Colour Theory

Colour Wheel


Red Yellow and Blue 3


By mixing combinations of red, yellow, and blue 3 Orange, green, violet


Primary + Secondary 6


colours opposite


Hue, Value, and Intensity

All colours have - Hue, Intensity, and Value Munsell System


Hue = name of colour Warm or cold Warmth of a colour is a property of hue - We can divide the colour wheel into two halves - with orange in the center of one one side and blue at the center of the other Colours near orange are warm, colours near blue are cool Why? Psychological association - Colours halfway between are fairly neutral - To add warmth, we usually add yellow - To add coldness, we usually add blue - there can be a "cool green" and a "warm green" - useful for colour schemes for harmony


Most important dimension Lightness or darkness Shade - add black Tint - add white


aka saturation aka purity aka strength To lower intensity, add grey

Some rules

1. Every colour affects the other colour

and how we perceive it. Depending on the colour of other elements, the background, etc. something might appear too dark or too small

2. Adding depth

Warmer colours seem to appear closer Cooler colours appear farther Farther elements - cooler and less intense

3. Colour under different light conditions

direction of light, direct/indirect light, shadows, the surface underneath/reflected light, everything plays a role

4. Different lights create different colors

Sunlight = warm Artificial light = cool

setting, effect

shadows - usually cool

5. Emotional Effect of Colour

6. Colours create different moods

Bright, warm colours - happy and light low dark colours - gloomy

value and intensity = low? gloomy mood, serious atmosphere

7. Colour proportion !!!

Don't use too many colours, too intensely Stick to fewer hues too many intense colours = compete for attention, appear in disarray, sore to look at

8. Set Palette

Colour Schemes

  • Monochromatic – Take one hue and create other elements from different shades and tints of it.

  • Analogous – Use three colors located beside one another on the color wheel (e.g., orange, yellow-orange and yellow to show sunlight). A variant is to mix white with these to form a “high-key” analogous color scheme (e.g., flames).

  • Complementary – Use “opposite color” pairs—e.g., blue/yellow—to maximize contrast.

  • Split-Complementary (or Compound Harmony) – Add colors from either side of your complementary color pair to soften contrast.

  • Triadic – Take three colors which are equally distant on the color wheel (i.e., 120° apart: e.g., red/blue/yellow). These colors may not be vibrant, but the scheme can be as it maintains harmony and high contrast. It’s easier to make visually appealing designs with this than with a complementary scheme.

  • Tetradic – Take four colors that are two sets of complementary pairs (e.g., orange/yellow/blue/violet) and choose one dominant color. This allows rich, interesting designs. However, watch the balance between warm and cool colors.

  • Square – A variant of tetradic; you find four colors evenly spaced on the color wheel (i.e., 90° apart). Unlike tetradic, square schemes can work well if you use all four colors evenly.


RGB - Additive colour scheme. Used for screens. EMITS light, so more you add colours, gets brighter. Add all colours, you get white

CMYK - Subtractive color palette. Print. Absorbs light. More colour you add, the darker it gets. Add all colours, you get black