In the visual arts, color theory is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual effects of a specific color combination. Color terminology based on the color wheel and its geometry separates colors into primary color, secondary color, and tertiary color. Understanding color theory dates to antiquity. Aristotle (d. 322 BCE) and Claudius Ptolemy (d. 168 CE) already discussed which and how colors can be produced by mixing other colors. The influence of light on color was investigated and revealed further by al-Kindi (d. 873) and Ibn al-Haytham (d.1039). Ibn Sina (d. 1037), Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (d. 1274) and Robert Grosseteste (d. 1253) discovered that contrary to the teachings of Aristotle, there are multiple color paths to get from black to white. More modern approaches to color theory principles can be found in the writings of Leone Battista Alberti (c. 1435) and the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (c. 1490). A formalization of "color theory" began in the 18th century, initially within a partisan controversy over Isaac Newton's theory of color (Opticks, 1704) and the nature of primary colors. From there it developed as an independent artistic tradition with only superficial reference to colorimetry and vision science.
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The application of color theory ranges from ancient Egyptian uses to modern commercial advertising. Colors affect our mood and perception. In ancient civilizations, color was explored for its healing properties. Phototherapy (light therapy) was practiced in ancient Egypt, Greece, China and India. The Egyptians utilized sunlight as well as color for healing. Color has been investigated for its healing potential since 2000 BC.
Color can be classified according to
- Warm and Cold
- Receding and Advancing
- Positive and negative
- Subtractive and additive