Color Theory

Color Theory


Color Theory

Remember your elementary school days, was there a final in creative freedom when choosing the 64-numbered box of Creola crayons?
Well, as a designer in the digital age, you certainly don’t have to stick with the colors available from paints, inks, or other pigments, however, we can learn a lot from the fine art approach to color. In fact, the human eye can see millions of different colors – but sometimes, choosing two or even three of those millions can be a daunting task.

This is because choosing colors for a design is very subjective and sometimes very scientific. Where does it leave designers who want a color palette that looks beautiful or pleases the customer? Like it or not, the most effective color choices are beyond personal choice – because colors have an extraordinary ability to affect mood, emotions, and feelings; Take on cultural and personal meaning; And attract attention, consciousness, and the subconscious mind.

For designers and marketers, the challenge is to balance these complex roles that color plays in creating an attractive, effective design. That is where the basic understanding of color theory can come in handy. Traditional color theory can help you understand which colors can work together (or not) and what kind of effect different combinations will create in your design.
It all starts with the color wheel.


Color wheel

You may have seen it in a school art class, or at least be familiar with its stripped form: the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue. We will deal with the traditional color wheel of 12 colors often used by painters and other artists. This is an easy visual way to understand the relationship of colors to each other.

Color Theory
The Color Wheel

The color wheel is a mixture of colors. Mix the primary or basic colors red, yellow, and blue and you will get secondary colors on the color wheel: orange, green, and violet. Mix the ones with the primary color and you will get the third level, the third color of the color wheel. They include red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet. Primary and secondary colors (including indigo) are part of the visible spectrum of light, or “rainbow colors.” Many of you have memorized the acronym “Roy”. G. Bev ”as a child to remember these colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

This way of understanding color is called a minus pattern, which involves mixing color pigments such as paints or inks – both the traditional color wheel and the CMYK color system use printing tools. It opposes the combination pattern that involves mixing the color pattern (similar to the colors you see on your computer screen or TV) and uses different primary colors: red, green, and blue, often abbreviated RGB.

At Canva, we have our own version of the color wheel where you can choose colors. Any color you choose has a hexadecimal value (or hex code), identifying six-digit combinations of numbers and / or letters (often before #) used in many design programs to identify specific colors when designing the web.


Color wheel
color wheel 2


Color Terms

Before we learn how to use the color wheel to create color palettes for your designs, let’s take a quick look at some color-related terms that will help you understand the different types of colors you use when working on design-related projects:
Hue: “color” or similar to the name of a particular color; Traditionally refers to one of the 12 colors on the color wheel
Shade: A darker shade of black
Tone: A faint hue of gray
Color: Glowing hue with white
Concentration: Indicates the intensity or purity of a color (a hue approaching gray is more depreciating)
Value: Indicates the lightness or darkness of a color

Color Harmony

Now that we have more technical stuff, let’s look at how the color wheel can be a practical resource in choosing colors for a design project. We can pull off many classic palettes from the color wheel that painters have used for centuries to create songs that are consistent and visually pleasing (or highly-contrasting and striking). In most design applications, these color schemes should be divided into a dominant color – which dominates how it stands out in the design or how it stands out compared to other colors – and one or more accent colors.

1) monochromatic: different shades, tones, or colors of one color; For example, the blues range from light to dark; This type of project is very subtle and conservative
2) Analogy: adjacent hues on the color wheel; This type of project is versatile and easy to apply to design projects
3) Fill: echoes on the color wheel like red/green or blue/orange; Complementary colors are high-contrast and high-intensity, but difficult to use in a consistent, harmonious manner (especially in their pure form, when they collide easily in design)
4) split-fill: any color on the color wheel, two with its filling; This scheme has a more strong visual contrast, but it is less than a complementary color combination
5) Triangle: Any three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel
6) Tetradic / double-fill: two complementary pairs; This scheme is quite spectacular, but it can be harder to apply than a pair of complementary colors because more colors are more difficult to balance. If you use this type of scheme, you should choose a color that dominates one-fourth and adjust the concentration/value / etc. They work well in different areas of your design such as text and background of some or all colors.

adobe color wheel

Color inspiration

In addition to the color combinations found on the color wheel, Nature provides endless inspiration for harmonious color schemes. For the top 25 palettes drawn from landscape photography (as well as others inspired by travel, food, and beverage and everyday items), check out one of our design school articles, “100 Brilliant Color Combinations: How to Use Them for Your Designs. ”
The colors are temperature (warm or cool colors), intensity (clear colors often look younger, while dim ones look like vintage), mood (bright & fun, dark and intense), theme (location, season, holiday), and other qualities. To explore different color schemes, take a look at one of the many color selection tools available online; Some even allow you to upload an image to create a color scheme. Some to try to include Bolton, Adobe Color CC (formerly Cooler), and Color Explorer. If you use Chrome as your browser, you can download the Eye Dropper extension, which lets you identify colors straight from the web.

primary color wheel

Another great technique is to look at different historical periods and art movements for color inspiration. The bottom plates demonstrate the warm, light-filled colors typical of Impressionist paintings; Clear, unexpected combinations used by post-Impressionists; Characteristic of the Art Nouveau movement are the soft, earthy colors; And bright, bold shades of pop art.

Color wheel

Color psychology

Color is all around us. Whether we realize it or not, it plays a huge role in our daily lives. The orange or yellow traffic sign you saw on the road today? It caught your attention for a reason. Even if the box of grain you bought in the market is slightly more expensive than the others? You may be impressed by the colors on its packaging. Color creeps up on language too ஏன் Why do we say people “look red” when they are angry or “feel blue” when they are sad? Because color has a unique connection with our mood and emotions.
But not everyone thinks or enjoys color in the same way. The meaning and identity we associate with different colors is greatly influenced by the cultural and social groups we identify with. Let’s look at some common meanings associated with basic colors in Western culture:

Color Symbolism

• Red: This color can interact with a variety of ideas depending on its context. Since red is associated with fire, it can mean warmth – or danger. Because red is the color of blood, it is considered an energetic, vibrant color, and is associated with matters of the heart and sometimes violence.
Alternative meanings: In some Eastern cultures, red symbolizes good luck and prosperity and is the color that brides wear on their wedding day. Globally, red is associated with various political movements and symbolizes revolution.
In branding: Red is often associated with strength, confidence, and power and is the most visible color.
Color psychology
• Orange: Also a fiery color, orange combines the warmth of red with the joy of yellow for a hue that conveys function, energy, and confidence. It is associated with the harvest or autumn. It is associated with harvest or autumn.
Color psychology
Alternative meanings: In India, saffron, a specific yellow shade of orange, is considered sacred. In Japan, orange is the color of love.
In branding: Orange often signifies youth and creativity. Gold is a type of orange or yellow, depending on its hue, which is a sign of luxury or high quality.
adobe color wheel
• Yellow: As the color of sunshine, yellow often communicates happiness, cheerfulness, friendliness, and the freshness of spring. It can also signal warning or caution in certain contexts. Some variations (especially desaturated and greenish yellows) can look sickly or unpleasant; historically, yellow has sometimes been associated with illness and quarantine.
adobe color wheel
Alternative meanings: In some Eastern and Asian cultures, yellow is associated with royalty or high rank. In some parts of Africa and Latin America, yellow is the traditional color of mourning.
In branding: Pure/bright yellow does a great job of attracting attention but can be visually annoying or difficult to see (for example, white text against a bright yellow background or vice versa) if not used carefully.
• Green: It is the color of nature, plant life, and growth. Therefore, it often relates to health, freshness, or “all-natural” quality. Dark green means wealth (or anything related to money) and stability.
Alternative meanings: In cultures that follow Islam, green is a sacred color. Green is associated with Ireland and, by extension, St. Patrick’s Day and the lucky four-leaf clover.
Branding: Brands or products that want to be “green” (in the sense of natural, healthy, sustainable, eco-friendly, organic, etc.) often use naturally inspired colors such as green and brown.
Native entented
• Blue: The color of the ocean and sky, blue is often quiet, clean qualities communicate. As opposed to high-energy, hot air coolers, blue appears to be quieter. In some contexts, this may indicate sadness or depression.
Bright smile
Alternate meanings: In Middle Eastern cultures, blue has traditionally represented protection against evil. Because of its association with the heavens, blue symbolizes immortality and/or spirituality in many cultures.
In branding: Blue is widely used and one of the most versatile colors. It’s generally used to communicate trustworthiness, security, and stability. Dark or navy blue is a particularly popular choice for corporate contexts since it’s perceived to have serious, conservative, and professional qualities.
  • Purple / Violet: Purple is traditionally associated with royalty, grandeur, or honor. It can also have spiritual/mystical or religious meanings.
    Alternative meanings: In many cultures around the world, purple means nobility or wealth; However, in Thailand and some parts of South America, color is associated with grief.
    In branding: Darker shades of purple often signify luxury or richness, while lighter / brighter shades can be feminine or childish.


• Black: Like red, black has many (sometimes opposing) meanings. It symbolizes power, luxury, sophistication and uniqueness. On the other hand, it can mean death, evil or mystery. In dress, black is usually associated with formality (“black tie” parties) or mourning (traditionally worn for funerals).
Alternative meanings: In some Asian and Latin American cultures, black is considered a masculine color. In Egypt, black symbolizes rebirth. In many cultures, color is associated with magic, superstition, or misfortune – or, similarly, indescribable or unknown.
In branding: Black is very widely used, it is almost neutral, although the above meanings can be related depending on the context. Many designs are simply black and white, which is a deliberate choice or to save money on color printing. The colors are always bright and intense against black.

Color wheel

• White: As the color of light and snow, white often signifies purity, innocence, goodness, or wholeness (traditionally worn by brides), but it can also come in whole or in infertility.
Alternative meanings: In China, white is the color of grief. It symbolizes peace in many cultures – a white flag is a universal symbol of fighting or surrender.
In branding: White often relates to simplicity or clean, modern quality. Designers looking for minimalist aesthetics will often use a lot of white.
Color wheel

Color in design

Adding colors to a design is more than just choosing two or three colors and reducing them to equal parts in your layout. Effective use of color for a design project is related to balance – and the more colors you use, the more difficult it is to achieve balance.
An easy way to think about this concept is by dominating your color choices and dividing them into accent colors. The dominant color will be the most visible and frequently used hue in your design, while one or more accent colors will complement and balance that main color. Focusing on how these colors interact with each other – the amount of variation (or lack thereof), the ease of reading when the text is involved, how some colors look when others look at them, what kind of mood a color combination creates, etc. – can help shape a perfect palette for your design purposes.
The basic rule of thumb for using three color palettes in a design is called rule 60-30-10. This approach is often used in interior design, but can also be effectively applied to web or print design projects. You create your dominant hue account for 60% of the color in the design, while the two accent colors use the remaining 30% and 10%. A good analogy to understanding how this works depicts a man’s pants: suit jacket and pants make up 60% of the color; Shirt 30%; And the tie gives a little pop color for 10% – it creates a consistent, polished look.
Another way to keep your color palette simple and consistent is to use shades and colors (or lighter and darker versions of the selected hue). That way, you can expand your color choices without exaggerating your design with a rainbow of colors.
Color in Marketing & Branding
Color in Marketing & Branding

Brand recognition is strongly tied to color. Think about Coca Cola, Facebook, or Starbucks, I hope you can immediately name the colors associated with those brands.
A study by the University of Winnipeg, entitled “The Impact of Color on Marketing”, found that people’s initial judgments about products were largely based on color (approximately 60 to 90% of estimates – it only took 90 seconds – based on color alone). Not just an artistic choice, but also an important business decision – it affects everything from consumer perceptions about a brand to product sales.
However, when choosing a color scheme for your logo or brand, you do not have to stick to any traditional, symbolic, or uniform patterns. There is no silly processor hard and fast rules when it comes to color. Most importantly, the color in a design and how it is used is a good fit for a brand’s personality and market environment. For some inspiration, Brand Colors is a website that compiles a visual guide (with hex codes) for color choices made by recognizable brands from around the world.

RGB vs. CMYK Color Systems
RGB vs. CMYK Color Systems

When working on a design project you need to design, your computer monitor will not be able to display the colors accurately because they are visible on the paper. Digital monitors/screens and printers use two different color schemes: “what you see” is not “what you get”. RGB and CMYK. RGB stands for small dots of red, green, and blue light that produce visible colors on a screen; CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink, which are used by print printers to create color prints. Because RGB color space uses a wider color spectrum than CMYK, some designers initially prefer to create a print scheme in RGB for more color options, and then convert the finished design to CMYK before printing.

Color wheel

Because of these differences, designers need a way to get consistent color results when working on both computers – for example, if you are designing a logo for use on your website, but want to print a business card. This is where the pontoon matching system (or BMS) can help. Web and print (as well as different types of printing surfaces) colors can be matched to ensure a uniform look. The Pontone system makes it easy for designers, clients, and printers to collaborate and ensure the final product is purposeful.
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