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Color Theory

By: Roberta Hughes
Posted: June 23, 2008, from the April 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Because color communicates volumes of information and affects emotions, it is important to understand how it works together in order to create harmonious and positive experiences for team members, clients and a spa.

Dimensions of color

To assign structure to the vast options of color, scientists have organized and categorized it by three dimensions: hue, value and intensity. The understanding and application of these dimensions are used universally by artists, painters and designers to create different illusions, communicate specific messages, or evoke certain experiences or feelings.

Color hue. The first dimension is hue and refers to the name of the color, or color family. There are three kinds of hues—primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary colors include red, yellow and blue, which cannot be obtained by combining other colors. Secondary hues are created by mixing two primary colors in equal amounts and include orange (red and yellow), green (yellow and blue), and violet (blue and red). Tertiary hues, such as blue-green, result from an equal mixture of a primary and a secondary hue. Refer to the Color Wheel to see how these colors interact.

Hues are divided into warm or cool temperatures and stimulate different responses. Warm hues—including red, orange and yellow—are associated with the sun or fire, tend to excite and stimulate, and appear to advance toward the eye by causing shapes to appear larger and more pronounced. Any shade can look warmer simply by adding yellow or orange. Cool hues—such as green, blue and violet—are associated with the sky and water, are considered calming and soothing, and appear to recede or cause shapes to appear distant, smaller and less pronounced. Mixing blue or green into any hue will cause it to look cooler. Combining cool and warm colors in a design produces interest and depth, and either warms or brightens a space.

Johannes Itten, author of The Art of Color (Wiley, 1997) and considered to be one of the greatest modern teachers on color, discovered that people are more drawn to—and therefore are more comfortable with—colors that mirror their personal appearance. They are least comfortable using harmonies that are discordant with their personal appearance. In other words, a person with blond hair, fair skin and blue eyes is more likely to be drawn to colors equal or complementary to their personal coloring. For example, some preferred choices might be yellow, sky blue, lime or mint green, or shades of red. A brunette with dark brown eyes and warmer skin tones tends to be drawn to warmer colors, including gold, turquoise, aqua, orange and purple.