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Color Theory in Graphic Design

December 24, 2021    Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Color is one of the most influential graphic design elements, but it can also be the trickiest. Understanding how to use color in graphic design goes beyond simply matching hues or selecting shades that work well together. The right combination of colors will not only make your graphic designs stand out, but they’ll also have a positive influence on your audience’s moods and perceptions. This article will teach you everything you need to know about choosing colors for graphic design projects!

How is color used in graphic design?

What are the most important things to know about graphic design color? Let’s explore graphic design color together, beginning with its history.

Color has been used in graphic design for centuries. One of the first examples is found on an ancient Egyptian wall painting that dates back around 4000 years ago! Using colors became more common as printing technology advanced during the 15th and 16th centuries.

In graphic design, color is used to create visual effects, to convey emotions, and to make text readable. When choosing colors for a project, graphic designers must consider the mood they want to create, the type of audience they are targeting, and the message they want to communicate.

There are three primary graphic design color schemes:

Complementary colors are opposite of each other on the color wheel. For example, blue and orange are complementary graphic design colors because they are opposites. When using graphic design in which complementary colors appear together, it is important to balance them with a neutral graphic design background or pattern that allows both colors to be seen clearly.

Complementary graphic design color schemes are used to express strong contrasts. They tend to come across as very energetic and vibrant, which is why they are often used for headlines or invitations. One of the most famous examples is Gucci’s logo!

Analogous graphic design colors sit next to each other on the color wheel. For example, blue, green and purple are graphic design colors that use an analogous color scheme. These graphic design colors tend to be very consistent in appearance because they come from the same part of the color wheel. Analogous graphic design schemes can often appear more natural or organic than complementary graphic designs because there is a sense of uniformity among them.

Analogous graphic design color schemes are often used in graphic design projects that require more of a cohesive look. For example, Apple’s branding uses an analogous graphic design color scheme for all of its products and marketing materials!

A triadic graphic design colors use three colors from the same section on the color wheel. For instance, red-yellow-blue is a graphic design color scheme that uses triadic graphic design colors.

Triadic graphic design color schemes are typically more vibrant than analogous graphic designs because they use all three parts of the wheel. They create visual interest and draw attention to specific areas of a graphic design project with their unique shade combinations.

What are the 3 basic color theories?

To start, we’ll go over the three basic theories.

The first is known as The Color Wheel Theory and it focuses on primary colors: red, blue and yellow. These colors can be mixed to create secondary and tertiary colors which are then used in creating different hues of a certain color.

The second color theory is known as The Black and White Theory, which was created by graphic designer Josef Albers in the 1950s. This focuses on how colors affect each other when placed next to one another creating a balance that either attracts or repels people from looking at it any longer.

Lastly, we have The Complementary Theory which is based on the color wheel theory. This basically states that two colors placed opposite of each other on the wheel will create a visual tension or balance in a design.

Now that we know about these three theories, how can we use them to our advantage when creating graphic designs?

When using The Color Wheel Theory graphic designers can create a balance by using secondary and tertiary colors to their advantage.

The Black and White Theory is great for graphic designs that need high contrast with minimal color, such as black lettering on a white background or vice versa.

Lastly, The Complementary Theory works best when designers want two strong focal points in their design.

Knowing about these three theories will definitely help graphic designers when it comes to creating stunning and visually pleasing designs!

What psychology says about colors?

The Psychology of Colors

Color is all around us, not just in graphic design but also during our everyday lives.

Colors are used to attract people’s attention and create emotions that will make them remember a certain brand or product more easily. Here are some examples of how colors can affect your moods:

Red makes you feel hungry, energetic and passionate

Orange makes you feel excited, enthusiastic and playful

Yellow makes you feel happy, optimistic and cheerful

Green makes you feel calm, refreshed and balanced

Blue makes you feel serene, secure and competent

Purple makes you feel creative, imaginative and spiritual

So as we can see, different colors evoke different emotions and moods.

What colors attract customers to your business?

Businesses use colors to attract customers all of the time. Colors can be used in logo design, website design, and even marketing materials. Some colors are more popular than others when it comes to attracting customers. Here is a look at some of the most popular colors and what they represent.

Red: Excitement and energy – Restaurants use red a lot because it is known to excite people and make them hungry.

Blue: Trustworthiness – Blue is associated with trustworthiness in graphic design because blue represents the sky, water, and other elements that are helpful for life.

Green: Growth and money – Green can be a very lucrative color when used correctly in graphic design.

Purple: Luxury – Purple is a color that connotes luxury. High end fashion brands use purple in graphic design to make their products appear more luxurious.

White: Purity and cleanliness – White is often used with graphic design because it represents purity, cleanliness, and simplicity. It can be associated with medicine as well which is why graphic designers often use it in pharmaceutical marketing materials.

Black: Sophistication and elegance – Black is another color that represents luxury because of its association with sophistication and classiness. It can be used to help graphic design elements look more professional such as at a law firm website or even on book covers.

Brown: Down-home feeling – Brown is not the most glamorous color but it can be very down to earth. Graphic designers use brown when they want their graphic design to look more simple and natural like in some business marketing materials or on a restaurant menu.

Yellow: Optimism – Yellow is another happy, optimistic color that graphic designers love using for this reason. It invokes feelings of happiness and sunshine.

When it comes to graphic design, color is an important tool that should be used correctly in order to attract the right customers to your business.

What colors appear more business like?

When it comes to graphic design, there are certain colors that are often seen as more professional or business like. Colors such as black, navy blue, and shades of gray can give off a more formal feeling, which is why they’re popular choices for corporate branding and marketing materials. In contrast, brighter colors such as pink or yellow may be seen as less serious and more playful, which might not be ideal for a corporate setting. However, there’s no hard and fast rule – ultimately it depends on the individual design and what message you’re trying to communicate.

Parting Advice on Color Theory in Graphic Design

Color theory is one of the most important aspects of graphic design, yet it is also one of the most difficult to master. Here are a few parting pieces of advice on how to use color effectively in your designs:

– When choosing colors, always consider the mood you want to create. Cool colors tend to create a calmer and more relaxed feeling, whereas bright colors are more energetic.

– When dealing with graphic design elements that have both text and color, make sure the two do not compete for attention. The most important part should be the highest contrast against its background to ensure it is readable.

– When working on a project which uses several different hues of one color, be sure to use a color wheel to create a harmonious palette. This will help keep your design looking cohesive and professional.

– Lastly, always test colors on different types of screens before you finalize your designs. Colors can look very different depending on the device they are viewed on, so it is important to do some testing to make sure that your graphic design is consistent across different platforms.

You’ve learned everything you need to know about how colors can affect your audience’s moods and perceptions. Hopefully, these pointers will help you make more informed decisions when it comes time to create a new graphic design project! If you need help with your new project, give us a call (360) 450-3711!

Written by Shawn Hooghkirk on December 24, 2021

Last updated on December 16, 2021. Shawn is the President of Graticle, Inc.

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