Everywhere we look we see color. It is not only an important part of life but also plays an important role in the design. Colors can help us decide what food we can eat. It can alert us of danger and it also helps us make choices throughout the course of our day. Understanding color and the way that we see color will help us become a better designer and artist.
So what exactly is color. Like we discussed in the previous post. It is the property of what we see when we interact with light in other objects. In its simplest form light hits an object and is either absorbed or reflected back into our eyes. Light travels in waves and when the different wavelengths reach the cones of our eyes we see what we call color or the reflected light waves from the object.
White light is a combination of all of these wavelengths. Adding together as the light travels from the sun it hits different objects and those wavelengths can either be absorbed into the object or reflected back to our eyes. As light is absorbed and reflected we begin to see different colors. Take for example an image of a red apple the apple, in essence, isn’t really red. An apple is just an object that absorbs every color but red and that red light is reflected back to us and we interpret this as the color red.
This goes for all of the other colors on the color spectrum. Green is all colors except green reflected back to us. The same goes for orange, blue, violet, and so on.
When we see something white it is because the object isn’t absorbing any of the wavelengths and they are all being reflected back to us. And here’s a little secret, black isn’t really a color at all. We see black when all of the light wavelengths are fully absorbed into the object. Black is just the absence of color. However, in design, we need a way to describe this. So we just label it as the color black.
So how does it help as a designer to understand the basic principles of light and color? We will have a better foundation of the way color works in different mediums whether through digital images through print or any other medium available to artists because color is so important to our everyday lives. It’s very important to understand the basics of how color works, how it can be mixed or manipulated, and how we can apply it to design.
But nothing brings me more joy than talking about how color affects people humans and color have a deep relationship and always amazes me to think about how we react to color and what a strong impact it can have on us.
Colors can express mood or emotion they can help draw attention to what you want the viewer to see. They can provide information to the viewer in the design itself choosing the right colors can help express your point. And choosing the wrong colors can turn the viewer away. And in some cases even offend different cultures.
When you look at this image, how do you feel? Notice I didn’t say what do you see? I said, How do you feel? That is because color can psychologically change our perception of the world around us.
Color can make us feel happy or sad, frightened or optimistic, hungry, alert and so much more as we have evolved through the years we have associated certain colors to the way we react to what is going on around us at the time of viewing those colors.
Take a look at these vegetables. Brilliant greens, reds, oranges, and yellows. As we eat these throughout our generations, we begin to associate these colors with food and an even deeper feeling of satisfying our hunger by consuming a green, orange or red plant. It’s no coincidence that major food chains across the world use these same colors and their branding colors can have very specific meanings and those meanings can even change based on the culture that you’re interacting with.
It’s important to know different colors have different meanings. So let’s take a look at some of the more common ones. Keep in mind that this is not an extensive list so I encourage you to do more research on different cultures and different cultures and what they can.
By knowing how colors are represented and by even combining colors, you can relay a specific message to your audience just by using color. Sometimes you’ll hear colors as being warm and cool. This comes from psychological and physiological stimulation. It’s easy to think that warm colors like red, orange, and yellow make you think of fire and heat. Cool colors like greens, blues, and violets are usually associated with feelings of being cool or cold.
Use similar colors either warm or cool together and your design can create a uniform look of colors that go well with each other. This is called a color harmony because there’s a nice balance of the colors being chosen. Many different color harmonies are based on the color wheel. Knowing the different color harmonies can really help us select some great looking color palettes. Whenever you’re feeling stuck or not sure how to go about picking the right color, by randomly selecting a color or by choosing a definite starting color, you can come up with all sorts of beautiful color harmonies.
A monochromatic color harmony means that the color palette is going to have different tints in shades of a single color. As you can see all the colors fall within the same color on the color wheel. Analogous color harmony is where the colors have different hues close to the main color on the color wheel. This adds more variety to an image than a monochromatic color pattern and is commonly found when referring to warm and cool color palettes. A complementary color harmony, as the name suggests, is made up of complementary colors. These are colors directly across from the main color or 180 degrees on the color wheel from the source. For some reason, these colors just work really well together. They complement one another and are great for use and all kinds of designs. The last example is triadic color harmony. Three Colors are evenly spaced across the color will resulting in a nice triadic harmony.
If you learn the different meanings of colors and how they play a role in our everyday lives then you can use that knowledge to your advantage when creating your designs. Color is very important in the design process so make sure you’re taking the time to think about color and most of all enjoy experimenting with it.
P.S. Here are some of the articles I found helpful while building my website.