Color Theory for Designers Finally Explained

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We can’t imagine a world without colors because we see numerous colors everywhere. In fact, we are so used to with colors; we often don’t notice them until we see a black and white movie on television. Only then we appreciate the fact that we live in such a colorful world. If you work in a graphic design company and your main duty is online brochure design, then you should be aware of color theory for designers. When it comes to designing a brochure, whether online or offline, colors play a huge role in the layout design. Since each hue coveys a visual message to the end users and establishes the brand image of a company, the designer must have a proper understanding about how colors work.

Let’s delve deep into the color theory for designers.

# Colors don’t Exist:

Don’t get surprised. Colors really don’t exist. Before you start an argument, let me explain how this is possible. Human brain tries to make sense of the light signals it receives from the outer world. In simpler terms, colors are created in your head. If our brain stops understanding the light signals, you will see the world as a monochromatic place, drained in electromagnetic radiation of various intensity and wavelengths. Seems scary, isn’t it?

# We are Trichromats:

If you think that RGB is a discovery of the Silicon Valley scientists, then you are absolutely wrong. RGB color model was discovered three centuries ago by Thomas Young. According to trichromatic theory, we see colors through red, blue and green channels. We see various colors because we have three types of receptor cells in our retina. These receptor cells are sensitive to different light properties, red, green and blue. Human eyes can see almost ten million different colors. Sounds impressive? The fact is we are collectively color blind when compared with Mallard Duck species. This particular duck has five types of color receptors in the retina. That means a Mallard Duck can see 170% more colors than we do. This information may seem irrelevant to you, but when you are studying color theory for designers, it is important to know the capability of human eye to create designs that people will be able to appreciate.

# You can Create Colors in Two Ways:

Over the centuries we have leant that colors can be created using two methods. One technique is mixing lights, which is also known as additive model and the second technique is amalgamating paint on paper which is known as subtractive color mixing. Mixing light is probably the easiest task. You can create colors by mixing blue, red and green lights in various intensities. More light means brighter colors. This is the process graphic designers follow while creating online brochure design. However, before the invention of computers, subtractive color mixing was the only process to generate new colors. This process is applied by artists who work on paintings. Red, yellow and blue were the three colors primarily used in subtractive process, but as printing technology emerged CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) color technology took control.

# No Device can Reproduce all the Visible Colors:

Colors on screen will never match the colors on paper. This is an important color theory for designers. Every device and printing process has its unique color gamut. Let me help you understand how this works. Suppose you are working on Photoshop and have created a fantastic online brochure design using RGB format. The colors will look very rich and vibrant on screen. However, the moment you plan to print it on paper, your color options get reduced because it prints in CMYK format.

# Colors are Described using Color Models:

You may describe a skirt as “cherry red” or “baby pink”, but when it comes to naming millions of colors, the job is a lot difficult. That is why color models have been invented. There are 3 types of color models or standards- RGB, HSB and CMYK. RGB is the most popular additive model as each color is described as set of blue, red and green values on a scale from 0 to 255. On the other hand, the HSB model is based on RGB, but here each color is defined as a combination of Hue, Saturation and Brightness. Finally, the CMYK model is standard printing color model.

# Think about Colors? Try Color Wheel:

The color wheel was invented by Sir Isaac Newton and later it was improvised by many eminent personalities. The great thing about a color wheel is that it tells a lot about the color theory for designers. It shows how primary colors blend to create other unique colors. A color wheel features:

  • Primary colors: Red, blue and yellow.
  • Secondary colors: Purple, orange and green hues, which are created by amalgamating primary colors.
  • Tertiary colors: Additional color hues you can get by mixing a primary color with a secondary color. For example, red-violet, blue-green and yellow-orange.

You may wonder why color wheel is so important. Well, it easily helps you understand how colors relate to each other and which combinations work perfectly.

# Maintain Color harmony:

You may have come across a few great brochures and their color harmony impressed you because the creators have maintained the rules of color harmonies. Color harmony can be created by selecting colors from the wheel according to the predefined schemes such as triad, analogous and complementary.
So, as you can see color theory for designers is all about how colors work. The more you understand this, the better online brochure design you will be able to create. Since printed brochure and online brochure colors don’t look the same, you need to be very careful and selective to choice the most suitable colors for computer displays. Make sure that your design reflects the brand persona of your business and is soothing to the eyes as well.

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4th Dec, 2014

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