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Color

Nine Inch NailsArtists often use color to induce feelings and physical sensation, to portray depth and movement, and to allude to symbolism and cultural references. Bright, warm colors are emotionally active and seem to move forward. Dull, cool colors are emotionally passive and seem to receed. What is happening in Nine Inch Nails?

Color is a property of light. Mixing light of all three primary colors produces white light. Mixing light of two primary colors results in secondary colors: yellow, cyan, or magenta. Black is the absence of light. Computer monitors use combinations of red, green, and blue light to make colors. Posters do not emit light; they reflect it. A rose looks red because it absorbs all the other colors in the visible spectrum except red. Poster ink works the same way. The primary colors for reflected light are cyan, magenta, and yellow. Artists often use a color wheel to assist them in choosing a color scheme.

Relationships among colors on the color wheel are often expressed as the following basic color schemes:

  • monochromatic (the light and dark variations of a single color),
  • analogous (colors next to each other on the color wheel),
  • complementary (colors opposite each other on the color wheel), and
  • triatic (three colors of equal distance from each other on a color wheel).

Which color scheme was used by the artist in the poster Nine Inch Nails?

The use of a triatic color scheme produces an agitated feeling of discontinuity. The use of complementary or monochromatic colors has an opposite effect. Why would the artist wish to create these feelings? What would happen if the bright warm colors in Nine Inch Nails (fig. 1) were replaced with a dull shades of the poster's cool colors (fig. 2)?

Nine Inch Nails Cooler Colors
Figure 1
Figure 2

For information on basic color theory, visit the College of the Atlantic's web site.

| Artist's Intent | Typeface | Line & Movement |
| Color | Paper | Figure/Ground |

| What's the Idea | That's Saying a Lot | Try This at Home |

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