ARTC 1325

Instead of doing a small lecture or watching an intro video, Professor Lynch gave a long lecture today. The lecture was over color theory basics and why it’s important as designers to understand color (RGB, CMYK) and greyscale. This wasn’t all news to me but I was able to get a bit of re-imagined information in my memory bank. I say re-imagined because it’s not new information, but a new way to think about the information and apply it to the design world.

I’m going to take this opportunity to explain that RGB is additive while CMKY is subtractive because you begin with a white surface and subtract color as you put ink down… this will make sense a little later, but for now just store that in your shirt pocket. 

WARNING: The following information might bore you and I won’t be mad if you chose to skim through most it.

Learning basic color theory works like this: Red, Yellow, & Blue = Primary Colors; Orange, Green, & Violet = Secondary Colors; and so on and so forth into tertiary colors. Red, Yellow, & Blue are primary colors because you cannot mix any other colors and create those colors. Orange, Green, & Violet are secondary because you can only get them by mixing the three primaries. That makes sense, right? …RIGHT! (C’mon…This stuff is grade school level, people…)

If you’ve ever physically mixed paints or pastels before, then you’ll know this to be true. Once upon a time people thought mixing all the colors would produce black, but they were sadly mistaken. You get a very un-lovely, unsaturated shade of stoney brown.

Exhibit A:


P.S. It is surprisingly difficult to find an accurate and simple color wheel online that includes the MIDDLE being brown (or muddy-grey for that matter). But, lo-and-behold, I’ve found one (with terrible font)!

Understanding why this is important means understanding your computer and the printing process. When you create something digitally with magnificent colors and then try to print it without understanding how printing color works, you’re going to have a bad time. It’s called the Four Color Printing Process and it uses CMKY inks to print. That’s not the crazy part, yet. The crazy part is realizing that your computer screen most likely has a display that’s based on… wait for it… RGB (not Y)! This is because most of the softwares use the traditional RGB which can be used to mix together to form any other color. Crazy right?! … (Oh, it’s just me? Ok…Thats fine.) This is also the color spectrum your digital or DSLR camera will shoot in… RGB!

I don’t want to get too far into the printing process… yet… so, to put it shortly: while you’re creating your masterpiece digitally, your computer screen doesn’t print out exactly as it appears. The exchange between RGB and CMKY is a little complicated. RGB is able to be displayed but not printed, at least not properly printed. (Not only that, but you have to consider the size of the image and how big an image is that you’re trying to print!)

We discussed the types of files in class and from my understanding, there are two main types: Raster and Vector. Raster files are made up of pixels; JPEG and PNG. Vector is a mathematical file which means any image can be scaled as large as you want without sacrificing quality. Generally as a professional, it would be best to not print in JPEG simply because you lose so much quality from the compression of the file information. Changing the pixels via Adobe Photoshop is a great way to help with the size issues, however, TIFF files won’t compress the file information. In other words, if you don’t print in vector files you may choose to print in TIFF files instead of JPEG (please, never print in JPEG) to execute a clearer and crisper image onto paper! Just be fore warned that TIFF files can get pretty big.


The color theory lecture merged into student participation and we were able to experience the effects using Adobe Photoshop. We used a photo of an old, rusty truck parked on a modern street and the Channel menu to select and deselect the different greyscale of RGB. For example, selecting to view only the Red channel of the image produced a greyscale version which was a bit light in contrast. When viewing in only the Green channel, the greyscale was a bit darker. Following in that order, viewing only the Blue channel, the greyscale was even darker. You can select each of the channel colors and individually correct or change the levels of contrast in the Levels menu or the Curves menu. This could be used to bring new life to an image or to add crazy hues and tones.

We put this to work by putting two images on the same work space in Photoshop and creating a masking link to one of the image layers. In practice, you’ll want to make sure each image is on a separate layer and you’ll need that masking link to be attached to the top later (whichever image is at the top of the Layers list). It’s important to get that mask on the top layer as you’ll be subtracting/adding the top image from/to the bottom image(s). You will then use the Paintbrush tool with your two color presets at white and black (to toggle between them).


When you use BLACK with your Paintbrush tool, you will be SUBTRACTING the upper image away, revealing whatever image in beneath it, acting as an eraser. If you use WHITE with the Paintbrush tool, you will magically bring the upper image back by ADDING it back in… all while never changing the lower image! While this technique is very, very cool, it is also extremely useful for when you need to isolate or merge images.


We used all the skills above and quickly created an example image of what someone’s logo might look like on a water tower. I know, it sounds silly but its pretty useful when you think of the applications you’ll need to use this skill for. We had to take the logo/label and make it look like it was painted without having to actually apply it to the face of a water tower, a very large and curvy surface. This was used with the masking tool and white/black Paintbrush tool as well as the free transforming and arch tool. Like I said, it was done fairly quickly so it may not be excellent. This is used when clients want to see their logo or label on various surfaces, so it’s a pretty useful little trick!

I have attached a few images that I was messing around with after learning this great stuff. Needless to say I am very excited to move forward with this information and skill and put it to good work! Again, this class session was NOT with intention to leave with a project done, but with information learned and practice using the information. Enjoy!

Thank you so much for staying with me, I know this was a long blog post! I appreciate my readers! MUCH LOVE!

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