What You Absolutely Need to Know About Colors

Close up of a water colors

What you need to Know about Colors

The choice of a color is a crucial factor in every graphics design project. Color has a different meaning, and their use is warranted on varying occasions. A thorough understanding of the graphic design color theory is thus necessary for every designer who aspires to learn the right use of colors to improve the quality and effectiveness of their designs.

Whereas the topic of graphics design color theory is wide and extensive and sometimes can be very subjective, here are the important things you need to know about colors, how to make the right choices and how to bring them together in design.

The visual effects of colors in your design

Graphic design color theory lays a lot of emphasis on the visual effects of the colors you choose to use. According to the theory, if you use colors that don’t blend well together, or you choose too many of them, or maybe you decide not to use enough colors, then your design is likely to drive people away and miss an opportunity to pass your message. It is ideal to settle on a scheme in the beginning and stick to it till the end of the project.

Some of the major applications of color according to the graphic design theory is to attract attention, convey specific messages, group related elements together, and enhance the general visual appeal of the design. You can use a small dose of a contrasting color to draw attention to particular elements in your design.

You can also use colors intelligently to create or set the mood for the design. For instance, according to the graphic design color theory, mixing warm and cool colors can be used effectively to create depth in any design. Darker colors on other hand are suitable for creating balance on the visual weight of the design.

While trying to create various visual impacts with colors, it is important to take note that you don’t use too many colors just as you normally avoid using too many fonts in your design. Ideally, you need just enough number of colors to give a good contrast but not too much to make the design lack similarity.

Choosing the right color scheme

The graphics design color theory dwells heavily on how designers can choose the right color schemes that will allow them to come up with great designs. One important consideration to have in mind is first to understand the meaning of that color. As a rule of thumb, you need to begin with the dominant color, and this can be obtained from the logo or other marketing materials like brochures.

The other way to settle on the dominant color is to think about the words you are likely to use when describing the company or the business. It mainly points to the emotional response you want elicited on the people who will be seeing the design. For instance, McDonald’s used yellow and red because these colors are known to increase appetite and make people impulsive. It played well with their business of selling food. IBM on other hand used blue since it wanted to make people associate their products with trust and stability.

Here are a few color schemes and their meanings that you can always incorporate in your designs:

Monochromatic color schemes

Monochromatic schemes are effective when you need to establish an overall mood of the design because they are clean and elegant. As per the graphics design color theory, these schemes have a way of producing a soothing effect, and they are also easy and gentle on the eyes.

Complimentary color schemes

Complimentary color schemes are created when warm colors are used against cool colors. Graphic design color theory suggests that these colors should be used when you need to create an intrinsically high level of contrast and to achieve a dramatic look at the same time. These colors are vibrant, extremely eye-catching they work together to intensify each other.

Analogous color schemes

According to graphic design color theory, analogous schemes are almost similar to monochromatic schemes, only that they provide a lot of nuances since they are drawn from a wide band on the color wheel. The analogous schemes are preferred when you need a second and a third color to support the dominant color.

Triadic color schemes

Graphic design color theory suggests that the triadic color scheme offers a strong visual contrast without compromising the harmony and richness of the color. They are not just like the normal complimentary color, but they add vibrancy especially when used with unsaturated colors. One of these colors can be used as the dominant color while the other two are used as accents.

Even though graphic design color theory provides a lot, consistent practice is important to develop the competency and confidence to use colors in the right manner.  Don’t shoot yourself in the leg if you fail to get it right the first time. Keep on trying and know that it is a skill that you can learn and master with time.


Check out this article on color as well!

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