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Colours 101

Colours are a powerful communication tool. Here’s a basic guide to understanding them.

There is colour in everything around you. Colours are the core of any design. Choosing the right colours for your design is one of the major factors that can either make your design stand out from the rest or blend in with the others. It is key to attracting attention, evoking emotion, influencing mood, emphasizing content, and adding value to the overall aesthetic of the design. No matter the context it is used—logos, websites, packaging, social media posts, posters or campaigns—choosing the right colour makes all the difference. There are a plethora of colours out there, but how to choose the right one?

The first step to harness the potential of colours is to understand their nuances. It is important to know how colours are formed and how they relate to each other. This is where colour theory comes in. Colour theory essentially acts as a collection of guidelines for designers to choose the right colours and combinations. It’s a plethora of definitions, concepts and design application that cannot be combined in one blog post. But here are three major components to start with:

 

COLOUR WHEEL

The Colour wheel is composed of 3 primary colours, 3 secondary colours (the result of mixing the primary ones) and 6 tertiary colours (the mix of the first two categories). These colours presented with different variations in hue helps visualize the relationship amongst colours. Hence the colour wheel is a go-to tool for designers to create aesthetically pleasing combinations (i.e. colour harmonies). Here’s a breakdown of the wheel with some common colour harmony formulas.

 

COLOUR HARMONY

It is always pleasant when people live in harmony rather than fight or argue with each other. Likewise, the colours you use for your design should not fight or clash with each other. They should be in harmony with each other, they should create a
visual balance. (pics for analogous, complementary etc in the colour wheel)

 

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF COLOURS

There’s plenty of research elaborating on the significant impact of colour on human behaviour and emotions. A simple google search can lead us to what emotion each colour elicits, but designers have to keep in mind that colours are differently
interpreted depending on everything from culture to individual taste. Something as simple as changing the hue or saturation of a colour can evoke a different feeling. While the basic guidelines of colour theory can help, it is important to do your
research and ask “who is my target audience?” With endless colour choices, choosing a palette for your project can seem
overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be hard. Here are our top tips to create stunning combinations!

 

1. Inspiration is just around the corner- Landscapes, foliage, birds, and all things natural are amazing, accessible and free sources of colour inspiration. Sunsets, buildings, flowers… take pictures of whatever catches your eye! If you have a photograph with a colour scheme that you love, there are various tools including photoshop and lightroom to sample colours directly from it and make a quick, effective palette.
 

2. Peruse the internet- This one’s a given. There are numerous sites and software including Adobe colour to find exciting colour swatches. Search Pinterest for themed palettes, find up to date shades from Pantone and follow colour trends. Search for palette inspiration anywhere from contemporary designs to historical art and create a mood board with a catalogue of your palette inspirations.
 

3. Keep it simple- When in doubt stick to 2-3 colours. An interior design rule that is pretty much applicable to graphic design is to use the ration of choosing and using 60% of a dominant colour, 30% secondary colour and 10% accent colour.

Remember: Colours that are chosen with purpose and reason can often be the most
effective!

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