SAQA Seminar 2021 - Unit 2

Color Theory

Once colors were seen through a prism, scientists started to create color theories to assist in understanding color and its uses. Color theory and the use of the color wheel sounds like a topic we all recognize. But do you really know how to use color theory, or that there are several color theories? 

Those of us who do not have formal training in art may not feel comfortable playing around with the color wheel. In this unit, we hope to give you some basics of color theory and the different ways to look at it.

Check out all the resources below which include videos, an article, and two exercises. Plus, explore our Unit 2 gallery for some colorful work from our online collection that features the color Orange.

View Unit 2 Gallery

Join us at the end of the week for a live video conversation (scroll down for connection details) about what you have discovered about color theory.

Please share your comments with the rest of us on the SAQA Facebook Group or via our SAQA Seminar submission form.

See what Seminar participants shared last week


SAQA Seminar (Exercise)
Try out this color exercise by David Hornung from his book Color: A Workshop for artists and designers.
SAQA Seminar (Video Conversation)
See how artist and fabric illustrator Kestrel Michaud does design and color decision-making using technology as part of the design process.
SAQA Seminar (Video Conversation)
Hear artist and teacher David Hornung talk about the basics of color and color theory in the context of art.
SAQA Seminar (Article)
Maria Elkins describes how she used Munsell Color Theory to expand her color range within her work. She includes helpful photos of her fabric stash sorted according to hue and value.

David M. Kessler's "Simple Color System" color wheel video - Contemporary painter David M. Kessler describes his new color wheel and how to use it.

Purchase David M. Kessler's color wheel
** Special discount for SAQA Seminar participants


Color Theories & Models:

Munsell Color Theory
Munsell color order system is based on a three-dimensional model depicted in the Munsell color tree. Each color has three qualities or attributes: hue, value and chroma (also referred to as (HVC))

Natural Color System 
NCS – Natural Colour System® is a scientifically based colour system that allows for accurate cross-industrial colour communication for designers and manufacturers, retailers and customers. Since NCS is based on how we perceive colour visually, the system allows you to describe colour on all imaginable surfaces. This has made the colour system a global standard for definition, quality assurance and communication of colour. All surface colours can be described with a NCS Notation.

CMYK Color Model
CMYK  The CMYK color model is a subtractive color model, based on the CMY color model, used in color printing, and is also used to describe the printing process itself. CMYK refers to the four ink plates used in some color printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). The CMYK model works by partially or entirely masking colors on a lighter, usually white, background.

RGB Color Model
The RGB color model is an additive color model in which red, green, and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors. The name of the model comes from the initials of the three additive primary colors, red, green, and blue. The main purpose of the RGB color model is for the sensing, representation, and display of images in electronic systems, such as televisions and computers, though it has also been used in conventional photography. Before the electronic age, the RGB color model already had a solid theory behind it, based on human perception of colors.

CIELab color space
The CIELAB color space (also known as CIE L*a*b* or sometimes abbreviated as simply "Lab" color space) is a color space defined by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) in 1976. It expresses color as three values: L* for the lightness from black (0) to white (100), a* from green (−) to red (+), and b* from blue (−) to yellow (+). CIELAB was designed so that the same amount of numerical change in these values corresponds to roughly the same amount of visually perceived change.  It is device-independent.  Unlike the RGB and CMYK color models, Lab color is designed to approximate human vision. 


Related Books:

Alesandra Loske: Color: A Visual History from Newton to Modern Color Matching Guides.  Curator and art historian, Loske “charts the journey of color exploration, expression and discovery”.

Gloria Hansen: Digital Essentials. The quilt maker’s must-have guide to images, files and more!  One of the best books to explain the difference between the color on the screen and the color that is printed.


Software and Apps:

Colorkit - an online color blending tool that's a free alternative to Illustrator's Blend tool:  

Affinity Designer software

Inkscape software

Concepts App

Live Chat & Zoom Connection Details

Join Mary Louise Gerek, Coordinator for the 2021 Seminar, and talk with other participants about color and what you have discovered about your relationship to color. Note that Live Chats will not be recorded as they are just casual conversations and sharing among participants in smaller breakout rooms.

You will need to register separately for the webinar below. Once you register, you will receive a separate email confirmation that includes connection information for the webinar. The webinar will be recorded.

Webinar with Lori Weitzner: Thursday, March 4: 4pm – 5pm EST (GMT -5). Register for webinar now



Friday, January 29: 4pm – 5pm EST (GMT -5)
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Friday, February 19: 12pm – 1pm EST (GMT -5)
Friday, February 26: 4pm – 5pm EST (GMT -5)
Friday, March 5: 4pm – 5pm EST (GMT -5)
Tuesday, March 9: 4pm – 5pm EST (GMT -5)
Thursday, March 11: 1pm – 2pm EST (GMT -5)



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