We use lots of colours when we do designs. Since we choose colour by our preferences, it can be very subjective. Colour can be used to emphasize words or pictures in designs. Too much colour will interrupt readers’ attention, but too little colour will simplify entire designs. Therefore, it is important to understand basic colour theory in order to use colour in design successfully.
by Nina Lee
The colour wheel
- Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary colours
There are three main parts on the colour wheel: primary colours, secondary colours, and tertiary colours.
The primary colours are red, blue, and yellow. The secondary colours are created by mixing two primary colours. Lastly, tertiary colours are created by mixing primary and secondary colours.
- Tints, shades, and tones
The pure colour is called the hue.
Once the colour is made lighter by adding white, it is called a tint.
If black is added, the darker version is called a shade.
And if grey is added, it is called a tone.
- Warm and cool colours
The colour wheel can be divided into two types of colour: warm and cool. Warm colours are vivid and include some red or yellow undertones. Cool colours are calm and include some blue undertones. White, black, and grey are considered neutral colours.
- Colour harmonies
There are several colour harmonies based on the colour wheel; complementary, triads, split complement, and analogous colours.
Complementary colours are opposite to each other on the colour wheel. According to the website of Tiger Color, complementary colours work best to emphasize something but it is really bad for text.
Triadic colours are evenly spaced around the colour wheel. It is important to use one dominate colour and two other for accent.
Split complement colours are a variation of the complementary colours. According to Tiger color website, this colour combination is good choice for beginners.
Analogous colours are combination of colours that are next to each other. These colours have same undertones and harmonious so that it pleasing to the eye.
Color matters. (n.d). Basic Color theory. Available: http://www.colormatters.com/color-and-design/basic-color-theory. Last accessed 22nd May 2012.
Tiger color. (n.d). Basic color schemes – Introduction to Color Theory. Available: http://www.tigercolor.com/color-lab/color-theory/color-theory-intro.htm. Last accessed 22nd May 2012.
wikipedia. (n.d). Color theory. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_theory. Last accessed 22nd May 2012.