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Three Dimensions Of Color

( Originally Published 1924 )



The characteristic quality which gives color its name we call hue. One may choose the hue of green for one's Easter bonnet, the hue of brown for one's slippers.

The quality of color which we term value is the lightness or darkness of the color. In a color diagram, this quality is illustrated as moving vertically up and down as on a ladder.

Between these values may be an unlimited number of intermediate values.

Those values above the middle are called tints. Those values below middle are called shades.

The intensity of a color is determined by the amount of pure rays reflected. This quality is termed chroma or saturation. Intensity of a color is changed with its varying lightness and darkness. Pink may reflect just as many pure rays as wine color, but neither is as brilliant as maximum red. Intensity is also changed by mixing the color with its complement or with neutral gray. If blue is mixed with an intense orange, it becomes a dull blue or gray, thus killing the blue's light reflection.

Warm and Cool Colors

Orange is the hottest color and blue the coldest. Those colors which are closely related to orange, such as red and yellow, are warm, and those most nearly related to blue, such as green and violet, are cool.

Every color has warm and cool hues. Those are warm which most nearly approach orange and those are cold which most nearly approach blue. For example, an orange-red is warm when compared with a violet-red and a violet-red is warm when compared with violet. Yes, even violet is warm when compared with blue. And now we come to the questions : Which color is warmer, yellow-orange or red-orange? which color is colder, blue violet or blue-green? In the first case, yellow-orange; in the second, blue-violet. The reason is that we naturally feel the more luminous colors to be warm.

Now let us add the point that warm colors are advancing, cool colors are retiring.

Warm hues correspond to some temperaments. Rosa, the Italian beauty, may wear vivid red and, like a flame, express fire and thrill. This harmony of likeness in coloring may give way to Rosa decked with pale blue, and no less will be the attraction because of the contrast of nature and color.

Helga, the girl of Norway, coldly distant with golden hair and blue eyes, chooses a cool color-a silvery green like the ice floes of her native haunts -and in her harmony of likeness is as distantly enthralling as the "Lady from the Sea." Her portrait is altogether logical, just what one would expect. A contrast of color with her temperament may make her incomprehensible, and as fascinating as a mystery novel.

The Effect of Light Upon Color

The luminosity of a color is its light-reflecting quality. It is obvious that light colors are more luminous than dark colors and bright colors are more luminous than dull colors, but it is not perhaps so apparent that warm colors are more luminous than cool colors. Yellow and violet may be equally intense or full of color, but the former will reflect twelve times as much light as the latter.

When a color arrangement is perfectly proportioned, it will appear gray at a distance. Such an arrangement may be made with pure colors by allotting areas in inverse ratio to the luminosity of the colors; This effect has been attained in some beautiful medieval cathedral windows.

Says Mr. Joseph Reynolds, Craftsman of Boston : "The Great Cathedral East Window at Poi-tiers disputes with Notre Dame la Belle de Verrier at Chartres the glory of being the finest stained glass window extant —the preference in color lying with the former. The most remarkable thing about the window is the splendor of living glowing color —most daring use of equal quantities of red and blue-proportions are so nicely adjusted—the colors are so carefully selected and they are so well balanced with green and gold and white there is no consciousness of purple effect," In such an instance, the light which illumines the cathedral is white, altho it filters through many colors.

When a color is neutralized or when it is lowered in value its luminosity decreases. Its area may then be increased. When perfect equality is desired between dark and light hues in color this observance of the laws of luminosity will make it possible.

In a costume of medium gray-blue, there would probably be little luminosity, for blue, even when very intense, is not very luminous, and when grayed, it would be much less so. Therefore, it would take but a mere glimmer of golden hair from under the hat to satisfy the need of balance.

Effect of Artificial Light

We naturally think of color as it appears in broad daylight. Every change in the weather which affects the light, such as fog or rain or heavy skies, alters the color reflection of objects and we see them with new eyes. In a greater degree, artificial light changes local color. For example, lights which are yellow change purples and violets to muddy brown, dark blue becomes black, and black becomes rusty. Orange and yellow become paler and more golden, red grows lighter and more orange, blue inclines toward green, green inclines to yellow. Even more startling changes take place under lights that are blue.

The change of color of costume through the influence of artificial lighting should always be considered when selecting clothes, especially as the charm of their effect on skin and features may be influenced by the change of hue. All clothes for evening should be selected in artificial light.

Color Terms

Primary Colors—red, yellow, blue.
Secondary Colors—oranges, greens, and violets.
Tertiary Colors—grayed or broken colors.
Normal—color at its fullest intensity.
Tints—colors lighter than normal.
Shades—colors darker than normal.
Hue—the name of the color, as, blue.
Value—lightness and darkness of the color.
Intensity
Saturation—fullness of color.
Chroma

Neutralized—grayed, or lacking much color.
Neutrals—gray, black, and white.
Luminosity—light reflection.
Warm colors—yellow, orange, red.
Cool colors—green, blue, violet.



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