All About Color


Color is the light of my existence.  My home is filled with harmonious colors, and ditto my wardrobe. No drab greys, black, and browns for me.

I’ve been researching and studying the uses and effects of color—from a scientific, aesthetic,  and psychological perspective—for as long as I can remember. Finally,  about 14 years ago, I decided to write a book on the subject, however it is too expensive to publish a book with color charts and illustrations, so I have decided to use the material in my blog.

Can you imagine life without color? Many of us hardly give it a thought—we take it for granted—yet it is so important in our lives that the absence of color, in northern winters for instance, causes some people to experience episodes of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder—SAD.

Source of graphic

Color is significant to everyone and knowing how to use it effectively can be very rewarding. I hope you will gain some insight into color and what it can do for you from the following articles. I want to encourage you to bring more color into your life—the best colors for your individual coloring, climate, and life-style.

The definition and discussion of color in this article is limited to pigment color—that is color that can be applied to surfaces, objects, and materials. Pigment color absorbs and reflects light. It is known as CYMK color in the world of printing.

Part One – A

What is color?

Color, defined in terms of the observer, is the visible portion of the light spectrum—all the wavelengths between ultra-violet and infra-red. “The appearance of objects or light sources described in terms of the individual’s perception of them.” Tormont Webster Dictionary.

Pure white light contains all the colors of the visible spectrum. When an object is described as being a certain color, blue, for example, it is actually absorbing all the light waves except the blue, which is being reflected. The reflected light waves are the colors we see. Special color receptors in the retina of the eye, called cones, perceive the reflected light and transmit the information to the brain where it is interpreted as that specific color.

The color wheel is a method of organizing color in a logical system, even though the actual spectrum is a continuum ranging from violet at the high end to red at the low. In the color wheel, or circle, the two ends are joined where red and violet meet.

color wheel The color wheel used in this discussion uses twelve colors, or hues. Each is shown in four values, from the outer edge to the center, they are the pure hue, a tint, a tone, and a shade. (See below for definitions of these terms.)

The hues are also divided into primary, secondary and tertiary colors.

The Primary colors are Red, Blue, and Yellow


Secondary colors are: Violet, Orange, and Green.

They are made by mixing equal parts of two primary colors.

Violet = Red + Blue | Orange = Yellow + Red  | Green = Blue + Yellow


Tertiary colors

Tertiary colors are combinations of one primary and an adjacent secondary color, or one part of one primary and two parts of another. For example, Chartreuse is a mixture or yellow and green, or two parts yellow and one part blue.

Red-orange (Vermilion) Vml

Orange-yellow (Amber) Amber

Yellow-green (Chartreuse) Chartreuse

Green-blue (Turquoise) Turquoise

Blue-violet (Indigo) Indigo

Violet-red (Magenta). Magenta


Hue: Another word for color. It is the name of the color—red and blue are hues, forest green or lemon yellow are color descriptions.

Value:  Measures the reflectivity of color. The higher the value, the more light it reflects and the brighter, or lighter, it appears.

Purity: The amount of anything added to, or subtracted from the pure hue.

Tint: a lighter value of a hue as when it is diluted or has white added.

Tone: a greyed or neutralized color, ‘toned down’. Tones are produced by adding grey, or by adding a small amount of the complementary hue, e.g. if you add a little red to green, it will produce a muddy tone.

Shade:   A darker value of a color, the hue mixed with black.

Neutral:   Tones with only a small amount of the hue, such as beige (a very light orange tone), and a whole range of greys. Black, which is produced when the object absorbs the entire spectrum, or White, which is produced when an object reflects the entire spectrum,* are not really colors, but they can be classed as neutral.

*It is wise to keep in mind the meaning of these facts when choosing clothing. If all the light is absorbed by the material, it is absorbing the heat of the sun as well, so dark colors are not a good choice for hot summer weather. Light colors are much more appropriate, because the heat is reflected away.

Interesting Facts about Color

  • The human eye is able to distinguish more variations of green than any other hue, probably because it had survival value for early man.
  • Some variations of blue are stressful to the eye, especially cobalt and other mid-range values. This makes it tiring to work with blue backgrounds on the computer screen, and with blue text.
  • Warmer reds are restful to the eye.
  • Yellow is the only color that loses its characteristic hue (purity) when it is mixed with other colors. When darkened (added to), it takes on a greenish hue.
  • Tertiary colors provide the most appealing variations: Vermilion, Amber, Chartreuse, Turquoise, Indigo and Magenta.

Next week in Part One – B : The meaning of personal likes and dislikes of colors

In part one is a brief definition of color, descriptions of individual colors and some of their characteristics and effects. Along with these descriptions, there is some information about the meaning of personal likes and dislikes.

Part two is devoted to discovering your best colors and presents individual palettes for four basic types of coloring.

Part three covers combining colors, a discussion of color harmony, and different systems of color coordination.

Part four deals with the image you project in your choice of colors and the hidden meanings conveyed by colors.

Part five  is about home decorating with color. This part includes the various factors involved in planning a color scheme complete with descriptions of the physical and psychological effects of color in the environment, and how to solve environmental problems using color.

My Latest Novel, Aisling’s Revelation

It’s almost finished, just a couple more edits and a cover and it will be ready for publication. This month, I hope.

Here is the first chapter.

1 – Aisling

“Haven’t ye finished those ‘taties yet?” her grandmother said, her voice rising fretfully. “It’s time to feed the birds and clean out the nests. And don’t break any eggs today.”

Aisling took a breath to answer, but gran hadn’t finished her rant yet. She probably didn’t expect her granddaughter to respond anyway. Aisling lifted the pot of peeled potatoes and put it on the hob of the stove, then she picked up a wooden bucket by the door and scraped the peelings off the table, adding them to the other scraps: stale bread crusts, vegetable waste, eggshells, tea leaves, nodding occasionally to her gran as she continued complaining.

“I swear, you get more absent in the head every day. I suppose it’s your age. I don’t know what you young-uns are coming to these days. I hope you’re not mooning over some boy.”

“All finished, Gran. I’m on my way.” She bent to kiss her grandmother’s cheek. “See you later.”

She knew gran was in the doorway watching her as she walked around the side of cottage to the fenced area where the hens lived. She sighed and closed the gate behind her, then threw the contents of the bucket across the ground, spreading them well so that all the poultry would have a chance to grab a morsel. Although most of the hens were already outside, pecking around the ground, this was the signal for the rest to leave their nests and join the feeding frenzy, leaving them free for her to collect the eggs.

After taking the eggs in the house, she returned and picked up a rake to clean up the dirty straw from the floor and nesting boxes. She didn’t mind the work. It gave her an opportunity to think, something she did frequently when she was alone. Her grandmother called it lolly-gagging.

Today, Aisling was thinking about her grandmother. When she kissed her this morning, she’d realized that she had grown taller than gran. She’s getting old, Aisling thought, recalling how gran walked with a limp and was always massaging her lower back. Gran complained about rheumatics and the corns on her feet, but she didn’t let it interfere with her work. She just kept on slogging away. Today, she was weeding the vegetable garden. Tears came to Aisling’s eyes when she realized she hadn’t been as helpful or sympathetic as she should have.

I’ll have to try harder, do things for her, carry heavy stuff so she doesn’t strain her back. I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to her.

Aisling’s father had been killed in a skirmish with some brigands who’d attacked the village when she was a baby. A few years later, her mother had wrapped up her little girl and left her with the parents of her father, and then she had left the village without telling anyone where she was going. Nothing had been heard of her since, although there was talk in the village of her going off with a traveller. Travellers were people who went around the countryside doing odd jobs, repairing equipment, buying and selling odds and ends. Most people thought of them as little better than thieves, maybe envying their independence.

She didn’t remember either of them. Her whole life experience so far was with her grandparents. They were kind to her and provided all her needs, taught her all she knew, which was mostly how to run a small-holding. Her grandfather used to take his little donkey cart to the village market once a week, loaded with produce, eggs, milk and cheese, and sometimes, an animal or a few hens. In the warm months, she often went with him. Those were the happiest times in her life. He’d died when she was eleven years old after suffering from painful tumours for almost a year.

Before her grandfather died, they’d had a few cows and some sheep, in addition to the poultry, but that would have been too much work for an aging woman and a young girl to manage, so the remaining stock was sold, and they now eked out a living from the poultry, a small apple orchard, and the vegetable garden. They also kept some bee hives for honey.

Aisling spread some fresh straw in the nests and on the hen-house floor and then shovelled the waste into the composting box outside the fence.

I wonder how gran’s doing. Maybe she needs some help. She put the tools away and went around the back of the cottage to the vegetable garden. A movement in the nearby trees caught her eye, but whatever it was had disappeared by the time she turned to look. She shrugged. When she reached the vegetable garden, her grandmother was sitting on a tree stump resting her head against the hoe she was holding between her knees.

“I’ve finished, Gran,” she called as she opened the gate.

Her grandmother started and looked up at her, then she tried to lever herself with the hoe for support. She looked a little confused at first, but quickly recovered, although she didn’t answer Aisling.

Maybe she’s embarrassed that I saw her resting. Poor gran. “Gran, would you like to go in the house and have some tea. I can do some hoeing if you like.” She reached out for the hoe, which the old woman was still clinging to. “Here, give me that. I’ll walk to the house with you. You must be tired, working in the hot sun all morning.”

Aisling put her arm out to support her gran and together they walked to the front of the cottage and went inside. “There, gran. It’s a lot cooler in here. Sit down and I’ll make some tea.”

“I’m all right; don’t fuss,” her grandmother said irritably. However, she went over to her favourite chair and sat down, expelling a long breath. “Did you get the eggs in?” she asked.

“Of course I did. They’re in the cold box with the others.”

“Did you wash them first?”

Aisling felt a touch of irritation. “Yes,” she replied. She dipped the iron kettle in the water drum to fill it and put it down hard on the stove top. I’ve got to understand she’s not feeling well and may be in pain. That would make anyone irritable. It’s not her fault.

“It looks as if the fire needs a few more logs,” she said and went outside to get some.


Aisling was exhausted when she finally went to bed. Her grandmother had fallen asleep after drinking her tea and eating a scone, so she had been left with the task of weeding the garden. After that she had done some baking and cooked a meal for them. Gran had seemed a bit dozy and kept dropping her food when she tried to put it in her mouth. She became more and more irritable as the evening wore on, so Aisling helped her with her night gown and tucked her into bed.

She had barely fallen asleep in her loft bedroom when she heard a thud from downstairs where her grandmother slept, followed by a long moaning groan. She virtually slid down the ladder from the loft in her haste to find out what had happened. Gran was lying on the floor beside her trundle bed. She looked as if she was trying to get up, but her body wasn’t responding.

Aisling knelt on the floor beside her and tried to roll her over, but this only made the old lady moan louder. She moved her head and mumbled in a garbled attempted to speak but couldn’t say anything that made sense to her granddaughter. “I don’t understand what you’re saying, gran. I want to help you; you can’t lie there all night. Let me get you back in bed where you’ll be more comfortable.”

Gran started to struggle as if she wanted to get up, but something wasn’t working properly. Aisling noted that only one side of her body was moving while the other side seemed to be scrunched up as if it was shrinking. This is not good, she thought. I’ll have to move her whether she likes it or not. She stood up and surveyed the situation, trying to plot the best way to move the old lady back onto her bed. I’ll have to turn her over, she decided. If I can get my arms under her, I might be able to lift her. The bed wasn’t high, barely knee-high from the floor. The hardest thing for her was changing her gran’s wet nightgown.

Once her grandmother was lying back in her bed with the covers pulled up to her chin, Aisling noticed one side of her face was drooping, the same side as the inactive limbs. “It’s all right, gran, I’ll take care of you, don’t worry.” She squeezed her gran’s right hand, the good hand, and felt some week pressure in response. “I’ll go to the village in the morning to fetch the healer.”

As she turned away to put the wet night gown in the wash tub, Aisling thought she sensed a movement outside the window, a quick shadow that disappeared into the darkness. The rippled glass panes were hard to see through, so she couldn’t be sure. It could have been a night bird. The windows were only designed to let in light, and there was nothing but candle light from inside at this time of night.



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