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Thanks Bock Choy but my question is not about colour wheels in general but about the idiosyncracies of the colour wheel used in kuler. Who devised it? What is their rationale for positioning R, G and B at irregular intervals (i.e not at 120 degrees from each other) and not opposite their complements C, M and Y? Anyone?
Yes, this color wheel is interesting. It doesn't quite look like a Munsell 5-point color wheel (red, yellow, green, blue, purple), which, as far as I know, forms the basis for modern color theory. It looks close, but perhaps it throws me off because it's flipped and rotated from how I learned it (with red at the top, and yellow going clockwise). I think another thing that throws me off is that the original Munsell system was pigment-based (subtractive color) not light-based (additive color). The color gamut is different in the RGB space, with cyan/blue-green being much brighter and more saturated; orange is less saturated.
I'd also love to hear the basis of this color wheel design from one of the creators. Rationales anyone?
Thanks for the posts in response to djcb. You'll learn more about why we chose this color wheel relatively soon. We had another discussion about color wheel selection much earlier in kuler's life, certainly seems like a juicy topic.
RGB or RYB?
The kuler color wheel seems to be based on the four so-called 'psychological' primaries. If you look, you'll see that red, green, yellow and blue lie at the four cardinal points. This is the same basic arrangement used by the NCS color system, which is popular among designers here in Europe, but suffers the flaw that its colors are not evenly spaced perceptually. Adobe seems to me to have modified the arrangement by creating something like a hybrid between the four-color circle and a perceptual circle like Munsell. I count myself a Munsell partisan in the extreme; but I have to admit the kuler circle is very intuitive to use.
I'll be interested to see what the logic behind it is.
To extend what I posted earlier: The Munsell circle is perceptually smooth, or very close to it. Analyzing the kuler color circle on the basis of Munsell hues, the four cardinal points are: Yellow (Munsell 4Y) opposed to Blue (7PB), Red (7R) opposed to Green (0G). For those not familiar with the Munsell numbering system, this means that Quadrant 1 of the kuler circle from Red to Yellow is occupied by just 57 degrees of the Munsell circle, instead of 90 degrees. Thus it is topologically stretched, or "magnified", reflecting the subtle color distinctions we can make in this part of the spectrum. Likewise Q2, extending from Yellow to Green: this quadrant, too, is occupied by just about 57 degrees of the perceptual wheel.
Q3, running from Green to Blue, by contrast squeezes 133 perceptual degrees into the available 90 degrees of the kuler wheel. And Q4, from Blue back to Red, squeezes 108 degrees into 90. In each of these quadrants, whatever our perceptual mechanism is capable of, I think it's safe to say most people perceive a greater sameness of hue. This means we have less need to finely discriminate blues, e.g., than we do oranges or yellows.
The only downside to this is that, if you really need to create a perceptually smooth progression of hues around one of the cardinal points, choosing evenly spaced hues on the kuler circle won't get you there! The tradeoff comes in the ease with which color relationships can be imagined.