Color Theory

What Does Color Theory Mean?

Color theory is the general application of color principles to design. It involves different types of additive and subtractive color systems that define a palette of colors to be used online, digitally or in print. Color theory addresses the full range and spectrum of possible colors by grouping them together in ways that help designers to reach final results or better understand how different colors are related.


Techopedia Explains Color Theory

Additive and subtractive color systems in color theory use a set of basic primary colors to build other colors. One of the most common ones is the RGB system that uses red, green and blue in various amounts to get the full range of colors in the spectrum. Another popular system used in printing involves using the four colors – cyan, magenta, yellow and black, to mix colors through a subtractive color system.

Aside from these systems, color theory is also useful in the evaluation of color elements such as lightness, saturation and hue. Manipulating these characteristics provides the spectrum of color used in modern computing and design.

Much of the color theory that is used in today’s information technology world is based on the vibrant emergence of sophisticated color models that happened in the 1990s as systems such as VGA or super VGA graphics replaced the primitive systems of the 1970s and 1980s, which were either monochrome or limited to certain basic key colors. With the advent of new operating systems and new digital technologies to render visuals on a display screen, color theory became a much bigger part of what is done in digital computing. This also led to the use of hexadecimal values to represent each color in the spectrum, a system which still remains popular today in HTML and other programming languages.


Related Terms

Related Reading

Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…