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Understanding Color: An Introduction for Designers, 4th Edition

ISBN: 978-1-118-00577-4
272 pages
January 2012
Understanding Color: An Introduction for Designers, 4th Edition (1118005775) cover image


Make Sound Color Choices

Now in an updated Fourth Edition, Understanding Color helps you connect the dots between your emotional, intuitive responses to color and the theories that explain them. From this authoritative and easy-to-follow resource, you'll learn how to use color more comfortably, creatively, and effectively than ever before.

Take your work to the next level by exploring how different light sources affect color rendition, how placement changes color, how to avoid costly color mistakes, and how to resolve the color problems that frequently confront design professionals. This edition is full of powerful new features that reflect the latest issues in color and design, including:

  • Expanded and revised content in nearly 35% of the book.
  • Coverage of a broad range of design disciplines.
  • Ideas from the major color theorists that reinforce content, rather than emphasizing what is correct or incorrect.
  • Discussion of color created by traditional media and digital design, and the issues that arise when design moves from one medium to another.
  • Innovative coverage of color marketing issues.
  • Helpful tips for using color in the working environment.
  • An online workbook with valuable exercises that reinforce color concepts.

Understanding Color, Fourth Edition is an unparalleled source of authoritative information and practical solutions for students and professionals in all fields of design.

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Table of Contents





Chapter 1 An Introduction to Color Study.

The Experience of Color.

Color Awareness.

The Uses of Color.

Color-Order Systems.

Color Study.

Chapter 2 A Little Light on the Subject.


Additive Color: Mixing Light.


Lighting Level.


The Illuminant Mode of Vision.

The Object Mode of Vision.

Subtractive Color: Colorants.

Lamps and Color Rendition.

Metamerism and Matching.

Modifying Light: Surface.

Transparent, Opaque, and Translucent.



Indirect Light, Indirect Color.

Modifying Light: Filters.

Chapter 3 The Human Element.

The Sensation of Color.



The Perception of Color.

Physiology: Responding to Light.

Healing and Color.


Psychology: Responding to Light.

Naming Colors.

Color as Language: From Name to Meaning.

Impressional Color.

Color as Words Alone.

Chapter 4 The Vocabulary of Color.


The Artists' Spectrum.

Primary, Secondary, and Intermediate Colors.

Saturated Color.

Other Spectrums, Other Primaries.

Chromatic Scales.

Cool and Warm Colors.

Analogous Colors.

Complementary Colors.

Tertiary Colors: Chromatic Neutrals.

Black, White, Gray.


Value and Image.

Transposing Image.

Pure Hues and Value.

Tints and Shades.

Monochromatic Value Scales.

Comparing Value in Different Hues.


Saturation: Diluting Pure Hues with Gray.

Saturation: Diluting Pure Hues with the Complement.


Chapter 5 The Instability of Colors.

The Instability of Colors.

Color Composition.

Ground and Carried Colors.

Placement and Color Change.


Simultaneous Contrast.

Afterimage and Contrast Reversal.

Complementary Contrast.

Ground Subtraction.

Color and Area: Small, Medium, Large.

Chapter 6 Illusion and Impression.

Optical Illusions.

Color Illusions.

The Illusion of Depth.

Spatial Effects of Colors.

Transparence Illusion.



Vanishing Boundaries.


Bezold Effect.

Optical Mixes.

Chapter 7 Color Theory: A Brief History.

Setting the Stage.

The Beginnings of Color Theory.

Color and Controversy.

The Scientifi c Model: Color Gets Organized.

Color by Numbers.

A New Perspective.

Chapter 8 Color Harmony.

In Search of Beauty.

Intervals and Harmony.

Hue and Harmony.

Value and Harmony.

Saturation and Harmony.

Major and Minor Themes.

Some Harmonious Conclusions.

On Beyond Harmony: Dissonant Colors.

High-Impact Color.

The X-tra Factor: Surface and Harmony.

Chapter 9 Tools of the Trade.

It's the Real Thing: Color in Product and Print.

Design Media.

Artists’ Media.

Subtractive Mixing.

Tinting Strength.

Color Printing.

Chapter 10 The Medium of Light.

Then and Now.

Images of Light.

Lost in Translation.

The Screen Display.

Color Management.

Color Display Modes.

Presentation: Screen and Print.

Color on the Web.

Web Color Coding.

Emerging Media.

Chapter 11 The Business of Color.

The Color Industries.

Producing Color.

Color Sampling.

Color Forecasting.

Color and Product Identity.

Palettes, Color Cycles, and History.

Traditional Colors.

Infl uences on Palettes.




Online Workbook (www.wiley.com/go/understandingcolor4e).

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Author Information

Linda Holtzschue is Principal of Linda Holtzschue and Associates, an interior design firm based in New York City. She has taught color theory and related courses at Parsons School of Design, where she also served as an assistant dean; the Fashion Institute of Technology; and the School of Visual Arts. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and Better Homes and Gardens.
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