Working with Color
Illustration by John Hersey

Working with Color

with Bruce Heavin

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Video: introduction

- Hi, I'm Bruce Heavin and we're gonna go into color and look at working with color. So, let's dive right ahead. Now, when we usually look at color, we think of working in terms of Color Theory and I went to Art Centre College of design and I have to say, it was one of the most difficult things for me to learn, Color Theory. I did not jive well with Color Theory. I had the greatest teacher on earth. Her name was Judy, or Judith Crook.
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Watch the Online Video Course Working with Color
4h 6m Appropriate for all Oct 14, 2004

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Working with Color with Bruce Heavin is a movie-based tutorial designed to help anyone understand the basic principles of color relationships, especially as they relate to digital design and/or composition. Part one of the training begins with a 47-minute lecture on color principles featuring value, hue and color relationships. Part two of the training involves a workshop covering digital color mixing, shifting, saturation, tinting, shading, hue, toning, the creation of swatches, personalized color systems and more. Step-by-step instructions using Adobe Photoshop guide you through a number of exercises so you can learn at your own pace.

Subject:
Design
Author:
Bruce Heavin

introduction

- Hi, I'm Bruce Heavin and we're gonna go into color and look at working with color. So, let's dive right ahead. Now, when we usually look at color, we think of working in terms of Color Theory and I went to Art Centre College of design and I have to say, it was one of the most difficult things for me to learn, Color Theory. I did not jive well with Color Theory. I had the greatest teacher on earth. Her name was Judy, or Judith Crook.

She was incredible, but I just could not get it. And after practically a year, what I learned was, I really didn't get along with Color Theory. It took a long time. Eventually I started to get it, but it took a while to get into my head. What I learned was, I learn through practice. I like to think of it as Color Practice. And my belief is, the longer you practice it, the longer you do it, the more of it you know, the better at it you will become.

You will start noticing nuances, you'll pick up on all the little things, but there are a lot of guides and rules you have to learn along the way to help your practice, or to help your learning process. So we're going to explore a lot of those today. Now, before we go deep into exploration, I just want to continue and I want to bring up a little package of crayons here. This is something that you or I have started off with in our learning about color.

And I have to tell you, that this is, exactly, where our problems in color have started. They've all started at a very young age. We all learned... Not all. I shouldn't say all or always, or any of those words, but most of us have learned from this. And it started off with eight simple colors. Usually on a restaurant mat or a coloring book and we get yellow, red, green, purple, blue, orange, brown and black.

And, we did a lot. These were the big thick ones. You put them in your little fist and you made your masterpieces. This is where we started. Now, Crayola, they're masters. They did a great job. As kids we know the thin ones are much more elegant and better to use. So we migrated upwards and same colors, just thinner markers and, of course, they broke. Then they had the up-sell. Sophisticated crayons of 16.

And the color choices got a lot wider. Then we went up to 48, then 64, and this was like the Holy Grail of crayons when I was growing up. I mean, to have this box would be the envy of the block. Everybody wanted this box. Now, nowadays, they have the Big Box of Crayons. And you can customize crayons. You can do all kinds of crazy things. This is my personal crayon collection. I use crayons for my paint and draw and I have a bucket full of crayons and it is quite messy, but I love 'em...

Still. A lot of us have played with Etch A Sketches. We did paint-by-numbers, but paint-by-numbers didn't really help us in our learning of color. They kinda just helped us keep in line with our painting. And this isn't exactly what we want to do. So let's go back to this Holy Grail. Now, this is part of why I wanna say this is part of the problem. See, when we work with crayons, when you wanna draw skin, it used to be a flesh crayon, now they have different colored crayons, ethnically correct.

And you'd pick up that one color and it'd be that one color, but if you want to go darker, or if you want lighter, they didn't think on those ways or those terms. It was all about the name of a color. And, I think that really throws us off. I mean, instead of saying, "I wanna light red." We'd say we want pink, or one of these funny names. Or sometimes, if we were clever, we'd get the white crayon and blend in some other colors. But this is a brand-new box, opened, just fresh opened. And, look at this, the colors are jumbled around.

There's no order to 'em. So, what I have done is I redesigned this box and we see down below, it says, Featuring Built-In Sharpener. But, here, I'm going to advance to what I think Crayola should have done with their box of crayons. And, here we go. Organized in terms of saturation, hue and value. The desaturated all on the right. The saturated on the left. And I put a little stamp on the bottom corner says, "Sharpener now works" because I always busted a crayon inside that sharpener and it's the end of the sharpener.

You'd have to wait until you got your next box of crayons. So, this is where I think we go. Now, would anyone ever put the crayons back in this order? I don't think so. But the point being is, this form of organization is actually a very healthy one in learning about color, cause, what's really important, is value and seeing how light, or dark, a particular crayon can get. So, let's go ahead and move on. Now, another problem we have is nowadays, we're all on computers.

In fact, you're viewing this on a computer, most likely. And, what I have to say about that is the means of picking color is horrible, because we use RGB sliders. These are the most unintuitive means of picking color. You slide your red, your green and your blue and you arrive at a color and what can be more nonintuitive than this? This is how a computer thinks, by values from zero to 256 and by merging these, 256 times 256 times 256...

That's millions of colors, right? But, it's not how we think when we wanna choose a color. So, my attitude is this is how a computer or a programmer will think about color. And we're not all programmers today. We're not all computers. And there could be better ways to do things. So, let's move on, once again, cause there's hope. And, what I'd like to say is, in creating color, I'm going to show you one of the many ways to create color here.

But this the way I think about creating color, as a designer, as an illustrator, as a photographer. I like to think of it, in the following order. The most important aspect to any color, in my opinion, is value. It has nothing to do with this hue, the chroma, the saturation. It's value. The next most important ingredient in creating color is the saturation level. How intense is that color gonna be? Is it gonna be dull and gray? Is it gonna be bright and vibrant? So, value, how light or dark.

And saturation, how intense. The third is hue. And hue is pointing on a color wheel. In this case I flattened the color wheel out. But it's choosing anywhere from red, yellow, green, blue, any of those colors. And then applying the following. So here I selected a yellow green and if we look it forms a color when you select all three of these elements. So, when I'm working on paintings, myself, I tend to think if I want it to be lighter than, or darker than.

And then I start thinking in terms of saturation, intensity and hue. But that's a little ways off in the decision making process.

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