A good color sense is the most potent weapon of an artist because color adds life to your art.
Moreover, your understanding of colors can make your art stand out from others. If you go to any art school, the first thing they teach is the color theory basics.
But what if you’re not an art school graduate and want to learn more about color theory on your own? Well, you can do that too, and we’re here to help you with that.
We have reviewed several color theory books and selected some of the best books that can help you. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, these books can improve your color sense.
You can also brush up on your basic understanding of different color palettes. So, without wasting any more time, let us get on with it!
Best Selling Color Theory Books
So if you’re looking to deepen your knowledge of color theory, here’s the list of the 15 best color theory books to get you started.
The first book on our list is an absolute masterpiece by Josef Albers and one of the brilliant classics. Whether you are a graphic designer or a professional, you need to have a copy of “Interaction Of Color” on your shelf.
Albers has incorporated stimulating visual exercises in the book that can be crucial for understanding how color boundaries and juxtapositions work. It can change your entire perception of colors based on your surroundings, while the book offers valuable insights on color intensity and casual gradation.
On top of this, the visual exercises included in the book help improve your understanding of the various elements of color theory. Plus, it highlights how color theory can transmit different emotions through art.
Naturally, it is a must-have book for any art student to learn all about color theory.
Next up on our list is the book by Betty Edwards, which can be perfect if you are a beginner or an art student. As you’ve guessed from its name, the book will help you learn how to mix colors to create beautiful and harmonious color palettes. Edwards has covered all the fundamental concepts related to color theory in her book in the clear and intelligent language.
Additionally, Edwards has described how light and other nearby colors can influence your color perception. The book helps you manipulate various intensities and hues of colors so that you get to transform colors into different shades.
Meaning, the book helps you experiment with different colors, giving you the confidence to just play around with your imagination. It can be perfect for understanding how to balance colors in portrait, landscape, still-life, or figure paintings.
The third book on our list covers some of the essential elements of color theory while talking about acrylic and oil painting. Mollica has beautifully discussed everything about the pigmentation of colors, color mixing, and even color psychology. The book highlights how different color palettes and hues can psychologically impact your subconscious.
Furthermore, it provides a practical, step-by-step tutorial to a fresh and contemporary perspective regarding colors and color theory.
The book also discusses the science behind colors and the role of color in art history. Hence, you get in-depth knowledge about integrating different colors to bring your artwork to life.
On top of this, you get to learn about the proper applications of colors regardless of the art medium. The best part is that it highlights how color can be a communication tool in your artwork. What’s more, the book offers tips and techniques to create vibrant color combinations for oil paintings, including flesh tones, realistic greens, and lively blacks.
If you are interested to learn all about color history, we will strongly recommend this book by Kassia St. Claire. It is a collection of unusual stories and in-depth research regarding 75 different shades, hues, and dyes. Claire has treated these 75 colors as individual characters in the book and woven engaging stories based on their unknown and forgotten history.
The author has ensured that the book suits aspiring artists and any hardcore bibliophile. Furthermore, the language of the book is fun and engaging, and it immediately gets you hooked on the exciting history of each color. So, we believe you’ll find this book thoroughly enjoyable, even if you are not an art student or a graphic designer.
Additionally, the book is filled with color anecdotes accompanied by fascinating research. From Picasso’s blue period to Van Gogh’s chrome yellow sunflowers, the book covers the history and origin of all these colors and how they found their way into human civilization. Thus, it can be a fascinating read for art lovers and bookworms.
Moving on with our list, we have the “Color Design Workbook” written by Sean Adams, which can be the ultimate guide for graphic designers. Adams has gone to the very roots while describing the background of color. He has discussed how laws of physics and different wavelengths of light impact your perception of color in this world.
The book also explains how graphic designers often fear using bold colors in their artwork. They tend to use safe and traditional colors that are tried and tested for any default digital color palette. But, their limited understanding of color theory and how colors work prevents them from experimenting with colors.
So, this book focuses on discussing and explaining the very basics of color theory that can help you enhance your understanding of color in general. Once you’re done with the book, we believe you’ll feel much more confident in experimenting with bold and vibrant shades and hues.
The next book on our list offers a detailed overview of the application of generic color theory in digital media. It features fundamental color theory concepts such as color harmony using several case studies.
Rhyne has written the book, keeping in mind the use of color in digital concept art. Additionally, the book talks about the application of actual mobile and online color tools in the field of digital art.
It can help you examine how digital color map design works to overcome color deficiencies. What’s more, the book offers a comprehensive review of the historical progression of different color models.
Not only this, but it is ideal for content creators and digital artists working in digital media and visualization. This is because it talks about applying fundamental color concepts in digital art, along with color science and color management.
When you’re a professional artist or a designer, an in-depth understanding of different color palettes can greatly help in creating extraordinary artwork. And that’s why you need to have this book by Tina Sutton in your collection. You get the basic idea of using the color wheel and explore various qualities of color with this reference book.
It also features more than 1500 different color palettes for artists and designers. So, don’t get fooled by the size of this book. It may look small, but it is an excellent color theory book. Moreover, this book can change your perception of contemporary color concepts and enhance your color senses.
Additionally, the book talks about different color interactions and how color acts as a tool of communication in any piece of artwork. It highlights how certain colors can attract viewers and evoke different moods. Hence, Sutton has dived into the impact of color on the human psyche in her book.
The next book on our list discusses a completely different approach to understanding contemporary color as compared to any other color theory book. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has completely discarded the concept of wavelengths of light in understanding color. On the contrary, he explains that such laws of physics are a hindrance to understanding color theory.
Even though Goethe’s scientific approach and conclusions to explain color theory have been long discarded, many art enthusiasts and painting students might find this to be an intriguing book. You can get an in-depth insight into the early beliefs of the 19th Century and how they impacted people’s perception of color back in the day.
Furthermore, Goethe used his personal observation regarding the phenomena of color. His book also relates color theory with different philosophical ideas that emerged in Europe just after the French and American revolutions. Hence, if you’re looking for a completely different and unconventional approach to understanding color theory, this book might be your perfect pick.
Sanzo Wada was a teacher, artist, and costume designer. It is often said that he was way ahead of his time when he wrote the six-volume book based on traditional Japanese and Western-influenced color combinations. Wada’s ideas on modern color theory and color palette were visionary.
This book is based on Wada’s six-volume work published in the 1930s. It makes his work much more accessible to professional designers and artists. The book also lays the essential foundations regarding contemporary color research. It offers 348 different color combinations that are both attractive and sensuous.
Furthermore, the book comes with a CMYK color combination for each color that has been described in it. Also, it is a perfect reference book on color theory whether you are a concept artist, painting student, designer, or digital artist.
As we move on with our list, we bring you this brilliant book on color theory by Joann Eckstut. If you are interested to learn about how colors are created in this universe, this book can be your best guide. Eckstut has taken a very scientific approach to describe why we see and perceive colors the way we do.
The book delves into the basic laws of physics and explores the scientific aspects of color. Not only that, it also offers fascinating explanations regarding the fundamental chemistry of different hues and shades. The chapter covers scientific details related to the nature of the rainbow and how animals have far superior or inferior color visions than humans.
On top of this, the book contains tons of entertaining graphics and stunning photographs that celebrate color. So, whether you’re looking to learn about science, history, or culture of color in the man-made and natural world, this book is right up your alley.
Stephen Quiller is an internationally renowned artist and a best-selling author. In this book, Quiller has helped readers to identify their personal color sense. The book offers can help you in perfecting your personal color styles. Also, it can enhance your understanding of how colors mix to form different color combinations and color palettes.
Moreover, the book features a special color wheel known as the Quiller Wheel, containing 68 colors. Quiller has shown how artists and designers can take inspiration from his color wheel and use these colors to create new and unique color blends that are never seen before. The book also demonstrates how to understand relationships between the colors placed on the color wheel so that you can mix them clearly.
On top of this, Quiller offers step-by-step tutorials to create five-structured color schemes, apply overlays and underlays, and much more. The book helps you to apply colors in a bold and striking way. So, whether you work with oil paints, acrylics, or watercolor, it can be a perfect fit for you.
If you are a follower of classical art theory, you will absolutely love this book written by Deborah Forman. As an artist and a color theory expert, Forman has provided advanced tips, techniques, and instructions for using and understanding color in mixed media art.
Also, the book comes with 52 color labs that cover collage, drawing, painting, assemblage, and much more. So, you can gain a solid understanding of the color spectrum and work your way through it using this book. Not only that, it can help you to handle colors much better so that you don’t feel intimidated while using them in different art projects.
What’s more, the book helps you gain immense knowledge about color schemes and uses different color intensities to make your artwork appealing and attractive to the viewers. It helps you explore color in different dimensions, including nature, psychology, history, and several painted expressions. Hence, it can be an ideal reference book if you want to establish your career as a mixed-media artist.
James Gurney is a New York Times bestselling author and is widely known for his Dinotopia series. In this “Color And Light,” Gurney has bridged the gap between practical knowledge and abstract theory. The book follows the concept of imaginative realism and acts as an instruction guide for realist painters.
Gurney has taken a scientific approach to understanding color and its fundamental relationship with light. Moreover, the book primarily revolves around the role of light in revealing the characters of colors and their pigments, along with different atmospheric effects. It also comes with a complete pigment index, which can become indispensable for any artist.
In addition to this, the book demonstrates how to use color in any painting or art media most realistically and effectively. It also tells you all about the effects of light and color on your artwork. So, if you’re a realist painter, this book might be your favorite pick.
When we talk about color theory, we mainly focus on the theoretical aspects of the color wheel and the color scheme. But, what about the practical application? As a professional artist or designer, you require in-depth practical knowledge for using color in your art projects. And that’s why David Hornung’s book is so popular among professionals and art students alike.
This book takes a practical approach to explain and demonstrate the color theory. So, you can get a practical understanding of how to use color in your art projects. Also, you feel more confident and comfortable in using bold and unique hues and shades.
On top of this, the third edition of the book contains contemporary examples from paintings, illustrations, textiles, graphic designs, and animation. Thus, it helps you to apply the fundamental concepts of color theory in a larger context. Whether you’re a painter, illustrator, graphic designer, or animator, this book will help to enhance your practical knowledge about using color.
The last book on our list demonstrates color coordination and color mechanism. In this 25th-anniversary edition of the book, Jeanne Dobie has discussed new ways to perceive color and make it work. Also, the book focuses on highlighting how colors interact with one another.
In the book, Dobie explains that understanding color relationships is fundamental in making your artwork shine. What’s more, the book can help you to interpret how colors interact with each other. You can create exciting and vibrant color palettes once you have a solid understanding of color coordination.
The book can also help you understand color in a completely new way that is essential for the design and composition of your artwork. You’ll learn to use color as a communication tool, which can unlock your creativity and artistic expression.
Best Color Theory Books Comparison Table
|Number of Pages
|Interaction Of Color: 50th Anniversary Edition” By Josef Albers
|10.9 x 9.8 x 1.1 inches
|Color: A Course In Mastering The Art Of Mixing Colors” By Betty Edwards
|9.2 x 7.3 x 0.7 inches
|Basic Color Theory: An Introduction To Color For Beginning Artists” By Patti Mollica
|9.2 x 0.2 x 11 inches
|The Secret Lives Of Color” By Kassia St. Clair
|Kassia St. Clair
|Art & Design
|7.4 x 5.2 x 1.2 inches
|Color Design Workbook: A Real World Guide To Using Color In Graphic Design” By Sean Adams
|8.5 x 0.6 x 11 inches
|Applying Color Theory To Digital Media And Visualization” By Theresa-Marie Rhyne
|7.4 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
|The Pocket Complete Color Harmony” By Tina Sutton
|Art & Design
|4.5 x 1 x 5.5 inches
|Theory Of Colors” By Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
|Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
|8 x 5 x 0.3 inches
|A Dictionary Of Color Combinations” By Sanzo Wada
|Art & Design
|7.2 x 0.9 x 9 inches
|The Secret Language Of Color” By Joann Eckstut
|Art & Design
|7.5 x 0.6 x 9 inches
|Color Choices: Making Color Sense Out Of Color Theory” By Stephen Quiller
|10.88 x 8.5 x 0.44 inches
|Color Lab For Mixed-Media Artists” By Deborah Forman
|8 x 0.38 x 9 inches
|Color And Light: A Guide For The Realist Painter” By James Gurney
|30th anniversary edition
|7 x 10 x 0.6 inches
|Color: A Workshop Of Artists And Designers” By David Hornung
|Art & Design
|8.5 x 0.5 x 11 inches
|Making Color Sing: 25th Anniversary Edition” By Jeanne Dobie
|25th anniversary edition
|8.4 x 0.4 x 10.9 inches
What Is Color Theory?
The color theory essentially covers all the possible aspects of colors. It is a study that shows how different colors impact different artistic creations.
Whether you are an illustrator, artist, animator, or designer, color theory enhances your sense of color combination. So, when you have a solid understanding of color theory, you automatically get better at color mixing and creating new and unique palettes.
You also learn to use the color wheel and combine colors for complementary, clashing, or analogous palettes. Moreover, color theory offers an in-depth insight into the psychological impact of different colors on your subconscious and makes you understand the relationship between color and light.
Overall, you can develop a better sense of color systems and color charts that can work in your favor while creating unique artwork. Not only that, color theory helps you to understand the qualities of different color schemes.
So, with color theory, you get to upgrade your entire understanding and knowledge about how colors work in different art media. Long story short, you’ll feel much more confident and comfortable in experimenting with different colors while creating art.
Color makes your art sing, especially when you’re an artist or a designer, as your entire creativity and vision are somehow based on color. Your understanding and sense of color essentially make your art stand out in the crowd. And that’s why understanding color theory is so very important.
After going through our article, we hope you have a much better idea about the classic and best-selling color theory books. You don’t need to be an art school graduate to understand color. These books can help you get a new and innovative perspective of how to view colors in this world.
But, our list is just the tip of the iceberg. You can always roll up your sleeves to find some more wonderful books on color theory. With that, we’ll sign off and see you next time!