Free color – freedom and order

Free color – freedom and order

Jürgen Opitz – Color planner and architect, Lohmar

Rendering prisms - a symbol of today's detachedness of color, medium and materiality.

We have all experienced in childish experiments with water color, how the all-too-free handling of everything the color box gives, resulted in an unsightly, sober, dirty brown, not pleasant and finally thrown sheet of paper in the uncontrolled, unbridled, uncontrolled wild confusion, however, this experiment also led to the realization that less can be more, and that there must be some form of rules and strategies that lead to more satisfying designs with color.

Wer Großes will, muss sich zusammenraffen;
In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister,
Und das Gesetz nur kann uns Freiheit geben.

J.W.v. Goethe, das Sonett

In english:

Whoever wants great things must gather together;
In the limitation, the master,
And the law can only give us freedom.

Shape always contains a certain order. Nature, according to plan, whether it is attributed to a creator, genetics, evolution, or the so-called morphogenetic fields, is all in a relative, orderly and dialectical dialogue. Likewise, human creations are always the result of ordering spirit. Ideally, this shows the order of the music. Clearly defined, tuned tones are given a new form and always remain themselves. Comprehensible harmonics offer immeasurable freedom of shaping and shaping.

A renewed painterly, color-shaping experiment will consequently be a carefully selected and carefully chosen selection of a few colors and their wise arrangement, which has a formal, as well as color, a “coherent” statement.

In this sentence, however, thousands of evolutionary evidences are concealed, which is worthwhile to realize, in order to recognize that we are now at a long-awaited point of enormous freedom with regard to the possibilities in dealing with colors.

Limitation and exemption

For a long time, the limitation of the material, the pigment, the colorant was at the same time the brake for the perception and systematic order.

Soot and grounding the cave painters offered a small but fine palette. In ancient times the metal oxides were added. Countless wars have been made around the deposits of copper, not least because of the suitability of copper oxides as coloring agents. The desire of the commissioners of medieval painters’ workshops for increased color was, above all, economically limited. Lapis lazuli e.g. Was weighed in gold. Purple was even more expensive.

A real evolutionary step in the middle of the 19th century were the aniline colors. For the first time, all conceivable colorings were produced from virtually the same basic material (coal tar) and thus equal and affordable for everyone. But also indifferent. The new freedom was a challenge for many (colorful cities of the 19th century).

The painting experienced an evolutionary thrust through the invention of the tube colors, which enormously increased the pace of application and thus also the realization. Today, modern printing inks, mixing stations and the representation on computer screens are the signs of the complete availability of colors completely free of restrictions in fabric.


Any further development regarding the availability of colorants led to new observations and findings. Today, there are a number of color theories and systems that strive to bring together the knowledge gained and to give color users the greatest possible support in the creative use of color. In particular, the identification and unambiguous communication of color schemes is important for the further development of the (working) color culture.

Unfortunately, the existing systems complement each other only partially or contradict one another openly. There will always be differences of opinion, but here it often seems that system differences are certainly maintained as business models by companies specialized in them. Some of the tools available are a deliberately limited sales support for products with a customer loyalty strategy. And in this sense even the free exchange of information is prevented by means of patent restrictions.

Free color

The Freie Farbe initiative would like to bring the already achieved freedom of information, communication and realization of the color to the benefit of the further development of the color culture to the full development.

Today’s ubiquitous availability of computers with their fast and precise representation, analysis and communication possibilities of color is particularly important. Sophisticated, intelligent design freedoms still provide a great deal of new ground for design.

A still to be solved task is to liberate the realization in the substance of self-imposed, often company policy restrictions of the industry. “What you see is what you get”, Microsoft’s former advertising speech, is still awaiting redemption in reality.

No new inventions are necessary to achieve these goals. A solution is already possible for every technical problem. Everything is already there, it only wants to be used and before also demanded.
Jürgen Opitz 2015