Color Theory in Graphic Designing


Using colours is probably one of the biggest problems that artists face. Knowing how to use colours effectively, to adjust the mood or the atmosphere of your artwork or design is actually quite tough.

Colour plays a vital role in the design and everyday life. It can draw our eye to an image, evoke a certain mood or emotion and even communicate something without using words at all. Artists and designers have followed colour theory for centuries.

If we use the colours correctly we can guide the viewer’s eyes to what’s important. But, if the colour theory is not used then it can make your designs really unappealing. So, colours can make or break your design. So, it’s one of the most important elements of your design or your artwork.

How Colour Wheel is made

The most important basis of the colour theory is Primary Colours and Secondary colours. Red, yellow and blue are the called Primary Colours.

Red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green, and blue and red make purple, these are called Secondary colours.

If we mix every two adjacent colours together we will get the colour wheel.

Main aspects of Color Theory:

Saturation is the intensity or purity of the colour and the second is the value which defines the darkness or brightness of the colour.

In graphic design, saturation of a colour is one of the biggest issues that a designer has to keep in mind. As a designer, we shouldn’t choose highly saturated colours as they appear to make our design look good but it is quite different from the truth. Highly saturated colours not only look fake but using saturated colours gives our eyes no place to rest in our design which is really important part of a design.

Advice for using a colours in design

  • Don’t usually keep the saturation value in its extreme.
  • Use saturation value to guide the observer’s eye.
  • Use it to change the mood of the design.
  • Use it properly to draw attention to something.

Color Wheel

Also represented as Color Harmonies or Color Schemes, it means that some colours look better together than others.

Monochromatic Colors:

The first set of colour schemes which is usually very simple is called Monochromatic colors. It means your entire image or design will be composed of only one single colour. This scheme is suitable for single subjects because it forces the viewers to focus on the details of your design or your image. It can also be used to create very striking atmospheric effect when you are creating any kind of digital painting or concept art. And the only thing that changes in the design is its saturation value. The best thing about this colour scheme is that they are guaranteed to match.

Analogous Color Scheme:

These are the colours which are adjacent to the colour wheel. It is generally easy on the eyes. And the design or artwork made according to the colour scheme is generally peaceful and is quite aesthetically pleasing. The reason of this is because this is seen in nature, that’s how colours are related.  For example, pink, purple and blue goes really well with each other.

Triadic Color Scheme:

Colors which are equally distant from the wheel. This color scheme forms a triangle that is evenly spaced.  And this scheme is generally used for cartoon and surreal scenes. For example, orange green and purple.

Complementary Colors:

Most popularly and most used color scheme. And these are the opposing colours on the colour wheel. Another reason designer’s use this colour scheme is because it is naturally pleasing to the eye. But one thing I would like to recommend here is that do not use these colours equally. For example, if you are using 50% red do not use 50% green. Predominantly using these colours is a better option. Warm and Cool colors are naturally complementary.

Split Complementary Color Scheme

This colour scheme is a different variation of the complementary color scheme. This colour scheme forms a triangle in the color wheel. In addition to the colour of the base in the color wheel, the other two adjacent colours are used in its place.  Although this colour scheme has strong visual colours but has very less tension to it. This scheme allows you to have more creative freedom. This scheme is used to make artworks and designs which are generally more lively and joyous.

For example:

orange, green and purple will get along quite nicely.

Double Complementary or Tetradic Color Scheme:

This is basically same as the complementary color scheme only doubled, means it has two pairs of opposing colors. These colors form a perfect rectangle in the color wheel.  And it is best used for foregrounds and background.  Do not ever use 25 % of each color in the scheme or else your design might look very unappealing. This will work if we let one color dominate while keeping other colors as secondary. For example, green-red and orange-blue.

The color we are using should be legible, engaging and easy on the eyes. Colors like black, white and grey can help us to balance our design. So, when we really use a bit color in our design, it stands out a lot.

Meaning of Colors:


It is an extremely stimulating color. Around the world, red is known as the color of energy. It attracts the most attention and often represents as important notices and warnings. For example, it is generally used in ambulances, traffic signals, and breaking news flash.


It is a warm and vibrant color. It is considered as energizing as well as welcoming. And it can generate warm and welcoming feeling for the customers.


It is an extremely versatile color depending on which shade you choose. Bright yellow is associated with enthusiasm and optimism which often provoke thoughts and thinking. While dark shades of yellow provide antiquity and age.


It gives off the feeling of growth. It signifies a sense of harmony and renewal. This color balances emotion and inspires compassion. This color is very useful if anyone is making a design related to the environment.


It is usually related to calm and relaxing emotions and is also associated with strength and reliability. Blue emits a feeling of loyalty and inner security which is why we may see IT departments and business companies using this color. Blue is a symbol of intellect and mind ultimately making it the color of communication. Maybe that’s why social network company logos like FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter use the color blue.


Purple combines stability and energy both. It is associated with imagination, creativity, mystery, and magic. Although it is very rare in nature, so people consider it to be a symbol of artificial things. Light purple is associated with romantic and nostalgic feelings while dark purple is associated with gloomy feelings.


It is a symbol of goodness, purity, peace, and virginity. It is considered as the color of reflection.  It also depicts cleanliness and faith.


It is a color of mystery, power, formality, elegance, and evilness. This color is often associated with fear and symbol of grief. This color contrasts very well with bright colors.

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