Harald Küppers

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Harald Liebedank Küppers (born May 13, 1928 in Müden ) is a German printing technician (owner of several patents) and lecturer. He is known for his color theory .


Harald Küppers was born in Müden in the Lüneburg Heath as the youngest of seven children. He first attended the secondary school in Werder (Havel) and then the upper secondary school in Potsdam, later Hermannsburg . At the age of 16 he was drafted into the armed forces as a gunner . In April 1945 he was taken prisoner by the French. He returned in December 1948. He learned the profession of chemigrapher (reproduction technique for picture printing) and qualified as a master. In the spring of 1956, Küppers began studying printing technology at the technical college in Stuttgart, which he graduated with a diploma in 1958. During this time he developed the basics of his color theory.

Küppers was the owner of a Frankfurt reproduction company for almost four decades. This activity resulted in international patents for the improvement of multi-color printing technologies . During this time he was chairman of the reproductive technology department in the Federal Association of Printing for twelve years . He was an advisory board member at the research institute of the printing industry Fogra and worked on various standards committees for color theory and printing technology. As a lecturer in color theory at universities and technical schools, he had teaching assignments, conducted seminars and gave experimental lectures. Some of his ten books on color theory have been translated into many languages, including Japanese and Korean. The result of the teaching activity are numerous didactic materials for teaching color theory. Based on his theory, he developed a set of gouache paints in eight basic colors through mixing experiments in collaboration with an artist's paint company, which confirm his color theory through systematic mixing experiments.

The Küppers color theory is anchored in the framework guidelines of schools in various federal states. For FA Brockhaus Verlag he updated the subject of color theory in the Brockhaus Encyclopedia . On behalf of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Publication and Information Systems IPSI in Darmstadt, he has made a short version of his original color theory available in five languages ​​for free use on the Internet.

His preoccupation with color led him from working as a researcher and theoretician to artistic color design of ambivalent constructivist color collages. Küppers' views - according to the physicist Dietrich Zawischa - contradict the state of science.

Küppers is an honorary member of the Association of German Art Teachers (BDK). Harald Küppers was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on ribbon in 1990.

Küppers' theory of colors

Primordial colors and primary colors

Küppers describes the physiological regularity according to which the organ of vision works as the "basic law of color theory" and as a result he differentiates between eleven color-mixing laws. Among other things, he formulated a “law of the integrated mixture” that applies to opaque colorants.

  • Primordial colors : The three sensory powers of the organ of vision that make up the basic sensations orange-red (R). Green (G) and violet blue (B) lead, he describes as primordial colors. If no primary color is activated, the basic sensation in the visual organ is black (K).
  • Basic colors : The three original colors result in eight possible extreme color sensations, which he calls basic colors. He describes them with the unique and unmistakable color names and the international abbreviations black (K), white (W), yellow (Y = yellow), green (G), cyan blue (C), violet blue (B), magenta red (M) and orange red (R). All eight basic colors must be present when working with opaque colorants , since, according to his knowledge, none of them can be produced by mixing other colors.

Display system for the color arrangement.

The color body of the "theory of colors according to Harald Küppers"

Küppers' geometric order of the variety of colors is the rhombohedron . It is similar to the vector model of the RGB cube, but which is stretched over the achromatic axis. Due to this stretching, the planes of R, G and B as well as C, M and Y lie exactly on one third of the axis. At the same time, the increase in absolute brightness with additive mixing is correctly displayed, as is its decrease with subtractive mixing. A color sensation is represented geometrically as a vector addition of the original colors R, G and B starting from the black tip. Conversely, however, the subtractive mixture can also be represented as a vector addition of the primary colors C, M and Y starting from the white tip. The mixture of two complementary colors that have the same distance to the achromatic axis always results in gray, the value of which can be determined by the intersection on the achromatic axis.

Color qualities

The qualitative parameters of colors called Küppers distinctive esthetic features. They result from the quantitative relationships between the basic color subsets. There are four aesthetic distinguishing features of the colors:

  • the chromatic type (usually hue ),
  • the achromatic type (a newly introduced quality, "gray tone"),
  • the degree of color or achromatic degree (usually saturation ),
  • the brightness.

Chromatic type, achromatic type and degree of color are also absolutely symmetrically and logically superimposed on the quantity order. Only the brightness of the color nuances is an exception. Because according to the different inherent brightnesses of the basic colors, there cannot be a symmetrical arrangement in the rhombohedral color space for the distinctive feature of brightness.

For Küppers, the order of the pure bright colors, i.e. the chromatic types, is not the color wheel as with Itten or Goethe , but the hexagon (chromatic types hexagon). Küppers is convinced that with optimal geometric arrangements of the colors there can only be linear relationships between the color nuances. Küppers distinguishes them

  • colorful primary colors YMCRGB from the
  • achromatic basic colors white (W) and black (K).
    • Mixtures of W and K are achromatic types, which find their geometric order on the straight line of the achromatic types (achromatic types straight line).

Küppers' basic scheme of color theory

  • The basic scheme of color theory explains both the way the organ of vision works and the most important laws of color mixing.
  • The way the visual organ works: The basic sensation of the visual organ is black. The black rhombuses in the middle of the diagram indicate the three sensory powers of the visual organ, which Küppers calls primary colors, namely orange-red (R), green (G) and violet-blue (B). If two sensory forces work together, the color sensations yellow (Y), magenta red (M) and cyan blue (C) arise. If all three sensory forces are fully active at the same time, this leads to the perception of the color white, indicated by the white rhombuses.
  • The additive color mixing: It works in the same way as the visual organ works. Additive mix is ​​the mix of colored lights (projection in a dark room, television, internet). The basic color black is represented by the darkness in the room or in the television box. The RGB colored lights are the primary colors indicated by the black rhombuses in the scheme. By mixing two primary colors, the secondary colors are YMC. White is now produced as a tertiary color by mixing all three primary colors.
The basic scheme of the "theory of colors according to Harald Küppers"
  • The subtractive color mixture works with transparent layers of color that act as color filters (color photography, four-color printing, watercolor painting). Here the basic color is white, represented by the white paper surface or the white transillumination light when viewing slides. The YMC color layers are the primary colors indicated by the white rhombuses in the basic scheme. The interaction of the absorptions in the superimposed filter layers creates RGB as secondary colors. When all three filter layers are on top of each other, the tertiary color black is formed, symbolized by the black rhombuses.
  • The integrated color mixture applies to opaque colorants (tempera colors “gouache”, artist oil paints, varnishes, color powder). Eight basic colors are required here as primary colors because none can be created by mixing. That is why the six basic colors in the serrated ring indicate the corners of the chromatic hexagon. Secondary colors are now mixtures of two neighboring primary colors. Now white and black are also primary colors. In the basic scheme, they sit at the ends of the achromatic lines. Now the shades of gray (achromatic types), i.e. the mixture of white and black, are secondary colors. Tertiary colors are now broken, i.e. impure colors, in whose mixture three basic colors come together.

As a methodological aid and as an alternative to the rhombohedron system, Küppers suggests the color space model of the hexagonal double pyramid as an introduction aid .

Works (selection)

  • Harald Küppers: Color - Origin, System, Application . Callwey, Munich 1972. Completely revised 4th edition 1987. ISBN 3-7667-0855-4 , Introduction to the theory of colors.
  • Harald Küppers: The logic of color . Callwey, Munich 1976. 2nd edition 1981. ISBN 3-7667-0601-2 . Theoretical basics of color theory.
  • Harald Küppers: The theory of colors in television, photo and printing technology . DuMont, Cologne 1985. ISBN 3-7701-1726-3 , paperback dumont-TB 163, color theory of visual communication media. ,
  • Harald Küppers: The Great Küppers Color Atlas . Callwey, Munich 1987. ISBN 3-7667-0841-4 , 25,000 color nuances from 8 basic colors with identification and mixing instructions.
  • Harald Küppers: Theory of harmony in colors . 3. Edition. DuMont, Cologne 2000. ISBN 3-7701-2192-9 , Theoretical Basics of Color Design.
  • Harald Küppers: School of Colors . 2nd edition DuMont, Cologne 2001. ISBN 3-7701-2841-9 , basics of color theory for computer users and others
  • Harald Küppers: The basic law of color theory . 10th edition. DuMont, Cologne 2002. ISBN 3-8321-1057-7 , paperback dumont-TB 65, compendium and didactic conception of color theory.
  • Harald Küppers: Understanding and mastering color . DuMont, Cologne 2004. ISBN 3-8321-7434-6 , practical color theory.
  • Harald Küppers: Introduction to the theory of colors. Paperback. DuMont, Cologne 2016. ISBN 978-3-8321-6403-4
  • Harald Küppers: DuMont color atlas . 10th edition. DuMont, Cologne 2007. ISBN 978-3-8321-9019-4 , over 5500 color nuances with digital color values, labeling and mixing instructions.
  • Harald Liebedank Küppers: I know my color . Autobiography Volume 1, DuMont, Cologne 2011, ISBN 978-3832196004
  • Harald Liebedank Küppers: Ups and downs, unadorned Biographical Stories, Volume 2, united pc Verlag, Berlin and Neckenmarkt 2014, ISBN 978-3854388609 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. biography on farbaks.de
  2. Color theory (DE, EN, FR, ES, IT, JP, KO)
  3. Dietrich Zawischa, Critique of Küppers' theory of colors