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What is color theory?

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Quick Answer

Color theory is a collective body of facts and practical guidance on the origin and formation of color and its uses. A central component of color theory is the color wheel and the three primary colors of red, blue and yellow, from which all other colors originate.

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Areas within the broad field of visual arts use color theory to examine the perception of colors as warm or cool; the use of tints, tones and shades to obtain variations of color; and the creation and use of color harmonies, or aesthetically pleasing combinations of colors, that are analogous or complementary on the color wheel to create color schemes.

The use of color harmonies and color variations extends into various artistic fields to express artistic intent and to elicit desired emotional responses. In industrial and commercial applications, color theory explores the use of color to target products toward various segments of the population, affect human perceptions regarding products and influence decision-making behavior to purchase products.

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