Josef Albers’ The Interaction of Color: Art School In Your Hands

by Maxwell Tielman


If you have ever attended art school, you may have come across Color-Aid Paper. And if you have, it was likely the bane of your entire existence. Used for exercises pertaining to color theory, Color-Aid is essentially a packet of glorified paint chips, each a separate gradation of color along an entire spectrum. These piece of paper could be torn, cut, and collaged into designs that, depending upon their complexity, could result in sleepless nights, glue-covered fingers, and one too many X-Acto blade cuts. During one’s first semester of art school, it’s not  uncommon to witness fellow Freshman cursing the existence of such abominable “paper” and wondering who was responsible for its necessity in foundation art courses. To answer that question, however, one must venture decades back to Germany’s Bauhaus school and Josef Albers’ preliminary courses in color theory.

Considered the preeminent mind in color theory and one of the founding fathers of modern art education, Josef Albers’ work with color has created an indelible impact on the way art is taught today. Rather than asking students to create finished works of art, Albers forced them to examine color and its interactions almost scientifically, through studies and exercises that elucidated the oftentimes vexing language of the visual world. Many of these exercises were outlined in his 1963 book, Interaction of Color, a volume that is considered the definitive text on color.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the book’s original publication and to celebrate (and bring the book into the twenty-first century),  Yale University Press has unveiled the book in iPad app form. Almost a work of art in itself, the Interaction of Color app is a beauty to behold. One is able to, for the first time, actually interact with Albers’ previously static imagery, moving elements around and crafting one’s own takes on Albersian color exercises. Whether you’re using the tool educationally or simply as a relaxing diversion, the app provides a vivid, timeless, and fully-immersive experience. And for those who would rather not ever have to deal with the dreaded Color-Aid paper, it allows your hands to stay wonderfully glue and paper cut-free. —Max



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  • Thank you so much for featuring! Had not heard about it before.

    Clicked right over and downloaded the Free version. But, really, if you like to play with color you want to give Yale the $9.99 for the full version. Interacting with Albers studies, moving around the different color blocks, and being able to make your own – including an up and down teeny increment of color shading option – is big fun.

    Would make a great gift for someone heading off to art school.

  • Great find! Excellent piece of software. Sad though that a Lap- or Desk-Top version is not available.

    George Eastman

  • I’m mid-career change and just finished my first semester of art school- and happily just packed up those Color Aid papers! I’d also recommend the app Blendoku if you want to revisit the Munsell value/chroma chart experience in game form!

  • That damn box of paper was $101! I definitely was cursing it all they way through art school, but am happy to say I have just found my affection for it 5 years out. It’s the best use of time now while I’m job searching and have nothing else to do. It also makes me feel like in an art student again, and I love that:)

  • Spot on about the color aid paper. Thanks for the art school memories! The app is wonderful and very useful.

  • WOW!!!…ColorAid Paper…I STILL have my original box from my 4 years at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from 1966-1970…it’s perfectly preserved…VINTAGE!!…color edpaper still in original box & colors are still vibrant! What a blast from MY past!

  • I loved my color class! I don’t know what you guys are talking about :)
    I’m bummed I don’t have an iPad to play with this but if someday I do, I’ll definitely be buying this app. So much fun!

  • Well this app would have saved me an entire semester and a little sanity!!! Brought back great memories reading this app.

  • I LOVED the color aid paper and held it many times before actually signing up for the class when I could use it. My favorite project was recreating Van Gogh’s cypress trees – I cut for hours and loved every minute.

    I remember it like it was last week, not 30 years ago….

  • What a flashback to my design years back in Saint Martins……..I am getting this app, he is such a genius !
    By the way, I don’t have nightmares about Color Aid, I actually liked it!

  • THANK YOU for introducing me to this app! I am an art professor, and have been using the book for years, but the app is SO MUCH BETTER. My students at going to love it!

  • I think I’m going to have to get an ipad to try this. I wish there was another mac and version for other computers. I have macs but no ipad.

  • Albers Color App is very well made. Also, Blendoku is also cool. It is easy until it gets hard, and then it can be real hard. You have to like the challenge of arranging colors though, or it will get boring quickly. Also,there are maybe more puzzles for the easy level than needful.