The meaning of colour...
The Colour Wheel
The colour wheel was first devised in 1666 by Sir Isaac Newton, and has been used to help understand the theory and harmony of colour ever since! It is a useful tool for combining colours, the theory being that any colours picked from it will look good together. The most common version uses 12 colours based on the red-yellow-blue colour model. Understanding the position of each colour on the wheel helps make them easy to co-ordinate.
Traditionally, there are various colour combinations that are accepted as looking especially pleasing when used together. These are called colour harmonies, and have a fixed relation next to each other in the colour wheel, for example blue and green.
Colours that play against each other can be used very effectively in design. These are called complementary coloursand are found at opposite ends of the colour wheel, such as orange and blue or red and green. Whilst these can be very dynamic combinations, they can sometimes be a little overbearing at full strength, as the contrast between them creates a very vibrant look. Complementary colours work well when used with care, as they can really make something stand out.
Finally, colours that are three sections apart in the colour wheel are called contrasting colours, such as orange and purple, or blue and yellow. A simple way to pair these together is to make sure one of them is a lighter tint than the other: for example dark purple and bright orange will clash less than a bright violet paired with a bright orange, which could be distracting.
Colours can recede or jump forward, which is important to know when sitting coloured text on a coloured background as it can help or impede legibility. Dark colours such as black, navy and brown tend to recede, while yellow, orange and red will step forward; this is why if you have a bright orange background it will be difficult to read any text or imagery placed on it, as the orange will fight for dominance.
Primary, secondary and tertiary colours
As mentioned before, colour wheels employ the red-yellow-blue colour model; this means that the primary colours are red yellow and blue. These colours can’t be created by mixing other hues together; they are pure and consequently tend to be bright and impactful. Secondary colours are created when two primary colours are mixed, creating green, orange and purple.
By mixing primary and secondary colours together, we can create tertiary colours – the remaining colours on the wheel.
In essence, primary colours are vibrant, saturated and eye-catching, whilst tertiary colours are more subtle and less demanding on the eye.
Warm and cool colours
The colour wheel can be divided into warm colours – the reds, oranges and yellows – and cool colours which consist of greens, blues and purples. Warm colours are perceived as being vivid and energetic, and tend to advance and ‘pop out’ whilst cool colours are more recessive and give an impression of calm. White, grey and black are considered to be neutral colours and as such work well with any other colours on the spectrum as they don’t create clashes.
Tints, shades and tones
If a colour is made lighter by adding white, the result is called a tint; if it is made darker by adding black the result is ashade. If grey or a mix of colours is used, the result is a different tone. Whilst these terms can seem unnecessarily complicated, it can be useful to understand their meanings when using image manipulation software such as Adobe Photoshop which uses these terms in colour correction tools.
I hope you enjoyed our delve into the theory of colour! Best wishes from the Boxcitement Box Office – Deb
(P.S. I'd love to know what you think - leave your comment below!)