Basic Terms in Colour Theory
When you look at colors to learn about them, it is done in the form of a COLOUR WHEEL.
There are lots of different types of colour wheels depending on what you want to do with them, but they all have the basic things in common.
Here is an example of a colour wheel that includes the 3 basic colour names that you need to know.
Primary Colours = Red, Yellow, Blue
These are the 3 starting colours.
You cannot mix these from other colours.
Secondary Colours = Green, Orange, Purple
These are made by mixing 2 primary colours together.
These are made by mixing primary and secondary colour together.
These are the more natural colours that you see every day.
There are various ways to make colours stand out from each other.
One of these ways is to use COMPLEMENTARY COLOURS.
This is the basic rule of the complementary colours.
They are OPPOSITES.
This basic rule gives you these 3 sets of colours when you are just using primary and secondary colours.
Complementary colours are nothing like each other at all. They are completely opposite.
For example, the red and green combination. Green is made from blue and yellow which are nothing like red at all.
It is this property of complementary colours which make them stand out from each other.
There are various different colour schemes that you can use to enhance your design work.
These schemes use specific colour theories to make them work as they do.
They tend to look good together as they are closely related.
These are examples of Analogous Colours from the colour wheel. You can see that they are right next to each other on the wheel.
For a colour scheme, you usually choose 3 colours next to each other or if you want a wider selection in your design, you can use more as shown here.
You can choose 3 triadic colors by laying an equilateral triangle on the colour wheel.
The triangle wil point to 3 equally spaced colours on the wheel.
Triadic colour schemes will always have 3 colours.
The Split Complementary scheme is a variation of the complementary scheme that you have already looked at.
It uses a colour, then 2 colours either side of its complementary. You will then end up with 3 colors for your scheme.
On this example, red is the starting colour.
The complementary (opposite) of red is green, so the 2 colours either side of the green give you the split complementaries.
This scheme uses 4 colours, set out in 2 complementary pairs.
This scheme is harder to use if you use all 4 colours equally. It is better to have 1 of the colours as the dominant one or it will look unbalanced.
You can see on this diagram that there are 2 pairs of complementaries that are used to create the set of 4.
This is a very simple colour scheme, using only 2 "colours" of absolute opposites of black and white.
This scheme can be very striking as the black and white stand out so clearly from each other.
It is the clarity between the 2 colours which makes it a good choice for printed information like books.
This colour scheme gives a softer look than the black an white scheme.
This scheme uses tones of a single colour.
Monochromatic means "one colour".
Shades of the chosen colour can be achieved by adding white to lighten it and black to darken it.
(A web site with some interesting reasons to use this colour scheme.)
Cool and warm colours are at the opposite side of the colour wheel.
Warm colours are made with orange, red, yellow and combinations of them all. As the name indicates, they tend to make you think of sunlight and heat.
Cool colours such as blue, green and light purple have the ability to calm and soothe. Where warm colours remind us of heat and sunshine, cool colours remind us of water and sky.
Here are some links to websites that will give you some more reading and information about colour.
Some will give the same information as others, but sometimes reading the same information written by different people and presented in different ways, helps you to understand better.
This site has some good examples of printed design work to illustrate what it is talking about.