Introduction to Color: Josef Albers

Introduction to Color: Josef Albers

While researching my introduction to PDF color presentation, I found this wonderful quote by Josef Albers that perfectly encapsulated the theme I was going for:

In order to use color effectively, it is necessary to recognize that color deceives continually

And I later found the perfect graphic to go along with that quote.

Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color, paperback edition cover

Here’s another version of that image:

However, rather than using a so-so image I found on the web, I decided to do my own homage to Albers by recreating this image as a PDF vector graphic:


The premise for this graphic is that it looks like mostly transparent sheet of paper on top of some colored blocks, with one corner folder over.  In fact, these are ten separate geometric shapes with no transparency used to create this (or the original, which is part of the original edition of Albers’ Interaction of Color book, more on that later, and Albers did not have recourse to the Adobe Color Engine).

The shapes are reasonably close, but the colors are, admittedly, off.  I used indexed CMYK colors, and I wasn’t trying to match the colors on my uncalibrated screen from an uncalibrated JPEG image so much as trying to capture the relationships between the color. CMYK made it easier because I could shade a color by simply increasing the K value.

I did later find another problem with this graphic after having given the presentation: I found a reprint of the original edition at a local library, and discovered that edition to have the folded corner not on the right side, but on the top. This sort of thing happens.

Upside-down? Sideways?

One last anecdote; before being famous for his Homage to the Square, Josef Albers was an artist associated with Bauhaus in Germany who came to the U.S. in 1933 and became part of the faculty and eventually lead the influential Black Mountain College in North Carolina. As it happened, my sister-in-law moved to North Carolina late this summer within spitting walking biking distance of Black Mountain,NC; so I went there eager to bring back books on color theory from its college bookstore…only to find that Black Mountain College had closed its doors in 1957, and was by this point a cherished, but fading, memory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.