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ART 112 COLOR THEORY: Introduction to Color and Perception

 Color Theory is a studio-based, hands-on course that explores how color perception works. During class time, students work individually on different exercises. Based on a series of exercises and experiments, the class tries to deduce theories and possible formulas about how color perception works.
We will discuss the origins of the color wheel and different color systems; for example, the Greeks evaluated colors based on each colors relation to black or white rather than its hue. Newton created the first color wheel just a few centuries ago.
We will discuss interesting aspects of the history of color and pigments; how were the first colors made? What are the unusual origins of other colors? Ground beetles, ground-up leaves soaked with the urine of cows fed on a mango-only diet and squid inks are among the unusual sources of many colors we still use today. Why was the color blue historically so valuable and expensive?
We’ll discuss how different artists applied different color theories in their work, touching on Seurat, Monet, and vanGogh. We’ll also discuss how different colors are used commercially today. Which colors are favored by designers and commercial artists? What sells? Why?


  • Fulfills FA2 requirements.
  • No prior art experience is needed to succeed in this class.
  • Students work with a variety of materials, most of which they choose, including collage materials, colored paper, colored pencil or markers, or paint.
  • There will occasional short lectures and short reading assignments.
  • Each student will create a handmade book of their color projects and conclusions.



Book Project

Sandie Timmer: Watercolor, Runge’s Color Sphere
Christine Rentner: Collage, Temperature scales,
Sarah Oosterink: Cut Paper, Albers exercise: 3 colors appear as 4

Sandie Timmer, Christine Rentner
Temperature Exercises


Exercises in Color

Cameron Schuler, Albers Exercise: transparency

Aimin  Walsh: Albers exercise:
3 colors appear as 4

Aimin Walsh: Secondary Color scale with objects
Sandie Timmer: Complementary Color grid with texture


Christine Rentner: Pop-up Complementary Color scales
Jori Niemann, Mallory Fox, Patrick Bedsole, Jamie Iwashita, Ashley O'Mara: Complementary Color projects


Kristina Large, Staci Pessetti, Sandy Hansen: Complementary Color projects Jonathan Kay, Lindsay Allward, Staci Pessetti, Emily Donahue: Complementary Color projects