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Color in context

From: Foundations of Color

Video: Color in context

Like a word, a color has its own properties, a kind of color meaning you might say but it's a meaning imparts the message best like a word in some kind of context. We look at a particular color, we might describe it based on its relationships to the other colors around it in an image. And because it is effected by its surroundings a color can look entirely different in a new context. Purple in one image, can look like a secondary complement green in another context.

Color in context

Like a word, a color has its own properties, a kind of color meaning you might say but it's a meaning imparts the message best like a word in some kind of context. We look at a particular color, we might describe it based on its relationships to the other colors around it in an image. And because it is effected by its surroundings a color can look entirely different in a new context. Purple in one image, can look like a secondary complement green in another context.

Check out these squares of color, one looks green, and the other looks purple, yes? If we take away the context, you can see that they are exactly the same color. That's because they are neutral colors. A blend of many other hues and a surrounding green here make the purple in the color more visible. And the surrounding purple over here, make the green in the color more visible. You might wonder why color plays tricks with our eyes and exactly what is going on here.

Color, like people, respond to their environment, and whatever is similar to its surroundings disappears for our eyes. And what is different from the surrounding colors pops out. The same color can appear more vibrant in one context versus another. Like this. Because the two vibrant colors compete with each other's vibrancies. Whereas here, the neutral tone lets the vibrant colors shout with glee. Or the same color can appear to move forward in space in one context, and recede in space in the other.

It's an illusion, of course, but creating special illusions is a part of what we as image makers and illusionists do. If I'm mixing colors, I always test them on a ground that I'm working with. Check out how different this looks against white by comparison to the ground. I also isolate a color to figure out what it looks like out of context with the window, like this. That can help if I am not seeing its properties, I need to change something in the pattern.

There is no precise formula to follow here. Observing the properties of a color and paying attention to how it functions in the context of an image is the most effective way to controlling what it can do for you. Remember that colors have a voice. And they are best heard when they contrast, in large or small ways, the voices around it.

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This video is part of

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Foundations of Color

42 video lessons · 14397 viewers

Mary Jane Begin
Author

 
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  1. 5m 20s
    1. Welcome
      1m 10s
    2. Traditional media to digital: The long and winding road of color
      3m 48s
    3. Exercise files
      22s
  2. 14m 40s
    1. Introduction: How color shapes meaning
      2m 23s
    2. Universal, cultural, and personal symbols of color
      2m 52s
    3. Concepts made clear
      4m 1s
    4. Brand identity and language
      2m 53s
    5. Sequence and pattern
      2m 31s
  3. 14m 18s
    1. What is the color wheel?
      2m 20s
    2. Primary colors, primary concerns
      3m 59s
    3. Playing with complementary colors
      3m 40s
    4. Tertiary colors: The basics of brown and gray
      4m 19s
  4. 17m 20s
    1. An overview of elements
      2m 48s
    2. Value is not a moral judgment
      2m 26s
    3. Saturation to neutralization
      3m 22s
    4. Temperature: How hot is hot?
      3m 12s
    5. Textures, marks, dashes, and dots
      2m 59s
    6. Seeing through color: Opaque, translucent, and transparent
      2m 33s
  5. 12m 25s
    1. What is contrast?
      3m 10s
    2. Creating focus: Living on the edge
      1m 15s
    3. Creating the readable image
      4m 6s
    4. Connecting contrast with content
      3m 54s
  6. 17m 29s
    1. Illuminating light
      1m 54s
    2. The effect of contrast in light
      1m 53s
    3. Value and saturation
      2m 27s
    4. On temperature
      2m 58s
    5. On complements
      2m 10s
    6. Secondary and reflected light
      3m 5s
    7. RGB vs. CMYK
      3m 2s
  7. 14m 24s
    1. An introduction to palettes
      2m 15s
    2. Limited palettes: A harmonious color palette
      2m 35s
    3. Harmony and discord
      2m 33s
    4. Unifying color grounds
      2m 40s
    5. Unifying glazes and layers
      2m 13s
    6. Charting a color family
      2m 8s
  8. 20m 25s
    1. Balance of shapes: How much is too much?
      3m 36s
    2. Weaving textural color
      2m 50s
    3. Color in context
      2m 31s
    4. Color blindness
      3m 15s
    5. Challenge: Deconstructing color
      1m 28s
    6. Solution: Demo of deconstructing color
      6m 45s
  9. 1m 3s
    1. Conclusion
      1m 3s

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