Whether you realize it or not, color affects your everyday life in more ways then one. It will affect your mood, senses and even your memory. How do you feel when you stand in a room painted a deep, dark color compared to something light? You step outside and see a bright blue sky; what time of the day is it? If the sky were filled with pinks and purples you know the sun nears the horizon rather then being midday. If I ask you to think about McDonalds, what pops in your head, probably those big golden arches over a bright red background? Knowing how color works is extremely beneficial when it comes to design and marketing, among other things. In this post I’m going to touch on the basics of color and hopefully help you when it comes to choosing colors to work with.
We are going to start with the color wheel. I’m sure growing up, we have all heard of the color wheel and where it begins; with Primary colors. These are the three colors that are the foundation of the wheel. They are the only colors that cannot be made by mixing or combining of another color. These colors are Red, Yellow, and Blue. Between these three colors, every other color we know of, can be made. The next form our wheel takes is what comes from combining these primary colors. For example, if we mix Red and Blue we get the color Purple. Mixing Blue and Yellow we will get the color Green. And lastly, mixing Red and Yellow we will get the color Orange. These three results (Purple, Green, and Orange) are known as Secondary colors. So by mixing two Primary colors, we get a Secondary color. What happens if we mix a Primary with a Secondary color? The result will be known as a Tertiary color. For example, if we mix Yellow with Orange, we get the color Yellow-Orange. Mixing Red and Orange will result in Red-Orange, Blue and Green = Blue-Green, and so forth.
From here we have mixed our colors to form the basic 3 parts or 12-spoke color wheel, consisting of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary colors. With this we can move on to ways of choosing colors that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye and make up basic color formulas. The two main ways to achieve this color harmony are called Analogous and Complementary colors.
Analogous color formulas are very easy to create because they are located next to each other on our 12-spoke wheel. Choose 3 colors, such as Yellow-Orange, Orange, and Red-Orange. This scheme is most often found in nature, such as changing leaves of autumn or the growing plants of the spring. This scheme lacks much contrast and is less vibrant then using Complimentary colors.
Complimentary colors are most widely used in art and design, and also very easy to find on the color wheel. This scheme is created by colors on opposite ends of the wheel, such as Red and Green or Blue and Orange. This method creates the strongest contrast and maximum stability.
With all that said, we have just barely scratched the surface when it comes to color theory. From here, playing with tints, shades, and tones will open up a wide array of new colors and schemes to work with. For more in-depth details and information, check out this link or pick up Josef Albers book, Interaction of Color.
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