Color theory can be an incredibly interesting and powerful way to enhance your message. This will be part of an ongoing series of posts, so keep checking as we share more. To help you get started, here are 5 killer secrets to working with color that will help you make better choices when selecting color. It’s like a little cheat-sheet — make sure to bookmark this page to keep it handy!
Color has the powerful ability to make us aware of what we see and feel. It can inspire awe, peace, or even make you hungry! Our perception of a color can be affected by their hue (identified by the name of the color), its intensity, and how it interacts with its surrounding elements. Color is explained both scientifically and psychologically — from how your brain processes the information, to how our reaction to color is influenced by our culture, experiences and preferences.
1. Color is a critical aspect of any design. As a matter of fact, that is the FIRST thing our eyes see.
We must remember that our choices can enhance or affect how the color interacts with the elements of design. Avoid using so many colors as it can disrupt the visual flow — your eyes won’t be able to travel across you message if you have a rainbow of colors all over the place.
The example below has too much color. The background could work on some instances but the colorful type on top of that makes your eyes feel overloaded with color. You experience a rainbow of emotions and not in a positive way. You just simply end up confused about where to look. BOOM — that’s what your eyes experience when looking at the image below.
2. The medium in which you use color can affect the way it’s perceived.
You may be in love with how a certain color looks on the screen, but when you see the printed version it can look a little — or a lot — different. There are ways to work with lessen if not solve that.
There are three main color numbering systems: Pantone Numbers (PMS) and CMYK values for print, HEX and RGB values for the web. There are other systems that are used in the science and industrial world but for our purposes, we’ll stick with the main ones.
If you haven’t heard about PMS colors, they are specific color values that are used to get an exact color match. This ensures that the color for all uses across the board remains consistent with the original design. PMS colors in print are also referred to as spot colors. Using them — say you want to use 5 PMS colors —can turn out to be very expensive as a result.
The color model CMYK – or four color printing – refers to the four inks used in varying percentages to create all colors. They are typically applied in the order of the letters: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black). CMYK is great for printing and the most cost effective.
HEX and RGB are ways of coding colors to be read by various computer languages such as HTML, so it will translate your design color values accurately as viewed on the web. RGB literally stands for red-green-blue… and those three primary colors, variably added together create most other colors. Each HEX and RGB value is assigned a six-digit code that indicates how much red, green and blue should be rendered to create a specific output.
“The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color. Our entire being is nourished by it. This mystic quality of color should likewise find expression in a work of art.”
So remember: If you are using an office printer to review something from the screen, you won’t get an exact color match. And, it will look different from an ink jet vs. a laser printer. You can try calibrating your printer to get a slightly more accurate reading. It won’t solve the issue, but it can help. Some printers will have an option to print a reference color chart that includes the CMYK values.
If you are only planning to use CMYK and RGB values, check out this fantastic tool from Adobe Kuler.
3. When working with similar colors be cautious, as they can blend together and cause your work to look muddy.
A way to test if your colors blend is to squint your eyes as you look at them from a distance. These colors will look like they turned grey. If they seem to be the same value, you may want to consider selecting another color that will have a better contrast. Don’t be discouraged at the idea — It can be well worth the effort to do that experiment to solve this.
4. Understand that there are psychological and cultural factors that can influence how color is perceived.
Don’t underestimate this! If you are trying to target a particular market, doing research will help you understand what colors will work and what won’t. Let’s say you are creating a catalog that features beautiful brides from different cultures. Your message is talking about brides being happy in their beautiful white gowns, and you include an Indian bride wearing white. This reference would create a cultural clash because in India it is believed that a bride wearing white will invite sorrow. While the brides may have been born and raised in the USA, many will stick to their traditional wedding customs. Consider this aspect a professional skill to develop, as important as the others you have honed.
5. Establish harmony.
Using colors that incorporate hue repetition can create unity in a design. You can establish this by either repeating the colors within the design or by adjusting the value of the parent color — pink may look different to a red, but it is still a shade of red.
Color is everywhere. If you are feeling stuck on how to create harmony, the best source of inspiration is found in nature! There is a reason why you feel this amazing sense of awe when you see such amazing colors on a sunset! God was an artist!
Working with colors can be tricky but it’s so much fun! Don’t be afraid to let your creativity thrive and take risks when you’re in the creation stage. Some very happy accidents can happen! We’ve got more to say on this topic, so come back to read more on color on our blog.