The best color theory books

Best color theory books

Oceans of ink have been written about color theory, but the truth is that not all books approach the subject in the same way or are equally useful for a given purpose, so choosing one can be tricky. 

The best color theory books teach you how to understand and use colors, as well as the psychological and emotional factors they convey. With these books you will learn the aesthetic keys and the meaning of colors that you can use in illustration, photography or design projects.

I have read many graphic design books and about color theory, but in this guide I have decided to narrow down the list to what, in my opinion, are the 5 best books on color theory that you can find today. In addition, I will give you some clues and recommendations about each book, to help you know if it is for you or not.

The 5 best color theory books of 2024

Color: A Course in Mastering the Art of Mixing Colors

Color: A Course in Mastering the Art of Mixing Colors
  • Author: Betty Edwards
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Language: English

Last price update on 2022-12-06. We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

  • It is simple and easy to follow.
  • It includes tips from renowned artists.
  • The examples are a bit old.

The best color theory book

If you want to know all the basics of color theory, Color: A Course in Mastering the Art of Mixing Colors is the book you are looking for. It is a simple but effective work that brings together all the fundamentals of color theory.

Its author is Betty Edwards, professor emerita of art at California State University. She is also the author of the most widely used drawing manual in the world, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain which has been translated into thirteen languages and has sold nearly three million copies in the United States alone.

"Color" by Betty Edwards

This book explains how to mix color through a very effective progression of practical exercises that take color theory from the rational and scientific side to the more creative part of our brain.

Overall, it’s a good introduction to color theory, with a pleasant language. Each chapter is accompanied by very useful quotations and comments from scientists and artists who have dedicated themselves to the study of color.

Is “Color: A Course in Mastering the Art of Mixing Colors” worth it?

This book is so well structured that, to me, it proves that anyone can understand and master the use of color if they turn to the right books. All in all, it is an easy to read book to learn the what, why and how to use colors.

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Interaction of Color

Interaction of Color
  • Author: Josef Albers and Nicholas Fox Weber
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Language: English

Last price update on 2022-12-06. We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Author: Josef Albers | Number of pages: 218 | Language: English | Format: Softcover

  • It is a timeless classic whose teachings are still relevant.
  • It offers a different approach.
  • Includes didactic exercises.
  • To get the most out of it, you have to do the color experiments yourself.

The best color theory book for graphic designers

The year 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of this essential classic of artistic education: Interaction of color. It is a book that for years has set the basis for the teaching of color, its value and artistic meaning.

Its author, Josef Albers, is one of the most influential educators and artists of the 20th century. He was part of the German Bauhaus and taught for 16 years in the United States before becoming the head of the Design Department at Yale University.

In addition to this, in 1968 he was elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1971, he was the first living artist to have a retrospective exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. After his retirement, he was appointed professor emeritus of art, a title he held until his death in 1976.

"Interaction of Color: 50th Anniversary Edition" by Josef Albers

Interaction of color was a revolutionary book, since Josef Albers’ pedagogical theory was not accepted by the advocates of color science.

They interpreted that there was a separation between the observer and the phenomenon of color, while Albers would demonstrate that the same color can evoke multiple readings and, therefore, the important thing is to educate the eye in order to appreciate its effects.

Is “Interaction of Color” worth it?

This is a strong, direct book with clear ideas about the relationship of color with oneself and the effect it causes. It is full of didactic and dynamic exercises, so if you are looking for a book with a practical application, you will love this book.

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Understanding Color in Photography

Understanding Color in Photography
  • Author: Bryan Peterson with Susana Heide Schellenberg
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Language: English

Last price update on 2022-12-06. We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Author: Bryan Peterson | No. of pages: 144 | Language: English | Format: Softcover and digital

  • It includes many full-color examples
  • It proposes many exercises to help you get used to taking color photos and get out of your comfort zone.
  • It can be a bit basic for experienced photographers.

The best color theory book for photographers

Understanding Color in Photography is a book aimed at photography enthusiasts and aspiring professional photographers.

Its author is Bryan Peterson, in addition to being the author of dozens of books on photography, is a recognized professional, founder of The Perfect Picture School of Photography.

His distinctive use of color and graphic composition has earned him numerous photographic awards, including the Art Director Club’s Gold Award and distinctions from Communication Arts and Print magazines.

"Understanding Color in Photography" by Bryan Peterson

It is a practical and at the same time philosophical book. A lecture that talks about composition, but also reflects on how colors complement each other and how to use them to add dynamic impact through contrast, and the emotional associations people feel towards them.

Since this is a photography-oriented book, there is no lack of illustrative images to exemplify the texts. The color theory is described in a colloquial and friendly way and the photos are beautiful in large format. In addition, each of them is explained both aesthetically and technically, which gives you an extra learning experience.

Is “Understanding Color in Photography” worth it?

Bryan Peterson’s work stands out largely because of his extraordinary use of color. Fortunately, he is also a very good teacher and in this book he explains from A to Z how to understand and achieve those colors.

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Color Studies

Color Studies
  • Author: Ron Reed and Edith Anderson Feisner
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Language: English

Last price update on 2022-12-06. We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Author: Edith Anderson Feisner , Number of pages: 216 , Language: English , Format: Softcover and digital

  • It is very well documented and has a great deal of research behind it.
  • It’s full of relevant information.
  • It’s quite easy to follow.
  • It may be too dense for beginners.

The best color theory book for beginners

In the United States, it’s very common for design students to read Color Studies, this timeless classic written by Edith Anderson Feisner in 2013, but still relevant today.

Edith Anderson Feisner was a teaching assistant in the School of Fine Arts at Montclair State University (NJ). She taught courses in color, design and introduction to the visual arts and held many positions in the Embroiderers’ Guild of America, including certified teacher, teacher certification board, as well as author of the master’s programs in color and design.

"Color Studies" by Edith Anderson Feisner

In Color Studies, you can see how the author dedicated a great deal of time and effort to research, carrying out extraordinary research to cover theoretical concepts that are presented in an expert manner and with a great practical orientation.

Informative and easy to follow, it’s no wonder so many art and design classes have turned to Color Studies to teach their students, as it’s a great color theory book for beginners.

Is “Color Studies” worth it?

If you have a hard time understanding color theory and want a book that explains everything very clearly from the beginning, this is the best one. It’s simple, very easy to understand and provides you with a very solid base of knowledge about the meaning and use of colors.

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Color Theory: An essential guide to color

Color Theory: An essential guide to color
  • Author: Patti Mollica
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Language: English

Last price update on 2022-11-15. We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Author: Patti Mollica | Number of pages: 64 | Language: English | Format: Softcover

  • It contains a lot of information about color theory in painting.
  • Es muy útil para principiantes.
  • It’s a short book

The best book on color theory for artists and illustrators.

If pure art and illustration in particular is your thing, this book is what you are looking for. The book delves into the intricacies of color and how to use it as a communication tool, offering tips for creating vibrant mixes.

In addition, all of this is accompanied by examples of fresh, contemporary works of art. A real treasure for art lovers.

Its author, Patti Mollica is a fine artist and professional illustrator for over 30 years. Her work is known for her fearless use of color and uninhibited brushstrokes.

"Color Theory: An essential guide to color" by Patti Mollica

In this essential guide, Patti Mollica walks you through the most important aspects of color theory as it relates to oil and acrylic painting. From pigment characteristics and color mixing to color psychology, you’ll find all the information you need to make dynamic, harmonious, and meaningful color choices in your own artwork.

Is “Color Theory: An essential guide to color” worth it?

Without a doubt, it is a very practical book that you will want to have at hand more than once. In addition, it has so many examples that it is easy to understand what it is explaining and you don’t get lost at any time.

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The 5 best-selling color theory books of 2024

Last price update on 2022-10-15. We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

What to consider when choosing the best books on color theory

As you have already found out, there are many good color theory books to choose from. But which one is best for you in particular? Below I will discuss some factors that I recommend you take into account when making your decision.

What are your specific objectives?

Do you want to learn color theory for painting? Graphic design? Fashion? Decorating? There are color theory books specifically tailored to each of these fields (and many others), so it’s important to choose one that fits your specific goals.

What is the goal of the book?

Are you looking for a book that will teach you color theory so you can apply it to your own work? Or are you looking for a book that will inspire you with creative ideas and examples on the use of color? There are many excellent books on color theory that serve different purposes, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for before making a purchase.

Who is the author?

The author’s credentials and experience are important when buying any book, but especially one on color theory. Look for an author with a background in art or design and who has extensive experience working with color. If he or she is an artist, you can probably find his or her work on the Internet and see if the way he or she applies color matches your aspirations.

What is the book’s approach to color theory?

There are many different approaches to color theory, so it’s important to find one that fits your own interests and needs. Some books focus on the scientific aspects of color, while others focus on the more creative and artistic aspects. There are also books that take a more holistic approach, incorporating both the science and art of color into one volume.

Is the book up to date?

Color theory evolves over time, so you’ll want to make sure you buy a book that covers the latest trends and ideas. If there is no reference to the year of publication on the cover of the book, you can always check it in the product description.

What is your level of experience with color theory?

If you are new to color theory, you will want a book that starts with the basics and gradually introduces more complex concepts. On the other hand, if you are already familiar with the basics, you will probably prefer a book that allows you to jump right into the more advanced topics.

Does the book cover all the basics?

If you are getting started with color, make sure the book you choose covers all the basics that make up color theory, such as:

  • The color wheel
  • Primary and secondary colors
  • Complementary colors
  • How light affects color

Does the book offer advanced concepts?

If you are already familiar with the basics of color theory, you may be looking for a book that covers more advanced concepts. In that case, look for books that cover topics such as:

  • Color Harmony
  • Creating moods with color
  • Using color in branding and marketing

Does it include step-by-step instructions?

If you’re looking for a practical guide that shows you how to apply the principles of color theory to your own artwork, then you’ll want to make sure the book includes step-by-step instructions. Look for a book with clear explanations and illustrations that show you exactly how to use color. A color theory book with a practical approach should be packed with examples of how to use color in your own work.

Does it include useful tips and tricks?

In addition to step-by-step instructions, books that include tips and tricks for using color effectively are very useful. Generally, these little tips are based on the author’s actual experience, so they can save you a lot of time and effort that the author has already gone through.

Does the structure and layout of the book make it easy to follow?

The layout and structure of a book can be just as important as its content when it comes to learning. Make sure the book you choose has a clear layout that is easy to follow and understand. It should have a well-defined structure, with clear headings, plenty of white space for easy reading, and clear and relevant illustrations.

What writing style do you prefer?

Some color theory books are written in a very technical and academic style, while others are more lighthearted and accessible. There is no right or wrong answer as to which is better, it just depends on your personal learning preferences.

Which format do you prefer?

Color theory books are available in all sorts of formats, from traditional hardcover books to e-books. Some even include access to online courses or video tutorials, providing a complete learning experience. Consider what format is most convenient for you to learn in.

What is your budget?

Color theory books can range in price from $5 to $100 or more. Obviously, the more expensive books tend to be more comprehensive and offer better value for money. That said, there are some color theory books at more affordable prices that are not bad at all.

What do other people think?

Not all color theory books are the same. To be honest, there are also bad color theory books out there, so it’s worth making sure you’re buying a good one, like the ones we recommend here.

Before making a buying decision, it’s always a good idea to ask a friend or colleague who is into UX design or read some reviews from other people who have bought and read the book. This will give you a good idea of what readers think about the book and if it is the book you are looking for, according to your needs and expectations.

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