In this current generation of designers working in the realm of digital applications, the color wheel is much more applicable since we primarily work with light—RGB. We now have perfect primaries to work with, creating endless mixtures of color temperatures and vibrant gradations between complimentary colors. Tertiary colors are now available to us in the millions with one easy click on the color picker.
What better way of teaching color than to teach it in the digital realm of pure RGB light, where we can clearly explain the theory and see it in action as you work the wheel moving from one color temperature to the other. This is what brought the Digi-Palette into my workshops so students and professionals can see the color of light in action.
The digital color wheel featured in this article was put together when I was supervising a team of designers in a film studio. They were moving toward digital and needed to apply what they already knew in the conventional world of tube colors. The Digi-Palette was constructed with the idea of scanning key paint colors and then adding them into a digital color wheel with pure primaries—great for students dealing with digital and convential color tools.
The Digi-Palette is a layered Photoshop color wheel, allowing you can toggle between tints (colors becoming lighter) or shades (colors becoming darker). Also, additional layers can be applied over the entire color wheel creating an over all color bias. This helps teach how all colors are inter-releated and how light, such as sunlight or moodlight can change the universal temperture of the color wheel.
As featured in The Color of Light (Part 1), the Digi-Palette also has a layer showing the placement of major paint colors so you can easily visualize digital theory alongside the realities of manufactured paints and inks. This visual system makes the complexity of color simple by breaking down the science into bit-sized visual lessons that make learning much more hands on.
Students tend to understand the theory a lot faster when they see the science of color in real time, toggling back and forth from tints to shades and multiple variations of color bias ranging from warm to cool temperatures. I included a few screen shots to help you see the basic principles of color made more understandable by using this simple system of Photoshop interacting layers.
With so many design students asking questions about this subject, I know it’s a challenging area to understand let alone master. Just make sure you work the wheel to see how every color is interrelated. This should help kick start your understanding of the core principles behind the color of light.