Update on the Stephen Quiller Color Theory Books I’m Always Recommending

February 16, 2021
Nothing is ever actually straightforward or simple.
Of course now buying Stephen Quiller’s books on color theory now falls into that category.
As far as I know he has the following two books on color theory:
Color Choices: Making Color Sense Out of Color. Note that this is a new edition.
I purchased my copy of this book in 1989. I know this because here’s a used copy with that publishing date, and I know I bought it right away when it came out. (I can’t look up the publication date in my copy because my books are all currently in storage—the ones I kept that is; and I kept all my Quiller books.)
Painter’s Guide to Color is the other color theory book. This link here going to a listing labeled “latest edition.”
My copy of this book is actually this one. It came out in 1999 and that’s when I got it.

What’s Going On?

Last week my friend Keiko let me know that her Color Choices book had poor color printing. (That’s the NEW/Latest edition.) On the color chart contained in the book magenta looked like purple, and there were other really odd “colors” throughout the book.
In Painter’s Guide the printing seemed to be OK, but the color chart had been reduced to fit on one page, not the fold out page like you’ve seen me deploy in our color chats if you’re on Patreon, or perhaps seen in a photo on this blog when I’m reviewing the book.
Before hearing from Keiko I didn’t even know that these books had been reprinted, let alone had differences from the original printings.
The fact that PG does not have a fold out page makes perfect sense to me. Fold outs add cost to a print run, and a re-issue doesn’t justify the cost. The good news is that the reduced chart is still readable, and the printing in that book seems to be fine.

Why Does Any of This Matter to You?

Perhaps none of this matters because you’ve had no intention of purchasing either of these books. You were always intending to get one out from the library, or simply not read up on color theory. (You know how I feel about the latter.)
But many of you are interested in adding to your art instruction library, so when Keiko told me this I decided I had better spread the word.
When a book goes out of print you’re pretty much out of luck, unless you find a used copy.
When a book is re-issued it’s usually good news and you expect the printing to be good. But even if the printing is bad, it can still be good news. The fact that a new edition has been issued means that the older editions won’t sky-rocket in price. (When a book falls out of print and isn’t reissued we find ourselves staring at prices of $100, and more; none of which is realistic for most of us.)
I mention this to all of you know because you might be about to purchase either or both of these books.
Be aware, when you purchase one of these books which edition you are buying. The publication date will be listed in the description of the book. The word “latest” edition might also be included as a selling point.
Above I’ve placed the links for the new/latest editions, followed by the link to the edition of the book that I own. If you want to buy the latter of either title you’re probably going to have to buy a used copy. It probably will run about $35. (That’s for now, prices could of course go up or down.)

What if I’ve Already Got the Latest Edition?

If you’ve already purchased one of the “latest” editions I wouldn’t sweat it. The text is there in those editions and Quiller’s discussion on color theory in both books is great. I have recommended both books for years because his discussion of color theory is clear and to the point. That hasn’t changed.
In the CC latest edition the color printing isn’t great, so that may confuse you at first. BUT since you know that’s the case going in, then you can get your own paints out right away and mix things so you’ll see what the color is supposed to be. Besides—I’m always telling you to do that anyway, so this just ensures that you’ll need to do that.
Note: On the color printing in CC, Keiko just has one copy; neither of us have seen other copies. Depending on which printing methods were used there may be variation between copies in the latest edition; which means you might get a copy with better quality color printing—I only mention this because on-demand printing has become so big in the last decade. I have no idea if that printing method is being used to reprint this book, but if it is being printed in one of several ways on-demand color books are printed then the color can vary from book to book.
For the PG latest edition book, there is nothing essential about having a fold out page.
I get asked all the time which book should be read first, or if only one is to be read which one should it be?
I really can’t answer that. My books are in storage at present. I can’t compare them side by side. I just have my memories of them and I might conflate what was in which book.
I can tell you the following:
I read them in publishing order.
I believe both books stand alone.
I believe both books have excellent examples and exercises.
I want you to start reading and working with color theory—so if you have to, flip a coin and just go for it. You won’t lose if you read either of these books.

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