3 Tips to Mastering Color Theory.

Color Theory is both a science and an art. And we know, you’re probably not an artist or a scientist - you’re a business owner. So why should you care about understanding colors? Sadly we gotta tell ya, it’s not all finger paint and rainbows…That’s right, it comes back to your brand. 

Understanding the basics of color theory will keep your brand visually consistent and help you be deliberate about what you are communicating, because even the colors you choose are sending a message to your customers. In fact, research shows that consumers decide whether or not they like a product within 90 seconds – and a whopping 90% of that decision is based on color. Fret not! You can set up some basic color rules to stay on track. 

So let’s start with a little history lesson.

The color wheel dates all the way back to 1666 when it was developed by Sir Isaac Newton. Despite it being old as a brick, it is still widely used today within the creative industries and the arts to create harmonies, develop palettes, mix colors and so forth. The setup is quite simple: 

  • There’s three primary colors (Red, Yellow, Blue) 

  • Then three secondary colors (Green, Orange, Purple) – which you create by mixing the primary colors.

  • And finally, six tertiary colors (Colors which, you guessed it, are made from mixing the primary and secondary colors). 

Cut the wheel in half and you have warm colors (red, orange, yellow) and cool colors (blue, green, purple).

When picking a color scheme for your brand, rather than relying on colors you like, think about how and what those colors communicate. Are you opening a soothing spa? Depending on how you want to brand your business, it might be a good idea to stay away from strong “loud” colors such as orange and red as they are associated with energy, passion, action and instead stick to cooler colors such as blue and green that have a more calming effect.

Okay, maybe we shouldn’t throw the book at you. Here are three basic color scheme principles to follow: 

Complementary (contrast)

  • When you want your brand to P-O-P, go comp-le-men-tary. Complementary colors are found on opposite sides of the color wheel.The contrast created with a complementary scheme is attention grabbing and bold, but should be used in moderation.

  • Examples: Blue & Orange, Red & Green, Yellow & Purple. 

Analogous (harmony)

  • Analogous colors strive for harmony and can be found next to each other on the wheel. When utilizing an analogous color scheme think Mean Girls -- pre Cady Heron. There should be one primary color that dominates (Regina) and two supporting colors (Gretchen and Karen) who would be nothing without their primary. 

  • Examples: Red, Orange & Yellow. Purple, Blue & Green. Red, Purple & Blue.

Triadic (contrast and harmony)

  • When you want the best of both worlds, you want Triadic colors. Using a triadic scheme creates both contrast and harmony simultaneously, enabling the artist (that’s you) to boldly highlight each color without setting things off balance. Triadic color schemes are created by choosing colors that are evenly spaced around the wheel, imagine drawing a triangle on top of the wheel and then rotating it to find three colors.

  • Examples: Light Blue, Dark Red & Bright Orange

Whatever scheme you choose for your business, we recommend deciding on your brand identity before you pick your colors. Do not pick red for your logo because you like red, ask yourself if your brand is harmonious or bold? And go from there. 

Need help figuring it out? Give us a call.