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Where can I learn colour theory?

Colour theory is an important concept for designers, artists, photographers and anyone interested in using colour effectively. Understanding how colours work together can help you create more aesthetically pleasing and visually impactful works. If you want to deepen your knowledge of colour theory, there are many options for learning through online courses, books, videos and free resources.

Online courses

One of the most comprehensive ways to study colour theory is through an online course. These courses are structured to methodically take you through the fundamentals and advanced applications of colour theory. They include video lessons, readings, quizzes and creative exercises to help reinforce the concepts. Here are some of the best online colour theory courses:

Course Key Features
Color Theory Fundamentals by Skillshare – Covers colour relationships, schemes and psychology
Colour Theory for Designers by Coursera – Created by California Institute of the Arts
Colour Theory by Khan Academy – Free online lessons and exercises
Modern Color Theory by Domestika – Taught by artist Elena Monescillo
Colour Theory for Artists by Udemy – Focuses on painting and mixing colours

These courses allow you to learn colour theory at your own pace, revisiting concepts and applying your new skills in creative assignments. The interactive format helps concepts stick better than passive learning. Most courses are beginner-friendly and start with the basics before building up.


Reading a comprehensive book is another great way to thoroughly learn colour theory. Books allow you to absorb the material at your own pace and refer back to it as needed. Here are some definitive books on understanding and applying colour theory:

  • The Interaction of Color by Josef Albers – One of the most influential colour theory texts with experiential exercises.
  • The Elements of Color by Johannes Itten – Covers colour relationships, contrasts and effects.
  • Colour and Meaning by John Gage – Explores cultural history and symbolism of colour.
  • Colour: A Workshop for Artists and Designers by David Hornung – Practical exercises and applications.
  • The Art of Mixing Colors by William F Powell – Focuses on colour mixing for painting.

These books blend colour foundations with practical guidance for artists and designers. While passive reading is informative, doing the colour exercises will help ingrain the concepts. Building a library of colour theory books lets you reference them throughout your career.

Video tutorials and lectures

Free video tutorials are abundant online for learning colour theory basics. YouTube has lectures from colour experts and university professors summarizing key concepts. Video learning provides a more engaging, visual medium for absorbing colour principles. Here are excellent YouTube channels and playlists to check out:

  • The Secrets of Colour Theory – Series by artist Will Kemp covering colour foundations.
  • Colour Theory Fundamentals by the Slade School of Fine Art – Concise introductory lectures.
  • School of Colour – Lessons by artist Mark Dilley focusing on painting.
  • Colour Theory for Artists by Draw Mix Paint – Beginner-friendly targeted tutorials.
  • Understanding Colour by Betty Edwards – Lecture series introducing colour basics.

Short videos make colour theory concepts more digestible. Pausing to practice the principles as you learn will help reinforce the lessons. Videos are a great supplemental learning tool alongside courses or books.

Creative exercises

Applying colour theory through exercises, tests and art projects is key for retaining the knowledge. Interactive tools and creative prompts help you understand how colours impact aesthetics and emotions. Some ways to actively practice include:

  • Mixing colour palettes and noting their properties
  • Analyzing master paintings to understand colour techniques
  • Creating colour schemes for sample designs
  • Testing colour psychology principles
  • Painting colour wheel studies

Completing these types of applied exercises cements your theoretical colour understanding. You can find prompts in colour theory books or online articles. Exercises allow you to creatively play with colour and directly see how it works.

Online communities

Connecting with fellow colour enthusiasts and artists can provide camaraderie as well as inspiration. Online communities like Reddit groups, Discord servers, and Facebook groups allow members to share colour resources, critique work, and support each other. Here are some active online colour communities:

Community Key Features
Reddit: r/coloranalysis – Analyzing personal colour palettes
Reddit: r/colourtheory – General colour discussion
Discord: Colour Theory Club – Focused on colour mixing for artists
Facebook: The Color Collective – International group of colour professionals

The social support and inspiration from these groups can enrich your colour learning journey. You can glean insights from experienced colour experts within the communities.

Practice with online tools

Interactive online tools remove barriers to practicing colour skills. Digital colour mixing apps and vision simulation tools allow you to quickly experiment with colour principles. Here are some useful online tools for applied colour exercises:

  • Adobe Color Wheel – Create and customize colour schemes.
  • Coolors – Generate attractive colour palettes and test combinations.
  • Color Brewer – Select optimal colour maps for visualizations.
  • Colorable – Simulates different types of colour vision.
  • Tint & Shade Generator – Visualizes tints and shades of any hue.

The instant feedback and visualization provided by these tools accelerates colour learning. Test how complementary colours pop next to each other or view your designs through different types of colour blindness. Online tools make colour theory concepts tangible.

Pigment and paint mixing

To deeply grasp colour theory, you need hands-on experience physically mixing colours. Using paints, inks, dyes or other pigments will reinforce your knowledge. Key exercises include:

  • Painting a colour wheel showing primary, secondary and tertiary hues.
  • Mixing tints, tones and shades of colours.
  • Understanding how colour changes when mixed with complements.
  • Testing how different pigments mix together.

The magic happens when you get to blend the actual colours and see how colour theory principles manifest in real life. Buy some basic paint supplies at a craft or art store to practice mixing colours.

Nature observation

Nature provides an abundant canvas to observe colour theory concepts. Analyzing colour relationships in sunsets, forests, flowers and more helps ingrain the principles. Some ways to study colour in nature include:

  • Observing complementary colours in landscapes.
  • Noticing monochromatic and analogous colours in nature.
  • Studying how colours change in light and shadow.
  • Sketching colour schemes seen in nature.

Making colour observations during a nature walk connects theory with real-world examples. You can also analyze photos of natural scenery to identify colour techniques and relationships. Immersing yourself in nature provides interactive colour study.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the basics I should know first?

Start by learning the fundamentals – the colour wheel, primary/secondary/tertiary colours, hue, saturation, brightness, colour mixing, complementary colours, colour harmony, temperature, and colour schemes. Grasping these core concepts provides the foundation for further applied colour knowledge.

What supplies do I need?

To practice mixing colours, basic paint supplies are ideal like acrylic or watercolour paints, brushes, canvas paper and a palette. You can also use markers, coloured pencils or crayons. For digital work, an art program like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop or Procreate allows colour experimentation.

Should I learn colour theory for my field specifically?

It can be beneficial to learn colour principles tailored to your discipline. After grasping the basics, look for resources focused on your niche like colour theory for photographers, graphic designers, makeup artists, painters, etc. The principles remain the same but the applications will relate more directly to your work.

How long does it take to master colour theory?

There is always more to learn about colour, but expect to spend at least a few months immersed in colour theory resources to become proficient with the core concepts. Lifelong colour study through practice will continue deepening your mastery over time.


Colour theory is a broad discipline with endless learning opportunities. Online courses, books, videos, communities and hands-on exercises offer multidimensional ways to solidify your understanding. Learning the fundamentals, actively practicing principles, and staying inspired by fellow colour enthusiasts will enrich your relationship with colour. With various pathways to explore, find the colour theory learning journey that resonates with you.