Exploring Color Theory

Choosing colors for a design is both highly subjective but also highly scientific. Most designers search for a color palette that looks nice or will make their client happy. However, its much more than that. The most effective color choices go beyond the personal preference. Colors have an ability to influence mood, emotions, and perceptions; take on a variety of meaning; and consciously and subconsciously attract attention.

For us designers and marketers, the challenge is in balancing these roles that color plays to create an attractive and effective design. The basic understanding of color theory is very important. Traditional color theory can help you understand which colors might work well together in your design. Using colors in a design involves a lot more than choosing two or three hues and applying them equally in parts in your layout. Effectively applying color to a design project has to do with balance — and the more colors you use, the more complicated it is to achieve balance. Simplify your choices.

Try splitting your color choices into dominant and accent colors. The dominant color being the most visible and most frequently used in your design, while one or more accent colors will complement and balance out that main color.

A well-known rule of thumb for using a basic, three-color palette in a design is known as the 60-30-10 rule. Your dominant color will account for 60% of the color in the design, while two accent colors use up the remaining 30% and 10%. A good analogy for understanding how this works is picturing a man’s suit: the suit jacket and pants account for 60% of the color in the outfit; the shirt accounts for 30%; and the tie offers a small pop of color at 10% — creating a balanced, polished appearance. Using different shades and tints (or lighter and darker versions of a chosen hue) is another effective way to keep your color palette simple and balanced.

Color choice can really do a lot for your design, so use it to your advantage.

Below is an info graphic that helps a little with color coordination.

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