BoardI started each board by cutting a piece of Bristol board to the desired dimensions needed to display each set of color selections. To include a one inch border on each design, I measured the single color board to a 4”x4” square. I spacedPersonal Color the four and three color swatches by ¼” so the four-color version measured 10 ¾”x 4” and the three-color version measured 8 ½”x4”. Each board was measured and marked for each swatch placement, as well.

Rubber cement was utilized to affix each color sample to its background and then a rubber cement eraser was used to clean excess glue from the Bristol board and a kneaded eraser was used to clean the guidelines from each background.













Assignment Two

Color symbolism comes from the cultures in which we live. Certain colors and color combinations are associated with other cultures or places. Color is symbolic and can affect the way a viewer perceives a design or work of art.

Design a creative travel poster of your choice with color selections that reflect the place being advertised. Use Gouache or acrylic paints.  Develop a color scheme that employs symbolic colors; choose colors for the type and background with good value and interesting contrast. Start by researching the country, place or tourist attractions. Consider the appearance you want to project and use images that reflect the culture and history of the place you want to showcase. Demonstrate an ability to choose colors based on their symbolism and psychology.


Obviously, the first task was to decide upon a destination my poster was going to portray. I started this process by randomly researching several famous landmarks, monuments and memorials. I included each subject’s geographical location and national flag.

Monumental Research

This chore alone didn’t narrow down my decision; on the contrary, it expanded the possibilities exponentially.  I first examined each country’s flag for color inspiration. Brazil, Egypt and India were all promising, each containing four different hues. Italy, China and Japan utilized interesting colors; although, China and Japan were limited to two colors which reduced the base color palette. The United Kingdom, France, Russia, Australia and Chile all contained the same colors as the United States, which, while absolutely wonderful, I wanted to avoid for this project.

To further narrow my results, I created silhouettes of each monument I had studied as a muse for the final design.

Leaning Tower of Pisa Cristo RedentorBig Ben

Taj MahalTorii of Itsukushima Shrine

Eiffel TowerGiza Necropolis

ColiseumGreat Sphinx of GizaStonehengeGreat Wall of ChinaForbidden CitySt. Basil's Cathedral                Sydney Opera HouseMoai

The Torii of Itsukushima Shrine stood out as the most dramatic visual image and lent itself to many immediate design potentials. A close runner-up was the Cristo Redentor   in Rio de Janeiro. After investigating the histories and significances of each monument, I returned to my original choice and moved forward with The Torii.

Additional Design Elements

Starting with the simple silhouette of The Torii, I added the “sun” of the Nisshōki, Japan’s national flag. I then included a gradient background from a watery blue at the base of the image to a light yellow in the upper half of the composition. Lastly, a branch of light pink cherry blossoms were added to the lower, right hand corner of the piece.

Torii SilhouetteAdd Hinomaru Add BackgroundAdd Cherry Blossoms

The red circle from the Nisshōki signifies sincerity, brightness and warmth while simultaneously indicating bravery, strength and valor. While the white on the flag represents purity and honesty, I chose to utilize blue and yellow for two reasons: first, the blue in the bottom half of the design abstractly eluded to the water that the Torii is surrounded by at every high tide while the yellow in the upper half of the design symbolizes the morning sky in which the rising sun, or Hinomaru, of the Nisshōki perpetually resides.

The addition of the cherry blossoms represents the fragility and the beauty of life. To the Japanese it’s a reminder that life is overwhelmingly beautiful but also tragically short. Furthermore, a fallen cherry blossom symbolizes a fallen samurai who sacrificed his life for the emperor. In 1912, Japan gave 3,020 cherry-blossom trees to the United States as a gift to honor the growing bond between the two countries. The pink hue of the cherry blossoms symbolizes good health and life as well as purity and love.

I chose not to incorporate any text to my poster. I let my images and color choices speak for themselves.


I utilized 18”x24” Illustration Board for this project. I added a two inch border with a soft pencil and taped off the border with masking tape to ensure crisp lines would be produced after painting.

Illustration BoardTaped Border

I began painting the background first, starting with the blue bottom half of the design. I spread a pure blue layer followed by two lighter blues created by adding white incrementally. Next, I added a pure yellow background to the other half of the composition. I incorporated a layer of light yellow by adding white and then mixed up a third layer of yellow-orange as a top coat.

Blue BackgroundLayer 2 & 3
Yellow Background
Layer 2Layer 3

Red Disc The next element to add was Hinomaru, the rising sun. Slightly off-center, the red disc was placed in the upper left-hand side of the composition.

For the next two elements, I traced positive and negative images of the Torii silhouette and the cherry blossoms, respectively.

Torii Template
Positive & Negative Trace
Torii TraceTorii Transferred

Torii Painted

Once the Torii was transferred to the painting, it was painted with Mars Black acrylic paint and the same process was performed on the cherry blossom branch.

Cherry Blossom Template

Detailed Transfer

One hint, when transferring a detailed design, is to shade finished sections lightly as you trace. This ensures all the potions of the transfer are completed.

The cherry blossoms were painted with a pink and pink-white mixture to produce varied tints and shades, mostly within the branches and flowers with the branches containing more shade and the flowers containing more tinted hues.

Cherry Blossoms Transfer Cherry Blossoms Transferred

The branch was extended into the border and off the composition completely while a few fallen petals were dropped into the border but not off the design. This last compositional choice symbolizes the start of life from the branch entering the image from the right side of the piece and represents the end of life by the fallen petals; however, the petals have not completely left the design just as our loved ones never leave our thoughts and memories. Between the two events lies the beauty of life, with some petals grouped together and some alone and fending for themselves, but all part of a bigger picture, a more important design.

Torii of the Itsukushima Shrine
Torii of the Itsukushima Shrine

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Color Relativity


The Color Relativity projects are based on Josef Albers’ color theory exercises and are designed to demonstrate the phenomenology of color and investigate the interaction of color.

Using the color theories of value, subtraction and complementary (simultaneous) contrast, resolve the following problems with Color-Aid paper mounted on Bristol board.Exercise Format

  1. Make one color appear as two.
  2. Make one color appear as the opposite ground.
  3. Make two colors appear as one.


Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. The more white you add to a color or hue, the lighter the value. When you add white to lighten a color, it is called a tint. The more black you add to a color, the darker the value. When you add black to a color to darken it, the resultant color is then called a shade. If you add gray to a color, it results in a tone.

A subtractive color model explains the mixing of a limited set of colorants to create a wider range of colors, each the result of partially or completely subtracting (absorbing) some wavelengths of light and not others. The color that a surface displays depends on which parts of the visible spectrum are not absorbed and therefore remain visible.

Simultaneous contrast is the tendency of a color to induce its opposite in hue, value and intensity upon an adjacent color and be mutually affected in return.

Cutting Bristol BoardExercise One

The objective of this experiment is to have one foreground color look like two different colors by placing it on two different backgrounds.

I began this project by cutting Bristol board to size, specifically 5 ½”x7”, with an X-acto knife and a ruler on a self-healing mat.

After testing several color combinations, I settled on a dark blue background and a light yellow background with an orange foreground. The Color-Aid paper I utilized was 2”x3” and I extracted two 1” squares for the foreground. The next step was to simply attach each background to its Bristol board counterpart and, in turn, fasten each foreground color to the appropriate background. To ensure I centered each piece correctly, I measured and marked every component, either by cross-hairs or guideline marks.

Color TestingAttaching BackgroundsCentering Foregrounds

The final result creates the illusion of the square on top of the yellow background being slightly darker than its natural hue and the square on top of the blue background seems slightly lighter than its natural hue.


Exercise Two

Hue ExperimentsThe objective of this experiment is to have one foreground color look like its opposite background color of two different backgrounds.

This project was actually the most challenging and I skipped to exercise three and came back to this one after giving my eyes a chance to recuperate. The difficult part of this task was solving the problem of making three colors seem as only two, with the foreground of study one mimicking the background of study two and vice versa. While the backgrounds are different, the foreground of each is the same hue.

Measured & MarkedIt took quite a while to experiment with many colors, shades and tints before I found an acceptable series of peach swatches that accomplished my desired effect. By placing the two background hues beside each other with the third color crossing both and then breaking the connection with a piece of white paper, I could visualize the result: the figure in study one mimicked the ground in study two and the figure in study two mimicked the ground in study one. Happy with my choice, I measured and marked my Bristol board to apply the background pieces and then marked the dimensions of the foreground squares.

 Backgrounds Center Marks Foregrounds

While similar to exercise one, where one color darkened on a light background and lightened on a dark background, exercise two also added the transformation influence to complicate the illusion.


Exercise Three


Blue Swatches

The objective of this experiment is to have two different foreground colors on two different backgrounds appear as the same color.

I began this project by selecting two different blue swatches that I wanted to appear as the same color. To accomplish this task, I experimented with several different backgrounds and settled on two different shades of green: one a light, yellow-green to offset the darker blue and the other a darker moss-green to enhance the light blue. Again, I affixed the background pieces first, painstakingly measuring and gluing with rubber cement. After each piece dried, I cleaned the edges with a rubber cement eraser to ensure a clean presentation.

Shades of GreenCementing BackgroundsAffixing Foregrounds

The final result creates the illusion of both squares being the same hue while, in reality, they are actually different colors displayed on different backgrounds and simply appear to be the same.


One additional project was added to Albers’ three original exercises: a value demonstration in a series of four ground hues with one identical figure color on each.

Exercise Four

Custom Bristol BoardThis experiment demonstrates the value change a single color displays while being placed upon different backgrounds of varying hues, shades and tints.

To begin, I needed to cut a custom piece of Bristol board to encompass four ground samples but this time they would be separated by some white space. To ensure my piece was consistent and professionally displayed, I planned the placement of each 2”x3” swatch ¼” apart with a 1 ¼” boarder. With these internal dimensions decided, the Bristol board itself would measure 5 ½”x11 ¼”.

GuidelinesSmall tick-marks and light guidelines were added to the prepared Bristol board to ensure proper placement of each value display. Before permanently affixing each ground and figure, I visualized the order of hues by placing each on the Bristol board: starting with the darkest hue and shade and moving left to right until reaching the lightest hue and tint. I choose a dark green, royal purple, primary orange and a light gray as my backgrounds and a light yellow as the foreground color that would be displayed as each figure.

Visualizing HuesAttaching Backgrounds

Next, each ground was attached to the Bristol board with rubber cement and the center of each was measured and marked to prepare for the figures. A rubber cement eraser was utilized to clean up any extra glue and the four figure squares were measured and cut for placement.

The final result creates the illusion of each square changing in value as it is viewed on different backgrounds thus demonstrating the relationship between figure and ground from a color theory perspective.


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Analogous Designs

Warm Vs. Cool


The analogous project’s intent is to demonstrate the differing impressions that cool and warm colors can have upon an identical design.

Analogous Colors


  • Analogous colors are groups of colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel, with one being the dominant color – which tends to be a primary or secondary color – and two on either side complementing – which tend to be tertiary.
  • Warm colors are often said to be hues from red through yellow, browns and tans included.
  • Cool colors are often said to be the hues from blue-green through blue-violet, most grays included.

Kitchen CompositionPreparation

I chose to recreate a design I had previously used while experimenting with simple black and white values: an abstractly, modest kitchen composition with exaggerated highlights and shadows.

The first step was to transfer the positive image to tracing paper and then copy the negative image on the opposite side of the tracing paper with a soft pencil. Once the tracing paper was ready, the image could be transferred to two different pieces of Bristol board: one for a cool composition and the other reserved for a warm version.

 Positive TraceNegative Trace


Warm Composition

My warm analogous design consisted of a yellow to red color palette where yellow appropriately represented the highlights and red signified the shadows. Between these two primary colors I utilized several tertiary colors including two versions of yellow-orange and two types of red-orange.

 Warm Composition

I was informed that my warm composition gave an impression that it had been developed with watercolors as opposed to the gouache paints I utilized; so, during the cool composition I attempted a thicker application.

Cool Composition

My cool analogous design consisted of a violet to green color scheme with green indicting the highlights and violet suggesting the shadows. Sandwiched between these two secondary colors I incorporated several tertiary colors including two forms of blue-violet and two variations of blue-green.

In both designs I added two colors at a time and then touched-up highlight and shadow areas after the composition was completely dry.

Colors 1 & 2Colors 3 & 4Colors 5 & 6


The results of my thicker application of paint were not pleasing to me personally but I did learn something, or perhaps realized something I already knew: art is created for the artist; if others appreciate the outcome, then that’s simply an added bonus. A second lesson learned was that the media is not important and neither is the ability of a viewer to recognize the media utilized. The work is the significant feature, not what created it or if an external party can identify the process employed. When technique becomes more important than the creative process or the piece itself, you’ve successfully destroyed the spirit of art.

Cool Composition

The last touch was to add the lettering to each design. I chose to utilize the lightest color for each: for the warm design, yellow; for the cool design, green.

Final Compositions

Warm Kitchen
Warm Kitchen


 Cool Kitchen
Cool Kitchen

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