Red, yellow and blue are primary colors. They cannot be formed by mixing together any other colors in the color spectrum. Secondary colors are created by mixing any two primary colors together. These are orange, green, and purple. The final color model is tertiary, which combines primary and secondary colors together. In this video tutorial, you will learn the rules of color in Graphic Design, as well as color combinations and how to use them in your designs.
Now that we know how individual colors influence us in our state of mind, it's time to explore how and why we pair certain colors together, and what makes up a single individual color swatch. In order to understand how to pair colors together, you must first understand how the color spectrum is created in the first place. There are three basic color models that we follow, primary, secondary and tertiary. Red, yellow, and blue make up the primary colors. And according to traditional color theory, they cannot be formed by mixing any other color in the color spectrum, which makes them the primary colors that exist in nature.
Secondary colors, orange, green, and purple, on the other hand, are only created by mixing two of the primary colors together. Red and yellow make orange. Yellow and blue make green. And blue and red make purple. The final color model is known as tertiary color, and these are combinations of both primary and secondary colors. There are six total tertiary colors. Yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, and red-orange.
There are certain color combinations that just seem to naturally go together, but why is that? What makes them more compatible, and others not so much? Well, it's based on the color wheel and various rules for color harmony. The three most basic rules are complementary, analogous, and triad. Complementary colors sit directly across from one another on the color wheel. That means if you choose red, for instance, you would follow a straight line across the wheel and then hit green in order to find its complement.
Many times, designers will use complementary colors when they want to exaggerate contrast because of the polar opposite nature that complementary colors provide. That's why white on black or vice versa is so effective. The analogous color harmonies are achieved by selecting a color and then pairing it with the two colors on either side of it. In this example, I've chosen purple as my main color and the analogous rule then gives me red-violet and blue-violet to create the harmonious trio that you see here. Analogous color schemes are often found in nature and are considered to be very pleasing to the human eye.
They almost always match well with each other and they tend to create a sense of serenity in your designs. The final rule when creating color harmony is known as triad. Triadic color harmonies pair three colors together exactly 120 degrees apart from one another on the color wheel. Basically, if you drew an equilateral triangle from you base color outward, you would hit the other two colors on the color wheel to form this harmony. Considered by many to be the best method for developing color harmony, triadic color schemes often generate colors which can be used as a primary background with the other two colors lending themselves for the content areas and highlighting capabilities.
While these aren't all of the methods for creating color harmonies, they are definitely the most basic and widely used amongst most designers, and knowing them and how they work will be very beneficial to you as you continue to develop your knowledge of colors. One final thing that you need to know and understand before we move on is the anatomy of a color swatch. This is something that really eluded my understanding for the longest time, but once I heard the explanation I'm about to give you, it all made sense to me. You'll hear quite a few terms thrown around when people talk about color.
Those that include hue, tint, tone, and shade. However, at first glance, it isn't really obvious as to what each one of these terms is referring to. Let me break it down for you. Hues represent the 12 purest colors on the color wheel. That means the three primary, three secondary, and six tertiary colors. Those are all hues. Together they make the full spectrum of colors which progress around the color wheel. With these 12 hues, you can literally mix any color imaginable. Tinting, toning, and shading are all methods of modifying or altering the 12 original hues.
Tinting refers to the method for lightening a color. Tints are often called pastels, and they can be created simply by mixing any of the 12 basic hues with white. You can add as much white as you like to create different tints of different colors, or as little white as you want just to create a more toned-down version. Shades, on the other hand, darken a color by mixing in black with one of the pure hues. You can lightly darken a hue or go nearly completely black, and every shade in between.
Shading can often times muddy the main color that you're trying to mix, so most designers steer clear of using it in excess. Finally, there's toning. If you think of the primary hue as having a volume slider, then adding a tone allows you to turn that volume up or down. All the main hues start off at full blast. The volume is all the way to the top as they are 100% of their original colors mixed with each other. In order to mute that color or turn it down, you simply add in a bit of neutral grey.
This will neutralize some of the intensity, and that's what is called toning. There are literally no limits to the colors you can create. Using methods like tinting, toning, and shades are just extra tools that help you achieve the look that you're going for. Hopefully now you have a better understanding of the color models used to generate color, the rules that generate color harmonies, and the ways that we construct individual swatches for our designs. In the next movie, I'll be exploring an online tool that will help you use what you've learned here in this movie and apply it when you're creating your own color schemes.
- Understanding the impact of color
- Sketching your ideas
- Removing unwanted objects from images
- Cropping photos
- Resizing and saving images for print
- Drawing basic shapes
- Creating a custom color theme with swatches
- Applying styles
- Creating tables
- Preflighting documents
- Packaging files for print
Skill Level Beginner
Q: This course was updated on 09/01/2016. What changed?
A: We revised the first four chapters with new graphics and examples.