An Easy Approach to Color Theory in Graphic Design

It’s easy to raise an average design to an awesome composition with just the right colors. On the other hand, looking at a color wheel with so many possibilities, creating a palette, even with just two colors, can be really intimidating.

Even though this is a matter of taste (a combination of colors beautiful to me doesn’t need to be beautiful to you), there are some guidelines, that can help you to achieve a color scheme which works for your design.

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECT

Warm colors are stimulating, a synonym for energy, while cold hues are composed and better represent calmness, right? Well, not necessarily. It’s highly important to do your research before choosing a color scheme. Ask yourself this question: “Who is your target audience?” The answer impacts your choice, as the concepts and meanings for colors vary from culture to culture.

The black that evokes mourning and mystery in western culture, for example, can mean rebirth in some eastern countries. White, on the other hand, usually a synonym of peace and purity, is the color of death and bad luck in some asian countries.

Red used on a music player, showing vibrance and energy (by Messaki).

Furthermore, the basic notion exists, that colors have an extraordinary ability to provoke specific emotions for each individual and to attract people’s attention. While there’s no magical formula, color theory surely can help to balance all those aspects and to get your desired result.

Blue, a cold and soothing color, is frequently used on corporate and technology designs, conveying balance, professionalism and security (by Cosmin Capitanu).

THE COLOR WHEEL

You’ve probably seen it before: the traditional wheel with 12 hues, that helps us to visualize the relationships amongst colors.

This wheel is composed of primary colors, secondary colors (the result of mixing the primary ones) and the mix of those two categories, the tertiary colors. Now, how can the color wheel help you when it comes to choosing a palette? Well, these colors are in visually pleasing relationships, that have been invented throughout the years:

Monochromatic: variations of shades, tints and tones of a single color.

Analogous: a color and the shade right next to it on the wheel.

Complementary: a color and its exact opposite on the wheel.

Triadic: three colors equally spaced on the wheel.

These are some of the relationships, that can give you a clear idea of what to do (and equally, what to avoid) when choosing your colors.

On Gravit Designer’s color picker, for each color you choose, you automatically get different tints, shades, tones and mixes. This feature will save you a lot of time!

PALETTE GENERATORS

Getting inspiration from a beautiful and harmonic photo is also a nice trick. Picking the colors from it randomly, though, will lead to a confusing and unbalanced result. That’s why you should use another remarkable feature of Gravit Designer: pick an image with colors that you think will look stunning on your design and go to “Colors” on the right panel.

There you’ll find a palette for that picture, automatically created for you. Use the whole palette or just some parts of it.

IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE

Using colors effectively is not just about throwing whatever colors match on your work: it has a lot to do with balance. In other words: the more colors you use, the more complicated it gets to balance them.

What’s really important in the end — check the relationship between the colors you chose and ask your self these questions: Is there enough (or too much) contrast between them? Is everything clear, defined and perfectly readable? What kind of mood does your palette evoke? How does one color affect other, nearby colors? Does the scheme fit the context?

An invitation created in Gravit Designer using an analogous (purple, pink and magenta in various shades) color scheme

These seemingly small but important aspects shouldn’t be overlooked before finishing your work.

Colors can significantly affect your designs and how others perceive it. Choosing the right color palette represents a huge part of your work — it’s not only an artistic aspect but also a marketing aspect. That’s why, hopefully, using these tips will surely help you picking your colors and using them in the right way.


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