Toy Tech: The Color of Light (Part 1 of 2)



Many young toy design students are currently going through color theory classes this semester and have sent in questions relating their frustration toward this subject. Most people would agree color theory is extremely difficult to learn and, truth be told, even harder to teach.

Since every design school has their own system, the theory of color gets even more complicated than it really needs to be. So, before you get buried under the seemingly endless array of Pantone swatches and digital color pickers, you'll want to build a solid foundation of understanding the color of light as it is visualized in the color wheel.

In my humble opinion, color is actually very easy to learn if you have the right teacher—that, my friend, is the most difficult part. To be honest, when it's all said and done, you’ll probably have to teach yourself through investing time studying the color wheel.

So, before you start your color journey get one thing right—color is a science. For the most part, core scientific truths are easy to teach because the fundamentals are consistent from generation to generation. What worked for Monet will work for you.

Back in the day, designers studied the color wheel which was the perfect representation of the color of light—in theory, but no maufactured pigment in real world of paint, markers, pencils, industrial plastics, cloth and print media was as perfect as pure light—everything had a color bias.

A tube of yellow paint for example, wasn’t a perfect pure primary yellow because it had a hint of red or green within the formulation—it just couldn’t be avoided. So, the amazing information hidden within the color wheel was a scientific fact but only in theory. The application and mixing of color in the real world, however, couldn’t match up because the color of light was pure but our manufactured paint and markers were not.

Disney designers compensated by using a double primary palette, which had a warm and cool version of each primary color since there was no perfect primary in paint. That is why there is always a shift from RGB (digital color of light) to CMYK (printed color with ink on paper or plastics). Light will always be more vibrant and pure than ink on a manufactured surface. A perfect primary color in the digital world will naturally shift to a warmer or cooler bias when printed in the CMYK world. It is what it is.

Now, in our day and age of digital design tools, theory becomes reality on our bright RGB monitors and tablet screens making this subject much easier to understand and master. Once you grasp the science behind color, you'll be able to make intelligent decisions concerning emotional themes and strategic marketing strategies.



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