# Color question

Registered User regular
I know this is a long shot, but I recently bought this book, the color of Pixar. It’s a neat book that basically uses scenes from Pixar movies to slowly go through the colors of the rainbow. Anyway my question is about the order of color used. It starts with white, which goes to purple, then through the normal rainbow to red, then to black.

Now to me black is dark, cold and should more naturally pair with the cool side of the rainbow (purple). Where as white is bright, warm and should go with the warm side (red). The answer is probably just the whims of the author but is there an art or color theory that pairs black with the red side and white with the purple side of the rainbow?

"The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible

## Posts

• When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
I think on the color spectrum where you go in the direction of purple --> red, white and black are basically "up" and "down". On either side of that is "invisible" because humans can't see any of that with our crappy human eyes.

The color book we have does red orange yellow green blue purple pink brown white black. Unless it's trying to be science-y chances are they're arranged in the way the author thought looked prettiest and made the most sense.

And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
• Moderator mod
edited April 2019
Yeah, in thinking of color in the 'artist' way, you've got 3 factors:
Hue: What "color" a color is. (red, yellow, blue, etc.)
Value: How bright/dark a color is. (Is it white, so bright it's almost white, midtone, dark, black, etc.)
Saturation: How much "color" is in your color. (Is it graytone, is it a kinda olive drab green, is a very intense green, etc.)

Screencap of the Photoshop color picker:

So in your book, a progression of hues may follow a certain logical order- red fades to purple to blue to cyan to green to yellow to orange and then back to red.
But black and white are not about hue, but about value, so they don't logically fit into this progression. But they have to be somewhere in the book, so they put them there.
I suppose they could have organized it to have every page of the book have a 'white' section at the top and a 'black' section at the bottom- which would make more sense, but would probably be more confusing and less readable.

As to black being cold and closer to purple and white being warm and closer to red, this both does and doesn't make a certain amount of sense.
It doesn't make sense in that you can have a very light purple (lilac) and a very dark red (dark crimson).

It makes some sense in that in an outdoor scenario, sunlight is usually warm in hue (sun casting bright, whitish/yellow/orange/red light) and shadows are usually cool (light diffusing from the blue sky and filling in the shadows with some of that blue light). So this may seem like it is a truism that white should be grouped along with warm colors and black grouped along with cool colors, this is only because you see outdoor scenarios all the time.
You could easily set up a scenario where you've got a bright blue light source and because of say, a bright red wall in a room, light will bounce off that surface and diffuse into the shadow areas- result: cool blue light, warm red shadows. Not necessarily a common scenario, but a possible one.

Angel_of_Bacon on
• Registered User regular
Jebus314 wrote: »
is there an art or color theory that pairs black with the red side and white with the purple side of the rainbow?

I found a youtube video of somebody flipping through that book. It's color theory.

So you know how there are "cool" colors and "warm" colors? Well, it goes a step further than that. There are cool and warm shades of colors. Including black and white.

Here's an example of warm black vs a cool black:

These would both be considered blacks. But they're super different colors, because they have different undertones. If you had warm black shoes, you couldn't wear them with cool black pants. It'd look bad.

The pixar book starts with a neutral white (the lamp,) but then moves to cooler whites, and slightly warmer cool whites with purple undertones, to then shift to violet (the first color on the visible light spectrum.) The blacks at the end start warm and go cooler.

There are a couple reasons why you'd do this-
1. White makes sense as a beginning color because the lamp indicates the beginning of a pixar film, and the beginning of pixar itself. Daylight is also a cool-neutral white, so it's a good color to use to signal the beginning of your story. Especially if you're trying to start on a pleasant, fresh note.
2. Black is associated with night, which follows sunsets. Sunsets are normally red/yellow/orange AKA warm colors. So it's a good choice to signal the ending of something.
3. This placement allows for the use of a broader range of whites/blacks.
4. You want a more seamless, flowing experience for the viewer. And Warm-White scenes in pixar aren't really a thing. (I don't think cool-black ones are common either, thanks to sunsets and fire & incandescent lighting being used as light sources in most pixar films.)

Does that help explain it?

• Registered User regular
So awesome that this actually got answers that make sense. It was driving me a little crazy and I 100% did not think it would be as easily answerable as it was. Thanks everyone!

@Angel_of_Bacon, what's with red being on both sides of the hue values? Also, why does high saturation/high value give you bright colors (not white), but low saturation/low values give you black (rather than dark colors)? And perhaps more importantly, is there a good intro book or place to learn about whatever you would call this (color theory maybe)? Speaking of which @Ceres what book were you talking about, and do you like it?

@Creagan that is basically exactly what I was hoping for! Thanks

"The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it" - Dr Horrible
• Moderator mod
@Jebus314
I used the Photoshop color picker for my example (mostly because I happen to have in on my computer), but other programs like Painter visualize the same information in a different way, that might help better answer your questions.

-While PS uses that strip of colors to indicate hue (I think it's an interface usability thing more than anything else), when talking color theory, it's usually referred to as a "color wheel".
In the color wheel, the hues are arranged with each "analogous" color next to each other- meaning colors that have a natural gradient into the other. IE: You can think of a greenish-yellow, or a reddish-yellow, so the wheel is arranged with a yellow with green on one side and red on the other (These adjacent colors are called "analogous" colors). But there's no such thing as a 'purplish-yellow', so it wouldn't make sense to have yellow and purple next to each other. Colors on the opposite sides of the wheel are called "complimentary" colors- in a painting, complimentary colors pair well when appearing next to each other, because they are the colors most opposite to each other, and the eye is drawn to that contrast. But blend complimentary colors together, and you get a kinda dull gray.

So, the red is at both ends on the PS strip because red naturally blends to fuchsia in one direction, and to orange in the other. Adobe could have split it up at any other hue, they just went with red arbitrarily for the sake of the UI.

-That's good catch noticing that, which is why some programs use a triangle rather than a square, because colors kinda converge together at 3 points- PS essentially is stretching one of those points across the entire bottom. So PS doesn't have the most concise representation of the idea I suppose, but as someone who paints with dark values a lot and needs to separate my dark saturated colors from my dark desaturated colors, I certainly appreciate the way they've laid it out because it's easier pick the exact color I want. (Just a personal preference.)

-If you really want to get into depth, James Gurney (the illustrator of the Dinotopia books) has a series about the color wheel and its sort of evolution over time on his blog:
http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2010/02/color-wheel-part-1.html
Or you can search for "color theory" on there and get a lot of thoughts on the subject:
https://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/search?q=color+theory

He also has a book about called Color and Light which is mostly taking his blog material and organizing it more nicely/thoroughly, but that might be overkill if you're not looking to start picking up a paintbrush. I'm sure there are color theory books that would probably be just what you want that are more graphic design/science oriented, I just don't know what they are.

• PICNIC BADASS Registered User, ClubPA regular
edited April 2019
There's also a bunch of popular science books which explore our understanding and use of colour. There's one in particular I'm trying to find which was great - examined the history of pigments by when they started being used by humans. I don't think this is it, but it's along the same lines and looks pretty good

https://www.amazon.com/Brilliant-History-Color-Art/dp/1606064290/ref=sr_1_22

edit: I might be thinking of this one, actually - same author
https://www.amazon.com/Natural-History-Palette-Victoria-Finlay/dp/0345444302/ref=sr_1_4

tynic on
• Registered User regular
One thing I forgot to say is based on the youtube video flip-through, the Color of Pixar is placing the not black/white colors in visible-light-spectrum order. Not rainbow-order. Violet, which is the shortest waves visible to the human eye, is first.

Also, when I was checking rainbow-order before making this comment, I noticed something in photos of rainbows. It often looks darker on the outer side, as the red hues fade. And lighter on the violet. So that's another possible explanation, aside from the color theory stuff.

• In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
tynic wrote: »
There's also a bunch of popular science books which explore our understanding and use of colour. There's one in particular I'm trying to find which was great - examined the history of pigments by when they started being used by humans. I don't think this is it, but it's along the same lines and looks pretty good

https://www.amazon.com/Brilliant-History-Color-Art/dp/1606064290/ref=sr_1_22

edit: I might be thinking of this one, actually - same author
https://www.amazon.com/Natural-History-Palette-Victoria-Finlay/dp/0345444302/ref=sr_1_4

This one looks interesting as well. She was on 99% Invisible: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0143131141/?coliid=I11D29U7R3KC5V&colid=5A4G38DUA6OF&psc=0&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it