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Color Definition in Art (3 Main Categories)


What is color definition in art? Do you know the importance of colors in art? Have you ever thought about how artists portray mood, depth, and point of view?

The answer is definitely color. The use of colors in art is so helpful. It’s essential in art to know the rules of combinations and mixtures, so let’s get to color theory.

There are 3 categories here: 

  • The color wheel 
  • The color harmony
  • The color context 
color definition in art

The Color Wheel

The circular diagram is based on red, yellow, and blue, which points to the relationships and connections between different colors. Sir Isaac Newton developed the first color wheel in 1666 with seven colors (red, blue, orange, green, yellow, indigo, and violet). The color wheel is divided into 9 categories.

Primary colors

These are the main components of the range of other colors; in other words, all the colors are derived from primary colors, also called RBG. Traditionally, the combination of red, yellow, and blue can form several colors.

Secondary colors Definition in Art

When you mix two primary colors, the result is a secondary color. Let’s see the compounds.

Red + Yellow = Orange
Yellow + Blue = Green
Blue + Red = Purple

Tertiary color

The combination of secondary color and primary color is a tertiary color. For example, magenta (red-purple), vermillion (red-orange), amber (yellow-orange), chartreuse (yellow-green), teal (blue-green), and violet (blue-purple).

In addition, if we draw a line through the center of this color wheel, we will have a range of warm colors on the left hand and cool colors on the right hand.

Warm colors definition in art show brightness and energy, whereas cool colors show calmness and peace. 

How about the Black and White Color Definition in Art?

There is no exact position for these 2 colors in the color wheel. But as you can see, the result of a combination of colors with white is a lighter color and the opposite for black.

The Color Harmony

Color harmony definition is related to a color combination pleasing to the eye and a primary color theory. Color harmony creates a sense of balance and satisfaction in art. This arrangement can provide an excellent structure and effect.

Here are some color combinations with perfect harmony: 

  • Royal blue – peach 
  • Blue – pink 
  • Charcoal – yellow 
  • Red – Yellow
  • Lime green – electric blue 
  • Lavender – teal 
  • Cherry red – off-white 
  • Baby blue-white 

There are different levels of complexity in harmonies:

  • Complementary colors
  • Analogous colors
  • Triads
  • Monochrome

Complementary colors

As we understand from the name ‘complementary,’ the colors here are directly opposite on the wheel.

Analogous colors

These colors are very similar to each other, especially when they are next to each other. Analogous colors can be seen on both sides of the key color around the wheel. These combinations usually represent colors in nature.

Color Triads Definition

The combination of only 3 colors which are equally spaced around the color wheel. In other words, there are only 4 triadic colors definition:

  1. Red, Yellow, Blue
  2. Red-orange, Yellow-green, Blue-violet
  3. Orange, Green, Violet
  4. Yellow-orange, Blue-green, Red-violet


To have this harmony, you must combine a single color with its different tones. This relationship is where you can use your creativity. 

The color context

Observing the effects that colors can have on each other in different combinations. In addition, the color context is according to the meanings that each color can have in different contexts. The colors you choose to combine are crucial in how they are perceived. So you need to pay more attention to how much contrast you need.

The Meaning & Definition of Color in Art

  • Red — Power, Passion & Energy
  • Orange — Joy & Enthusiasm
  • Yellow — Happiness & Intelligence
  • Green — Growth & Ambition
  • Blue — Peace & Confidence
  • Purple — Luxury & Creativity 
  • Black — Power & Mystery
  • White — Safety & Innocence


Final words

It is exciting and essential to note the differences in color combinations because this will be the visible result of your art. Color theories like the color wheel, harmony, and context can help you choose the best combinations to carry the meaning you want in your art.

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