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Knowing your colours

Knowing your colours

by Design SyncMay 5, 2015

The Colour Theory Guide

Colour is very much an important element to a design idea. It helps set the mood, implies status, convey the atmosphere, or defines a personality, charactise a brand, draws attention of great importances or signals a warning. Here I’ll share with you some colour theory which could improve the way you see and use colours in your work.

The first thing to understand how to use colours is to know the basic colour wheel concept. Knowing your colours will quickly help you define a suitable selection, identify what works and what doesn’t.


Understanding The Colour Wheel

Colour Wheel - Design Sync

Colour Wheel - Design Sync

Primary Colours
Red / Yellow / Blue
You can mix these three pigments all you like and you would be able to regenerated these colours. They are fundamentally the base colours to generate other colours.

Secondary Colours:
Green / Orange / Purple
These are the colours formed by mixing the primary colors.
Yellow with Red makes Orange
Blue with Red make Purple
Blue and Yellow  makes Green

Tertiary Colors:
Yellow-Orange / Red-Orange / Red-Purple / Blue-Purple / Blue-Green / Yellow-Green
These colours are created by mixing a primary and a secondary colour.
Now that you can see how pigment colours are generated lets take a look at what how we can best utilise these colours. We often associate colours with mood which can help interpret a design.

Monochromatic Colours:
Monochromatic colours is a variation of lightness and saturation from a single colour. Its tonal values offers gradient look which often sits well for backgrounds.


Breaking Down the Colour Combination

Colour Wheel - Design Sync

Analogous Colours:
The analogous colours uses colours that are adjacent to each other. One main colour becomes the dominate while the others are used to carry the transition. Lacks contrast though, works best with backdrops or tonal value scheme.

Complementary Colours:
Complementary colours are opposite of each other on the colour wheel. It generally works very well to make the design features pop while keeping a fine balance without being too loud. Referring back to the colour secondary wheel, you can see the complimentary colours are form by the opposite colours of one another.

Green and Red
Blue and Orange
Purple and Yellow

Split Complimentary Colours:
The split complimentary colour uses a main colour and two other opposite colours equally split on each end of the colour wheel. It offers more gradual shades in comparison to complimentary colours while also retaining strong visual contrast. However it can be hard to balance a design element in harmony.

Triad Colours:
The triadic colours uses equal spaced out three colours from the colour wheel. It encompass a visually strong while retaining the balance and richness in colour. In comparison, the triadic colours is not as contrasting as the complementary colours but has a more refine balance and harmonious appearance.

Tetradic Colours:
The tetradic colours or known as double complementary colours is used from two pairing complimentary colours. Can be very hard to balance if all four colours are used equally so it’s best to select a single colour to be the dominant.


Colours combination to avoid

Discord Colours:
Discord colours are created from widely separted colours on the colour wheel. They are disturbing colour combination giving off an unbalance effect and can cause eye disorientation.


Colour used for Branding

Using colour can strongly be associated with a brand. It subconsciously triggers the mind which you can relate back to a particular identity. It is often used in advertisement or promotion. Take for instant an element of red connected with a bottle, without any lable we can relate that with the Coca Cola brand or dark purple links use back to Cadbury chocolates.

Branding Associate:
Red: Coca Cola, Ferrari, Westfield, Virgin, Pinterest, Lego
Yellow: Mcdonalds
Green: Woolworths, BP, TicTac, Lacoste, Starbucks
Blue: Microsoft, Skype, Adidas, Twitter, Intel, HP
Orange: Fanta, Nickolodeon

Complimentary Colours
Blue / Orange: Telstra, Betta Electrical, Ikea, ING
Red / Green: Gelatissimo
Black / White: Apple

Split Complimentary Colours
Blue / Red / Yellow Orange: Amcal, Triple M


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