Colour Studies, 2012

This gallery documents my self-directed walkthrough of the telecourse Colour: An Introduction. This TV series consisted of eight units, progressing from essential theories and models of additive and subtractive colour mixing, through to use and discernment of colour in the everyday world and in advanced technology. The full telecourse outline for “Colour: An Introduction” can be viewed at Thompson Rivers University, which currently offers this fascinating and unique telecourse.

In pursuing this course of study, my personal goals were:

  • To refresh and test my colour selection, perception, and application skills.
  • To see if I could complete the course assignments on my own, and exclusively using computer tools
    (particularly a tablet and stylus; the Blackberry Playbook).
  • To enjoy the process of revisiting topics I hadn’t seriously studied for decades.

Results From Each Unit

What you’ll see in each of the boxes below are the mini-assignments that I created from following the instructions and demonstrations in each unit. In order to better communicate my intentions, I’ve included a few addt’l notes in the images themselves, or in descriptive text underneath.

Unit 1:
Basics of Colour

Click image to view gallery:
Colour Studies 2012, Unit 1

  • establishing primary & secondary colours
  • colour wheel model
  • light/dark (tonal) properties
  • warm/cool (temperature) properties

Unit 2:
Colour Energy

Click image to view gallery:
Colour Studies 2012, Unit 2

  • warm/cool primary & secondary colour research
  • concepts of primary & secondary colour-forms
  • geometric vs. freeform in texture and shape
  • exploring linear energy, texture & shape, contrast of extension, play

Unit 3:
Colour Structures

Click image to view gallery:
Colour Studies 2012, Unit 3

  • colour in point, line, shape (contrast of hue re foreground/bkgd
  • colour & spatial sensation
  • linear explorations, units of form
  • shape/colour composition: geometric vs. organic

Unit 4:
Between Black and White

Click image to view gallery:
Colour Studies 2012, Unit 4

  • grey scale
  • breaking a colour with its complementary

Unit 5:
Colour Discords

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Colour Studies 2012, Unit 5

  • alternating, classical and complementary discords

Unit 6:
Colour in Nature

Click image to view gallery:
Colour Studies 2012, Unit 6

  • analysis of colour and form in natural objects: sunflower, peppers, etc.

What I’ve Learned From This Exploration:

  1. I’m constantly reminded that on a computer screen, I’m doing colour picking, not colour mixing. In computer graphics, the entire array of available colours is often presented to you in a form very similar to Chevreul’s colour wheel. ┬áThis tool is referred to as a “colour picker” and that’s what you’re doing on the computer screen – picking a colour, not mixing it. It’s sometimes easier but not the same and not as much fun…
  2. For research and review of online materials, a wireless tablet is an excellent tool: I stored the video segments for Colour on my tablet as MP4 video, so that I could reference them anytime. Searching Google and other online databases for reproductions of paintings described in the series allowed me to look at reference works (paintings) in much more detail than I could from watching the videos. Also, other sites like and Wikipedia allowed me to do more of my own research on particular topics.
  3. I paid a price by opting for convenience over depth of tools. By completing many of these assignments on a hand-held tablet, I gained mobility (and the comfort of working at any number of local cafes), but more often than not, I was forced to use a few different paint programs to get different abilities. Generally, the tablet’s colour selection abilities – the colour pickers – were limited compared to a rich tool like Photoshop.
  4. These exercises were designed for paints/pigments (Subtractive), not for LED displays (Additive). Working with paint or ink is just not the same as working with light. All projected colour that you experience on a computer screen or a video monitor is mixed optically by you in real-time. All those tiny red, green and blue pixels combine in your eye, similar to Seraut’s Pointillism, aka Divisionism.
  5. Computers still produce a narrower gamut of colours compared to pigment or ink. I suspect that the range of colours available on a computer display – be it a large monitor or a 7 inch touchscreen – are still limited in comparison to what you can achieve with pigment or full-colour printing. I haven’t seen a diagram showing how large a gamut modern video can produce, but I bet it’s still smaller than what printing can produce, or what the eye can see. (Whaddya know? It is…)
  6. I’ve got to make sure my tablet’s screen is set to a medium brightness. It wasn’t, and it affected my colours! Plugging in or unplugging the tablet from power affects the level of brightness of the display, so sometimes when I thought I was making a middle green, it was actually much brighter and tangier than I realized. You can see this in the green of the studies I did of primary and secondary shapes and colours.

Handy Tools/References

  • Colour Scheme Designer – An online interactive tool for visualizing triads, tetrads and many different colour schemes, using the familiar colour wheel. Keep this tool open while you work through Unit 3. A powerful and helpful visualization tool, well designed.
  • Basic color schemes: Introduction to Color Theory – a good overview of colour wheel relationships (i.e. Units 1-3).
  • Colour Wheel Tool: Home Design Directory – Easy tool to explore triadic and tetradic and other schemes and variants, and apply the resulting colour scheme to a mockup of a furnished room.

Related Materials I Consulted:

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Explorations in learning, ideas, and design by E. John Love