Does Color Math Scare You?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It’s a special kind of panic. The bewilderment about what to do renders a vibrating, Novocain-like blankness in your brain and you’re sure it manifests as a monotone hum easily heard outside of your own skull.

I’m talking about math.

That’s what it feels like, that’s what it sounds like on the inside. The reality, however, can be a combination of like, dislike, ability or disability. It depends. And it’s different for everyone.

You might be like me. I do not have a natural aptitude for math. Creative aspects, ideas, wordsmithing are definitely my preference. But I am driven to understand color from a colorimetric perspective and math isn’t going to stop me.

It helps that my husband is an engineer with an MBA. On a daily basis, he uses math to do stuff like figures out how to land a U.S. Air Force F16 on a dime. His expertise is metrology, which is the science of measurement. I have an in-house math consultant and coach and he always makes it look easy. Even though I have the advantage of a personal math tutor and I do eventually arrive at a point of understanding, it never gets easier.

Through sheer determination, progress has been made and I’m consistently ticking items off my master list of color math things I want to understand. If I can do it, anybody can. Sounds very cliché but –seriously– if I can do this, so can you.

What I know for sure is attempting to marginalize the importance, need or usefulness of legitimate color systems doesn’t actually make them unimportant, unneeded or useless. Avoiding or denouncing won’t change the fact that established color systems are the foundation for color innovation now and going forward.

I know a lot of the color math, color model, color space charts and diagrams look super intimidating. Like the four below. There was a time when I lined all four of these up and thought I will freaking never understand what all those numbers mean.


But as I peeled into each, I realized that it’s not nearly as complicated as it looks. Actually – it’s really easy!

Like longitude and latitude give you direction about where you are on the planet, numbers around a color wheel give you direction about what hue family neighborhood a color belongs to.

The Color Strategist Color Wheel by Lori Sawaya

Where it might get a little overwhelming is all of the color systems and wheels are different. I want to give you a new way to think about that. Trust me when I tell you that once you catch on to using the direction given to you about overtone via a color notation it becomes as natural as reading everyday tools like a compass, a clock or a thermometer!

The purpose of adding degrees around the perimeter of a color wheel is to give you a way to plot and illustrate where a color fits in to a color system’s hue family structure – as well as color relationships in general.

Hue families do vary from color system to color system and the methods to plot colors within the system vary too. Just remember the essence of how those colors are plotted are no more complicated than a clock or degrees.

You really can do this! Read these other blog posts and add to your color skill set.

  1. Bringing Perspective to Undertones
  2. Color Order Systems are Like…
  3. Learn How to Use a Paint Color Order System Now
  4. How To Master Overtones
  5. Etymology of the Term Overtone
  6. Color Overtones Review

3 thoughts on “Does Color Math Scare You?”

  1. LiveLoveColr

    So maybe I’m watching to much H2 channel, but this sounds a lot like ‘sacred geometry’ the pattern and rhythm of color. I’m going to read this tomorrow, when I haven’t had any wine and I can remember what you’ve said – it’s important. I find it comforting that everything can be explained by math – which means ‘perfection’??? I’m thinking about all of this tomorrow. Thanks Lori…

  2. @rimabechara:disqus absolutely! Thanks for sharing!
    @livelovecolr:disqus You are one sharp cookie, Lynne. I agree. My point of view is that it is all connected, nothing is a coincidence. Even the smallest details have big meaning.

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