Graphic Design 101: Understanding Colour

People have commented (I’m not making this up) how much better I look since I’ve been married. It’s hard to sneak out the door without the Fashion Police giving the thumbs-up or thumbs down. I’m a bit of a klutz when it comes to knowing what’s cool and/or appropriate.

Colours are like that too. How can we use colour to enhance our page designs? How do we know what colours go with what?Enter (drum roll…) the amazing Colour Wheel!

colour wheel

public domain, courtesy Wikipedia.

We can start with the Primary Colours. They are called that because they are colours you can’t create. They just are.

If we space them evenly at 120 degree intervals, we will have yellow at the top, magenta a third of the way around, and cyan two-thirds of the way.

Let’s add secondary colours: red at 2 o’clock, violet at 6 o’clock, and green at 10 o’clock. These are made by mixing the two colours that reside on either side. cyan and yellow make green, cyan and magenta make violet, and yellow and magenta make scarlet (aka warm red).

Next we put mix between those colours to arrive at the tertiary colours and so on.

How do these relate to each other? Colours opposite one another on the colour wheel are called complimentary colours. They won’t clash, but work best when one is the main colour and the other used as an accent. They work great together.

A set of 3 colours equidistant from each other create a triad, like yellow, cyan, and magenta, or dark orange, lime green and bluish purple. They also work well together.

Split complement triads are found when you find a colour’s complement across the colour wheel and then pick the colours immediately adjacent the complement; like green, dark orange, and violet.

Analogous colour combinations are made of of those colours next to each other on the wheel. Because they share the same undertones, they work well with each other as well; for instance, yellow-orange, orange, and reddish-orange.

In our next exciting instalment, we’ll discuss shades and tints. Stay tuned!

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