Colour Design Theory

One of our favourite things – colour design theory! It’s actually quite a minefield, but can be sorted into some basic categories:

  1. Colour Wheel
  2. Colour Harmony
  3. How colours are used

The Colour Wheel

The colour wheel is created by using the primary colours (red, blue, yellow), the secondary colours (adding in green, purple and orange) and then tertiary colours (yellow-orange for example).

Colours are also not so “simple” – what makes a colour? A red isn’t just red all of the time, it depends also on hue, saturation and brightness. The hue defines the position on the colour wheel (so for example, yellow colours occupy 50 to 60 degrees on the wheel, with perfect yellow being 56). The saturation is how rich the colour is (the higher the saturation, the richer the colour) and the brightness is how bright the colour appears, from 0% to 100%.

Colour Harmony

Colour harmony explores how well colours work together, or perhaps how well they work to make a brand stand out. In simple terms, it’s making sure that colours work well, rather than causing a distraction or even making the product boring.

A great tool for colour harmony is Color Scheme Designer 3 (Paletton) – this colour wheel will help you out to find the perfect complimentary colours, tertiary colours and more. It’s a great tool to use to make sure your colours are all in harmony, and to create a great brand. You can also use it for various shades of your colour too.

Who knew that lime green was the complimentary colour to a bright pink? Works well doesn’t it?

Of course, some colours work well and don’t conform to these techy-formulas, so it is a case of finding the perfect colour design for you.

How colours are used

This is perhaps the more complicated part of colour design theory. It’s almost easy enough with the internet these days to select a colour design that you like (we’ll post some handy links below) – but once you’ve added that colour onto your stationery or perhaps your website, it might not work well. Colour goes hand in hand with design and fonts – it’s as important as content and design working together is.

Creative Bloq have a great piece on how to master colours in logo design: http://www.creativebloq.com/advice/4-ways-to-master-colour-in-logo-design

This is a website we highly recommend for best colour tools for the web: http://www.creativebloq.com/advice/the-best-colour-tools-for-web-designers

Update 2019:

Canva recently got in touch with us to let us know about their new colour wheel resource. We took a look, and we like what we see! Visit the link below to explore yourself. Not only does it do what our beloved Paletton does, but it’s also a lot more user friendly and modern looking, as well as being able to transfer your chosen colours to Canva templates and also a very handy PDF with RBG, CMYK and Hex breakdowns.

https://www.canva.com/colors/color-wheel/

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