10. Color Relationship Pattern Project


This week’s assignment will be reaching back to what we’ve already learned in our previous assignments, especially the ground subtraction and reverse ground theory projects, to create a piece where 5 colors look like many more.

In this particular case, we’ll be having one “pattern” color, which is the foreground shape repeated over and over, placed upon different background area colors. Based upon the foreground and background color relationships a successful version of this project will create the appearance of the foreground pattern color being different depending on the grounds it is upon, even though the same foreground color is in fact used in all of the pattern areas.

The objectives you’ll achieve are:

  1. Demonstration of the understanding of analogous, complementary, desaturated, and value change relationships.
  2. Demonstration of how to use these relationships to manipulate the foreground color and create the appearance of the foreground color changing significantly in quality.

Here is an example of what your project may look like:

As you can see, the pattern color in the foreground appears to be different depending on the ground color it is floating on. However, it is in fact the same color.


As stated above, your objective is to change one hue’s properties by changing color relationships throughout the design. You will create a repeated pattern (formal composition) using 5 colors. One of these color’s hue, value and intensity will remain constant. (This will be your “pattern” color.) Because of the consistency of one color, that color’s properties (hue, value, and intensity) will change throughout the design.

The pattern color will float on four different ground colors demonstrating color relationships based off of the pattern color. The four color relationships are:

  1. Analogous hue change / equal value
  2. Complimentary hue change / equal value
  3. Value change / same hue, different value (higher or lower)
  4. Desaturation change (a “grey” version of that hue)

Below are two example of the same design with one value change in one hue. Think of the color
properties and location.

  1. On your 18″ x 24″ paper, please create one piece for submission.
  2. Each square will measure 2 inches. The final image will measure 16 x 16 inches. After
    developing a design in your sketch pad, lightly (with a ruler) draw in your design. Once your design is established on the illustration board, you are ready to apply paint. Figure out your color combinations, and take notes and label each color and how you made it in your sketchbook. This will be very helpful later on if you have to remix a color.
  3. The 2″x2″ squares will help you determine the background grid that will be the basis for the various ground relationships (numbers 1-4 above) that you will float your pattern, and the pattern color on.
  4. Next, you’ll want to sketch out your pattern on top of these ground areas. I highly suggest using a simple, geometric pattern that is easily repeatable via a stencil or a similar tool. For example, having 4 small circles or star shapes repeated within each of the 2 inch squares. The reason for this is that the illusion works best if the viewer’s eye sees the pattern as a simple, regular whole, rather than detaching and looking at each individual pattern piece. Here is an example of the pattern used in the above sample:

    Here are two additional examples that I hope can help clarify the process:
    Above are a few color relationships.
    – On the right is de-saturated hue / hue change.* (*Please note that the ground color may read a bit “blue” depending on what monitor and device you are looking at it on. It should read a bit more desaturated, aka greyer, than the pattern color.)
    – On the right is complementary hues / equal value.
    Your pattern design and shape will dictate how you layout the measurements within each 2″ square.

  5. Here is one last example that can help show how the original project design in our example is broken down:
  6. As usual, please post a photo your results in the comments section of the corresponding post, along with your thoughts on how the exercise went. (What went well? What did you struggle with? If you couldn’t mix a color and had to use one straight out of the tube, why do you think that was? Etc.)
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