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Foundations of Color
Illustration by John Hersey

What is contrast?


From:

Foundations of Color

with Mary Jane Begin

Video: What is contrast?

So what is contrast? Contrast is the state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition of close association. If you consider a two-dimensional design in any medium or discipline, be it painting, photography, digital imagery, or another format. Contrast, allows us to see what we see. Let's take a look at contrast as it relates to some of the elements from the periodic table of colors. Value, vibrancy, temperature, texture, shape, and I'll add complementary color to this discussion.
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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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Foundations of Color
1h 57m Beginner Aug 20, 2013

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Color is a fundamental element of our lives. Understanding how to use it for visual communication in a variety of contexts is essential for designers and artists. This course is about learning how to use color, not only to create more effective designs, but also to tell a story. Illustrator, professor, and author Mary Jane Begin explains how color intertwines with brand identity, how it affects the mood of a piece and directs the viewer's attention to areas of interest, and how it can connect images or create space between elements. She removes the mystery surrounding the color wheel and color relationships; shows how to layer, mix, and digitally alter color; and use light to integrate temperature, translucency, and contrast.

These lessons are applicable to a number of fields, including graphic design, photography, and illustration, and both traditional and digital media. Dive in and get a fresh look at color that is sure to revitalize your creativity and your work.

Topics include:
  • Understanding why color is essential for you as an artist, designer, or human being
  • Storytelling with color
  • Understanding brand identity and color language
  • Reviewing the history of color usage, from print to digital
  • Working with the color wheel
  • Understanding value, saturation, and temperature
  • Seeing through color: opaque, translucent, and transparent
  • Creating contrast
  • Exploring depth of field
  • Seeing complementary relationships in light
  • Achieving harmony and discord in a palette
  • Understanding color blindness
Subjects:
Design Color Design Skills
Author:
Mary Jane Begin

What is contrast?

So what is contrast? Contrast is the state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition of close association. If you consider a two-dimensional design in any medium or discipline, be it painting, photography, digital imagery, or another format. Contrast, allows us to see what we see. Let's take a look at contrast as it relates to some of the elements from the periodic table of colors. Value, vibrancy, temperature, texture, shape, and I'll add complementary color to this discussion.

Without contrast, we can't discern one thing from another. Let's start with value. Value, is the relative lightness or darkness of a color. If you see this image, and then look at it with value only, you're seeing the contrast of white against black or a shade of grey. The contrast is visible in this image as a result of light and shadow. What if we change the settings to see color vibrancy? Vibrancy is the relative saturation or intensity of a color.

You can see now, that the contrast is a physical between not only the value but a vibrant color against neutral color. The highest level of contrast is here. And the lowest level is here. If the color palette is shifted to consistently neutral colors, we perceive only the variation in value. Or now a consistently and equally bright field of colors, it's much harder to discern the image.

Except through value variation. If we remove value as well and all the colors are of equal value and intensity, or neutrality, discerning various parts of the image is nearly impossible. There's no contrast of any kind. Creating contrast with more than one element of color as in value, and saturation makes an image vastly more interesting and gives you the creator the image so much more to work with.

Let's see what happens when we play with a variation in texture, temperature. Some like it hot, some like it cold. Shape, both size and contour matter. Complements, notice the contrast in this example of complementary colors is shown from light to shadow. We'll talk more about this in the discussion on color and light. But its effects the images clear.

We can turn up the volume or turn it down, but the vibrant play of the opposite nature of complimentary colors is the least understood, and most potent point of contrast you can use in an image. Understanding all of the ways, that you can show contrasting elements of an image is only a starting point. We need to understand why viewers pay attention to it, and how to control and hold the viewers' attention with contrast.

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