Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years (1.8.2018-31.7.2020), which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


By completing the course you will gain a deeper understanding and sensibility to colour as a visual element in art works, design objects and media. You will understand the basics of the mechanisms of visual perception, the modes of appearance of colour and their use in art, media and design. You will be better equipped to utilize colour in your own work and will understand methods of identifying and classifying colours.

Credits: 4

Schedule: 30.10.2018 - 11.12.2018

Teacher in charge (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022): Sini Vihma

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Harald Arnkil

Contact information for the course (valid 10.10.2018-21.12.2112):

Harald Arnkil


CEFR level (applies in this implementation):

Language of instruction and studies (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022):

Teaching language: English

Languages of study attainment: English


  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    This course combines theory and practice. Exploration of colours' aesthetic and functional potential by experimental means. Lectures on perception and use of colour in art and design. Exercises on colour interaction and aesthetics (colour induction, spatial effects of colour, colour as sign, code and signal, colour harmony and expression). Brief introduction to colour order systems. Hands-on exercises and experiments in colour composition (executed mainly in colour paper collage) alternate with introductions to theory of visual perception and the relationship of colour, light and space.

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Assignments, lectures, demonstrations and excursions. Assessment criteria: Attendance, active participation, course portfolio (assignments and lecture notes), the student's own progress and ability utilize and express what he/she has learned.

  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Lectures, classroom exercises and critiques 56 h
    Indenpendent work, work on individual assignment and portfolio 52h


Study Material
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Arnkil, H., Colours in the Visual World (2013)

    (Further reading)

    Arnkil, H. (ed.), Colour and Light Concepts and confusions (2012)

    Albers, J., Interaction of Color (1975)

    Gregory, R., Eye and Brain, The Psychology of Seeing, (1998)

    Livingstone, M., Vision and Art: the biology of seeing, (2002)

    Zwimpfer, M., Color: Light, Sight, Sense (1988)

Substitutes for Courses
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    01291 Colour and perception

  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    No prerequisites.

SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

    5 Gender Equality

    12 Responsible Production and Consumption


Details on the schedule
  • Applies in this implementation:

    Time:  30 October – 11 December 2018, Tuesdays 9.15 –16.30/17.00 

    Place:  A124–125, Otakaari 1X and T003, Väre, Maarintie 13  


    30 Oct. 9.15–16.30 A124–125

    AM Introduction 

    Modes of appearance of colour 

    PM Relativity and constancy of colour I: Colour and light

    Lightness constancy (lightness and brightness)

    Staircase Gelb demo

    Hue constancy (colour and illumination) 


    6 Nov. 9.15–16.30 A124-125 

    AM Colour variables

    Colour concepts, language and terminology

    PM Relativity and constancy of colour II: Contrast

    Simultaneous contrasts (colour induction)


    7 Nov. 13.00–20.00 Optional event:Experience Colour!organized by Aalto Experience Platform, The Aalto Colour Research Group and The Finnish Colour Association. Venue: Espoon kaupunginteatteri /The International Theatre of Finland, Revontulentie 8, 02100 Espoo.Sign up here by 23 October.


    13 Nov. 9.15–16.30 A124-125  

    AM Categorising and ordering colours

    Brief introduction to colour order systems 

    PM NCS Natural Colour System

    Exercises with the NCS


    20 Nov. 9.15–16.30 T003 

    AM Border contrast 

    Border qualities: soft, aggressive, lively, dull…

    PM Borders, transparency and depth

    Spatial effect and spatial illusion


    27 Nov. 9.15–16.30 T003 

    9.15 –10.00 Review of previous assignment

    10.00–12.00 The role of colour in spatial design, Vertti Kivi, dSign Vertti Kivi & Co

    PM The functionality and aesthetics of colour

    Colour as sign and symbol 

    Assignment: Colour design


    4 Dec. 9.15–16.30 T003 

    AM Aesthetics of colour: harmony and expression

    Concepts of colour harmony: visual comfort and balance, unity of colour variables, etc.

    Colour expression: associations and emotion

    PM Work on assignments: Colour harmony and expression & Colour design


    11 Dec. 9.15–16.30 T003 

    AM Work on assignments: Colour harmony and expression & Colour design 

    PM Wrap-up

    Review of Assignments: Colour harmony and expression & Colour design 

    Evaluation of course work and discussion


Registration and further information