An eclectic blog about beads, beading and beyond

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Colour my world, or should that be tint, shade, illuminate, saturate and add intensity to the hues of my world?

As some you of will know I have been working hard on completing my entry for the Victorian Bead Society’s (BSV) annual bead challenge. It was indeed a challenge but it is finished. Part of the challenge for me was finding a way to work with a colour palette that I don’t use very often – soft sage greens, aqua, deep blues and tans. That challenge, and writing a few words on discussion about the Colour Wheel at a recent local BSV meeting made me realise how little I knew about the origins of the Colour Wheel.

Little did I know it is but one of many systems for ordering colour in our world. Spirals, triangles and charts have each been used to organise and name the colours in our world (see Sarah Lowengard’s book for a great history of this). The creation of the Colour Wheel is generally attributed to Isaac Newton. In 1706 he developed his theory of colour. He observed the colours created when light passes through a prism and then created a way to represent their relationships to each other. He chose to represent their relationships in a circle in which each section of the circle represented a specific colour found in the prism and the way it was ordered ordered in the prism (their chromatic order). The Newtonian colour order was red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. There are several colour wheels but they generally organise colours into 5 types:
  • PRIMARY COLORS. Red, yellow and blue. These are the colours all otheer colours are derived from and they cannot be made by mixed other colours.
  • SECONDARY COLORS. Orange, green and violet :: These are the colours created by mixing two primary colours.
  • TERTIARY COLORS. Red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet and red-violet :: These colours are created by a mixture of primary and secondary colours.
  • COMPLEMENTARY COLORS. Colors located opposite each other on a color wheel.
  • ANALOGOUS COLORS. Colors located close together on a color wheel.
Using the Colour Wheel or other systems of organising colour draws on what is refered to as Colour Theory. Colour Theory provides rules and guidelines for creating different types of visual impact from how colour is combined, mixed and juxtaposed. If you’d like to learn more about colour theory there is a very easy to use free tutorial on the web: in You can use it to learn about the language of colour - learn the meaning of hue, saturation, intensity and more. With this knowledge you can play with the colour palette of your beadwork and experiment with colour combinations that are new to you.


Good resources on colour for beaders

  • Deeb, M. The Beader's Guide to Color, Watson-Guptill Publications, USA.
  • Classes by Margie Deeb – Colour Wheel Magic.
  • Wallace, S. The Beaders Colour Mixing Directory, Search Press, UK.
  • Deeb, M. The Beader's Color Palette: 20 Creative Projects and 220 Inspired Combinations for Beaded and Gemstone Jewelry, Watson-Guptill Publications, USA.


The Bead Doodler said...

Great post on color theory. Lots of things I didn't know (but color theory is definitely not my strong suite). Thanks for the link to the free tutorial. Will you be posting a pic of your challeng piece?

Marsha Wiest-Hines said...

Looking forward to seeing the BSV Challenge piece!

Glenda of Dax Designs said...

Thanks for the comments and for the interest in the BSV challenge piece - I'll post a photo once the challenge is over - voting is in mid-November at the BSV annual expo.

Mary T Designs said...

Thanks for a very informative narrative on color. It was very helpful.

Dax Designs - now on Artisan Co-op