Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years, 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: 14.09.2021 - 27.10.2021

Teacher in charge (valid for whole curriculum period):

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Sini Vihma

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):

Teacher: Sini Vihma

Support staff:

Study coordinator: Sanna Väisänen

Workshop master Maria Mastola,, 

tel. 050-4760434 

CEFR level (valid for whole curriculum period):

Language of instruction and studies (applies in this implementation):

Teaching language: English. Languages of study attainment: English


  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    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 for whole curriculum period:

    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 for whole curriculum period:

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


Study Material
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    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)

  • applies in this implementation

    Required materials and equipment: A3 drawing paper, pencils, Color-Aid papers (supplied by the department), hobby knife, (metal) ruler, paper glue, scissors (optional). 

Substitutes for Courses
SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

    5 Gender Equality

    12 Responsible Production and Consumption


Further Information
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Minimum amount of participants is 8 students.
    Two places are reserved for exchange students.

    Teaching Period:

    2020-2021 Autumn I-II

    2021-2022 Autumn I-II

    Course Homepage:

    Registration for Courses: Sisu replaces Oodi on 9 August, 2021. Priority order to courses is according to the order of priority decided by the Academic committee for School of Arts, Design and Architecture:


    Minimum amount of participants is 8 students.

    The order of priority for admitting students:

    1. Exchange students in Aalto ARTS, 2 places (applies to courses taught in English)
    2. Minor students (applies to compulsory courses in the minor)
    3. Degree students in Aalto ARTS
    4. Students from other schools in Aalto University and students who have applied for the course through different student mobility schemes (flexible study right (JOO) studies etc.)
    5. Other students

Details on the schedule
  • applies in this implementation

    The course will be arranged remotely. Please find daily program in detail in mycourses pages:


    Tue 14.9.        9.15–17

    AM Introduction

    Colour variables

    Modes of appearance of colour            

    PM  Relativity and constancy of colour I: Colour and light

    Lightness constancy (lightness and brightness)

    Hue constancy (colour and illumination)


    1a): Simultaneous contrast, one colour looks like two

    1b): Illusion of transparency - mixing hues

    5. Colours of light and shadow, start of the image diary


    Tue 21.9.     9.15–17

    Relativity and constancy of colour II: Contrast

    Light-dark, contrast of hue


    2.a) Border contrasts: Aggressive, glowing, vibrating, melting, vanishing etc. borders

    2.b) Excercises with NCS-Index

    Tue 28.9.     9.15–17

    Categorising and ordering colours

    Brief introduction to colour order systems 

    Aesthetics of colour: harmony and expression

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


    3. a)-f) Analogous colours – visual unity


    Tue 5.10.     9.15–17

    Colour and space

    Binocular and monocular cues


    4.a)-b) Spatial effect and spatial illusion

    6. Colour design


    Tue 12.10.        9.15–17

    AM Lecture, Tarja Peromaa

    PM Presentations of  assignment 4.a)-b)

            Work on assignment 6. Colour design


    Tue 26.10.      9.15–17

    AM Presentations of assignment 5. Colours of light and shadow

    PM Work on assignment 6. Colour design


    Wed 27.10.      9.15–17

    AM Work on assignment 6. Colour design

    PM  Presentations Colour designs

    Wrap up - discussion