3 Replies Latest reply on Dec 1, 2015 2:04 PM by Peter Villevoye

    Which Color Wheel, please ?

    Peter Villevoye Adobe Community Professional

      This matter has been bothering me for many years now. I wonder if and how many Kuler users are actually aware of this, but the Adobe Kuler color wheel is spatially based on some perceptual color theory and harmony, and not the color wheel for technical color systems and settings.


      For example the primary colors in the typically and technically triangle of RGB or CMY are not to be found in a perfect 120 degrees angle in the Adobe Kuler color wheel.


      This is the RGB theme of 0, 120 and 240 degrees in Hue values, spread across the Adobe Kuler color wheel:


      Kuler RGB settings.png


      As you can see in the above picture, Adobe gracefully 'bends' the space between the values to accommodate for the Kuler color wheel, which follows color theory and harmony. (No wonder Adobe Kuler is reluctant to reveal the advanced value settings of these colors...)


      But it's not even similar to the distribution of colors in the Active Color panel of Illustrator.


      AI Color RGB settings.png


      The green looks similar to the one in the Kuler wheel, but the blue has shifted once again !


      To remind you, below, an indication of the Apple color wheel interpretation of RGB:


      Apple RGB settings.png


      Finally, there's even a clearer indication of the mismatch between these color wheels.

      You can see the technically 0, 90, 180, 270, and 360 degrees setting for the hue value, but it's not at all the exact cross hair you'd expect:


      Kuler vs Apple color wheel.png


      As you can see, what used to be a quarter (90 degrees) in a technically correct RGB distribution of colors in the Apple color wheel, accounts for almost half of the Kuler wheel, while enormously truncating the differences between red and purple.


      Due to the same difference, the so called "harmonious" effect of complimentary colors (which are supposed to be exact opposites), or triads (which are supposed to be spread 120 degrees apart from each other) falls to the ground when the spreading of the colors on the wheel seems purely arbitrary. One can only wonder which wheel is the correct one...


      So when picking colors together with other designers, be sure to settle on a unanimous color wheel (Adobe Kuler, Illustrator, or Apple), before you start throwing your mentally creative darts at it...


      I wish Kuler (and other Adobe popular applications) would at least warn for these differences, or let you pick a preferred color wheel.

        • 1. Re: Which Color Wheel, please ?
          Thomas Dearie Level 2

          I think Adobe is trying to smooth over what is, under the hood, a pretty complex subject.


          But you're on the money about designers needing to know how the different representations of color relate to each other and how they relate to other models. Your question of what representation model the color wheel is using is a good example.


          Production can't happen without design happening first.

          We need tools that work in a clear and consistent way across the suite, as well as an understanding of how the tools relate to color perception and design principles.


          A lot of color tools have been added to Adobe CC, and I love the suite.


          But the color tools remain very procedural and, at times, lack cohesion. They confuse my students as much as help.

          Inevitably, they use them for production but not design (except the students who just go "theme shopping" : )


          I'd like to see color tools that work the way we really understand color and how we design with it:

          logical, intuitive, and expressive of both design and color perception principles.

          And, as you say, clear and consistent across the suite.


          It's a major area of potential development for Adobe and can help Creative Suite continue to set itself apart.

          • 2. Re: Which Color Wheel, please ?
            Peter Villevoye Adobe Community Professional

            Thanks for your kind comments and additional thoughts

            I also hope the color themes and libraries in Adobe CC will somehow become dominant and persistent. For now, even the implementation isn't bug free and the nomenclature is not consistent, yet. But we're in another transitional state here. Time will tell...

            • 3. Re: Which Color Wheel, please ?
              Peter Villevoye Adobe Community Professional

              Note: the RGB colors in the triangle in the Apple color wheel above are correctly spread over 120 degrees parts. The overlay of black lines is not correct, though. It should have shown the radials of a perfect triangle like below:

              Apple color wheel.png


              And on another and actually quite concluding note: when designers talk about the esthetical harmony between colors, they refer to these kinds of color wheels, with a completely different way of defining and partitioning the "base" colors:

              Color Harmony.png