LEAP!Tracy HolmesComment

Why do we use a 2-dimensional shape as a tool to reference the 3-dimensional world of colour? Maybe it's time to re-invent the colour wheel . . .


AS EASY AS 0, 1, 2, 3

Point, line, shape, form. Coordinates, length, area, volume. Corners, edges, faces, solids.

These terms are the realm of geometry, commonly used to describe relative positions and sizes of shapes and forms in space. Colour itself is shapeless and formless, but throughout history, geometry has often been used to define and organize it: 

  • as a single point, like a wavelength value that differentiates one colour from another
  • in a 1-dimensional line connecting one colour to the next one, like a spectrum, or connecting one colour with lighter, darker, or hueless versions of itself
  • as a 2-dimensional shape, like a colour wheel connecting all the Hues full circle, or a triangular wedge of that wheel, showing the full gamut of a colour scheme
  • as a 3-dimensional solid, like a sphere that equates colour with Geography, placing White at the North Pole, Black at the South, pure Hues circling at the Equator, Tints in the Northern Hemisphere, Shades in the Southern, and Tones hidden beneath the surface connecting each colour inward to an achromatic axis


We've alluded to these terms with BreakThroughColour as well:

  • defining our element primary colours as all-or-nothing starting-and-ending points for eight distinctly different Corner Colours
  • using Connector Colours to link those corners to one another in straight and diagonal lines
  • adding more Connectors and Corners to make 2-dimensional shapes, like a triangle linking three adjacent corners, or a square creating a 3x3 grid

As long as we're exploring colour as a 2-dimensional series of points, lines and shapes, these virtual colour tiles do the trick to show the Colour Basics Corners and Connectors in their neat and tidy little 3 x 3s. But once we try and see more than one grid at a time, or try to imagine how 13 different 'three-in-a-row' connections can go through a single shifty shade of Grey (straight, diagonally, and triagonally all at the same time!), two dimensions isn't enough.


Here's a look at the same points, lines, and shape you see above, but with a slightly different POV:

Using perspective drawings to imply a third dimension, we can turn our coloured shapes into solids: three squares become 3 corners , two lines become 2 adjacent edges, and a full set of nine virtual colour tiles (4 Corners and 5 Connectors) line up in 3 rows and 3 columns to complete a 3 x 3 layer.

Reference the Cube Cards in your Colour Basics deck, and you'll see this 3 x 3 layer is also a 'face card,' the first of 6 faces in what will become a 3 x 3 x 3 Cube. The Colour Basics Cube Key Card shows all six faces of the completed Basics Cube:

One side of the Cube Key Card shows the 'light side' of the Colour Basics Cube, with White at the centre, surrounded by 6 Tints (the Corner Hues mixed half-and-half with White). The other side shows the 'dark side' of the Cube, with Black, surrounded by 6 Shades (the Corner Hues mixed half-and-half with Black). Both views show the 12 Hues in a colour 'wheel' around the outside, Corner Hues in the Corners, and Connector Hues between them. Here are those parts on their own: 

If you're looking for a wheel that rolls smoothly and will get you from A to B and back again, these six-sided versions are going to be a bumpy ride. But will a colour wheel really take you as far as you can go? A traditional colour wheel is a 2-dimensional thing, and colour isn't 2-dimensional. A single circle can tell part of the story, like Hues honing in to a hub of White. But since White and Black are opposites and can't both be in the same place (any more than Yellow can be Blue or Cyan can be Red), we need a second wheel to show the Shades. And, to be fair to our good friend Hue Grey, we need a third wheel to show the Tones.

A colour wheel makes sense as a handy reference tool that shows each pure Hue with its corresponding faded, shaded, and de-saturated versions all in one place. But the flip side is that Tints, Shades, and Tones aren't in the same place, and even a wheel with a flip side can't convey colour from every angle. These twelve spokes are a start, but even 360 degrees of separation would still leave us spinning, because a flat shape is not an effective model to show how all these different pure and altered versions actually get that way, and how they all have a specific, logical, definable, and find-able place in one complete 3-dimensional colour space

if you're looking for a geometric way to cohesively connect 6 Corner Colours with 6 Connector Colours in a continuous 'circular' colour flow, and also has a place in the space for White and Black to each have their own distinct (and opposite) Corner, you may want to re-invent your colour wheel and take a look at colour... cubed.