Color Theory course at Sessions College

Color Theory

1.5 credits

DES 104: Color Theory

Build a foundation in using color

Color is an essential tool for any designer. Though each color has its own specific hue and value, the expression and perception of a color changes in different contexts. In this online color theory course, you'll learn how to work with color, discovering how to develop color schemes for your design projects. The course will range from fundamental color concepts and terminology to the practical application of color in typography and using color effectively on-screen.

Understanding color systems

Course At A Glance

Course Features

  • 100% online
  • Project-based
  • Instructor-led
  • Credit-bearing: 1.5 Credits
  • Classes start January, April, and August


The course is taught by the following instructor(s):

Course developed by: Piper Nilsson

Take this course as a standalone or as part of the following program(s):

Course Projects

    1. Thinking About Color

      To begin to understand how to work with color, we'll explore different ways of looking at it using the color wheel. The concepts of hue, saturation, and harmony will be introduced. Values and intensities of colors are explored using illustrations and real-world examples.

    2. Color Interactivity

      Colors can look very different depending on the other colors around them. Lesson Two explores how colors work with each other. You may be surprised by some of the effects and illusions that can be created by simple pairings of colors. We'll also look at light and how it affects the perception of color.

    3. Color in Design

      Designers use two very different "modes" of color in their work: color that is made of printing inks and color that is made from light in a monitor. The differences between these additive and subtractive color systems will be explored in Lesson Three. Other important topics covered include using color on the Web, combining color with typography, and incorporating color psychology in your designs.

Sample Student Work

by Thomas Galvin

Course Outcomes

What Are The Course Projects?

This course is packed with creative projects:

  • Studies in color systems
  • Color interaction studies
  • Retro poster design
  • Book cover design

Course includes peer-to-peer learning through discussions and critiques.

What Software or Supplies Do I Need?

To take this course you'll need:

  • Computer with Internet connection.
  • Adobe Photoshop or equivalent program.
  • Basic experience in the above software.

What Will I Learn?

Students in this course can expect to learn to:

  • Identify fundamental color concepts including hue, saturation, value, and intensity.
  • Produce color harmonies based on geometric connections of the color wheel.
  • Employ color value and saturation to create moods relevant to specific products or design needs.
  • Create "mood boards" or color studies that illustrate specific types of color combinations.
  • Analyze how color presents an illusion of light in artwork.
  • Effectively apply the various illusions created by interactions of hue, contrast, value, and saturation.
  • Experiment with color interactions to control which elements move forward or fade back in a design layout.
  • Examine the primary colors of light and pigment and how these colors are formed on screen and in print.
  • Use color to enhance the legibility of typography in different design scenarios including print design, Web design, and brand identity.
  • Define an approach to creating a color palette, applying it to design, and evaluating color effectiveness.

Getting Started

Course Registration

  • Classes start January, April, and August
  • 1.5 Credit Course
  • Project-Based: Exercises, Discussions, and Critiques

Course Tuition and Fees
Registration Fee* $200
Total Course Price $965

Registration fees are nonrefundable after 5 days from enrollment. All tuition includes a digital materials fee for course content.

Course Registration Form

To register for this course, use the form below to enter your information and desired start date. An Admissions Advisor will contact you to arrange payment and provide you with an Enrollment Agreement.

PD: Course Registration

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


What Are The Courses Like?

Our courses are project-based. In each course you’ll enjoy a series of lectures, projects, discussions, and critiques designed to stretch your creative skills, earning college credit for your completed course.

How Much Time Do I Need?

Classes start January, April, and August, and this course can be completed as part of a 15-week term in 8 weeks. College credit from this course can be applied to a range of degree and certificate level programs at Sessions College.

Who Are The Instructors?

Our courses are developed and taught by our faculty of professional artists, designers, and photographers. This means that you’ll learn in-demand skills, get feedback on your work, and build a portfolio of creative work.

Is Sessions College accredited?

Yes. Since 2001, Sessions College has been accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The Distance Education Accrediting Commission is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a recognized accrediting agency and is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).