Far from just making things ‘look pretty’, Graphic Designers draw on some complex theories to increase the impact of their work. Read on to find out how you can make a splash with your designs using colour theory.
Artists and designers have been using Newton’s wheel to create eye-catching visuals for hundreds of years. In a business setting, colour is one of the most significant variables that can determine what we buy, from the foods we eat, to the clothes we wear and the cars we drive.
The best marketing uses colour to appeal to our senses, helping us to develop an emotional connection with a brand and ‘feel’ our way toward a purchase. As a result, applying colour theory is a crucial step in building a successful business.
The colour wheel is a visual representation of primary, secondary and tertiary colours, with the various hues arranged according to wavelength. Graphic Designers use the colour wheel to understand what the visual effects are likely to be when different colours are combined.
When using colours on the the colour wheel (referred to as ‘hues’), designers will consider:
Colour harmony refers to the process of combining particular colours to create an aesthetically pleasing experience. These combinations create contrasts that are said to be ‘harmonious’.
Following the rules of colour harmony can bring a sense of internal order and balance to an image. On the other hand, ignoring colour harmony can lead to visuals that are either chaotic or bland, both of which the human brain will reject.
There are two methods for producing colour – additive and subtractive. The additive colour model is primarily used when colours are added to shades of light to create colours. The subtractive mode is used when white light, such as sunlight, reflects off an object. Confused? Let’s break it down.
Additive colours begin as black and become white as more red, blue, or green is added. TVs, mobile phones, computer monitors, and other electronic screens display colours that are created with the additive model. Pixels start as black, but take on colours that are expressed as percentage values of red, green, and blue (hence ‘RGB’).
Subtractive colours begin as white, but as you add filters to the white light, such as ink, this white light takes on the appearance of colour. Photos, magazines and other printed materials use subtractive colour. CMYK refers to the four colours added to plates during subtractive printing: cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black).
Selecting a colour scheme can make or break the popularity of a brand. To help you nail the process, here’s a simple four-step guide:
Step 1: Prioritise the user experience
Colour can be used to establish a brand’s overall look and feel, influencing how users interact with your business and the emotions they experience as they do so.
Ask yourself, what kind of experience are your users looking for? If you run a jewellery store and they’re after a luxurious experience, a deep purple colour scheme might work. If you run a spa and they’re after a peaceful, serene experience, a blue or green colour scheme might be more effective.
It’s handy to think of your brand as having a personality so you can choose colours that will accentuate certain traits. These traits will set the mood for your brand. If you want to seem exciting and confident, a red colour scheme might be a good choice. If you want to seem calm and down-to-earth, a green colour scheme might do the trick.
Step 3: Refer to your colour wheel
Don’t just base your colour choices on a hunch. Refer back to the colour wheel and play around with different combinations until you have some options you’re happy with. Using colour theory to support your choices will allow you to be more intentional in creating a visual identity for your brand.
This might seem like obvious advice, but don’t just settle on the first colour scheme you come up with. A Graphic Designer would produce multiple colour schemes, giving their client a series of options to pick from. Do the same for yourself.
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