An Introduction to Colour Theory

An Introduction to Colour Theory

When faced with a design project for your business, colour can be the thing that makes or breaks an outcome. It can have more impact on your overall message than you may think.

At Ignition, we understand colour. We know that from your logo design to marketing material, colour must be considered in order to communicate your message effectively. Understanding the basics of colour theory can improve the way you approach design projects in order to create the best possible outcome to promote your business.

Colours Have Feelings Too

Colour is an incredibly important part of design. While it is important to understand the choices you make aesthetically, you should also consider their psychological connotations. Colours can have negative, positive, or neutral emotional reactions. People respond to colour in different ways. When choosing colour, think critically about what you are trying to say, and the effects colour choice can have on this. Here are just a few examples of colours and their messages:

Red:
Red is a dynamic, passionate colour. Too much of it can be stressful though so often it is used as a highlight in monochromatic schemes. In China, red is the colour of luck.

Blue:
Blue is a calming colour. It signifies trust, loyalty, and integrity. Because of this it is often used in corporate branding systems.

Black:
Black can suggest control and pessimism, but works incredibly well when used sparingly. When used with white and grey it can create a clean and modern design. All black designs (especially in web design) can convey power and confidence, but only when properly executed.

You can learn more about colour symbolism here.

What is the Best Colour for Me?

There are a variety of things to consider when choosing the most suitable colour/s for your project.
To start with, ask yourself these simple questions:

Is my project for print or for web?

Make sure you appropriate colours for your medium. If it is web-based, will you need to created printed material down the track? If so, choose a colour that will be represented clearly in CMYK (print) and RGB (web). Bright RGB colours often won’t print properly in CMYK, so keep this in mind.

What type of company am I and what am I trying to make my viewer feel?

Think about your company as a person. What sort of person would they be? How do they want people to see them? Choose colours that are appropriate for you. Your colour choice should portray your brand’s personality.

Will I need more than one colour?

Does your brand have a specific colour that it uses for collateral? If so, choose colours that complement it. Colour wheels can be used to find colours that compliment what you have chosen (complementary, analogous, triadic, etc. You can experiment with colour wheels here).

Is this a one-off project or do I need to consider using these colours in a long-term branding system?

Think about your project as a whole. Choose colours you know will be easy to use long-term on a variety of collateral.

Some Useful Resources

Here are a couple of resources on colour use:

Kuler
Use Kuler to browse and create colour themes. Colour themes can be created from uploaded images or from scratch.

Designspiration
Designspiration lets you search graphic design projects by colour scheme.

Color by Hail Pixel
Color by Hail Pixel allows you to hover your mouse around the screen to browse web colours. If there are colours you like, copy the hex code and supply them to your web designer for inspiration.

TinEye
A similar concept to Designspiration, TinEye is a useful resource to find photography projects by colour scheme. You can choose up to 5 colours at once.