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Creating the readable image

From: Foundations of Color

Video: Creating the readable image

Human beings pay attention to visual contrast, and are drawn to it. So it's essential to learn how to use it to draw a viewer into an invented world. Hierarchy in an image is the order of priority for the viewer's focus. Establishing a hierarchy of contrast in value, vibrancy, Temperature, texture, shape, and complementary relationships will provide a guide for the viewer to move around an image. If you can nudge someone to read your image in a particular way, then you have the power to keep them looking and perceiving longer.

Creating the readable image

Human beings pay attention to visual contrast, and are drawn to it. So it's essential to learn how to use it to draw a viewer into an invented world. Hierarchy in an image is the order of priority for the viewer's focus. Establishing a hierarchy of contrast in value, vibrancy, Temperature, texture, shape, and complementary relationships will provide a guide for the viewer to move around an image. If you can nudge someone to read your image in a particular way, then you have the power to keep them looking and perceiving longer.

Establishing a focal point or area of highest contrast is the first order of business. So let's look at the focal points, by examining where the eye travels through a Dutch masterpiece. Here's Vermeer's very famous Girl with a Pearl Earring. As we look at the painting, we can see that it has nice variation of values making it, let's say, easy on the eyes. We can track the value system because there is one, remembering that value is a relative lightness or darkness of a color.

Where is the focal point for you? How are you reading this image? I'll show you the path that my eyes follow. In this case, it seems clear that Vermeer wanted us to look first at the eyes and down the contour of the face, then, on the t of the collar and down the shoulder. He used the illusion of light to acheive a hiarchey of values. Now, let's consider adding vibrancy to the mix. Vibrancy is the relative brightness or saturation of a color.

What we see is the vibrancy of color, pulls our attention still to the areas of high value contrast, but a slightly different trajectory, with more focus on the red of the lips and the darkness of the eyes. We tend to move around the whole face, because our eyes are shifting between two places, not simply focused on a singular point of interest. The turban plays a more active role in getting us to the face. The value contrast works with the contrast of vibrancy and hierarchy of vibrancy to direct our eyes Vermeer wanted us to look.

Instead of bouncing between the eyes and the shoulder, when seen only in value, we're tending to move a bit more around the form as a result of the contrast of vibrancy. And the contrast of value together. Just for fun, let's add another potential area of contrast, that of temperature. Temperature is the warmth or relative coolness of a color. Contrasting hot against cool can create a hierarchy of contrast and a clear focal point in an imgae. Let's look at one of my favorite golden age illustrators, Maxfield Parish.

He used temperature contrast to great effect, not only to create an emotional expression but to focus your eye within a piece. As we look at the female form it's likely that we start at the rocks as the contrast of value is high, but are quickly directed up along the contrast of temperature and value. That exists in the figure. We may land on the face a v shape of warmth in a field of cool color. The highest level of temperature and value contrast combined in the entire piece.

The secondary level of contrast the hair draws our attention to the left mirrored by the flowing drapery. And mimicked again by the contrast of value and temperature in the clouds. The hierarchy is clear, female first, scenery second. The direction of hierarchy what we look at first, second, and so on is highly controlled by both temperature and value. In each of the paintings we've looked at, we've paid special attention to where our eyes traveled throughout the piece.

I can see that hierarchy is not accidental but well designed by each painter. As visual image makers, knowing where to direct the eye of the viewer gives us greater control over our ideas and expression of visual language.

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This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Color
Foundations of Color

42 video lessons · 15086 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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