Color Me Interested

Posted December 13, 2021 by Diego Escala

Color is probably one of the most discussed topics in the world. Companies can spend weeks deciding slightly different shades of yellow for their logo. Or how many hours did you spend staring at your wall, holding up two paint cards to see which would look better for your home? There’s a lot of science that goes into color research (pseudo and actual), and it can sometimes seem like a bit of a daunting topic to jump into, but it doesn’t have to be.

Start with the basics

If you look up a color wheel you’ll see it’s split into two halves: warm shades (reds, oranges, yellows) and cooler shades (greens, blues, purples). There’s some (debatable) discourse around the psychology of color in design. Warm colors are generally associated with high-energy and “fun” (look at Coca-Cola), while cooler colors are attached to calm, relaxing emotions. If you were to make a website or app for meditation for example, general color theory would suggest you should use a lot of blues in your design — maybe even splashes of green to convey “nature.”

A good starting point is selecting a primary color and checking to see what the complementary color would be to it. This is done by finding your first color on a color wheel, and simply looking to see what’s on the exact opposite side of the wheel. So for example, the complement to red is green.

Have you ever noticed how every movie poster has a blue and orange color scheme? Look up your favorite movie, and I can almost guarantee it’ll be bathed in blue/orange. And, anytime you see a movie poster from now on you’ll start seeing it everywhere. It’s one of the most commonly used complementary colors, to the point where it’s become a bit of a joke at how often it’s used.  And it’s used often for a reason: It’s one of, if not the most naturally pleasing aesthetic.

Don’t be afraid to be bold

Now after all that, don’t think you have to stick to color trends or follow complementary color rules like it’s a bible. When you understand how to use colors together, try slowly experimenting with weirder combinations to see if you find something interesting. For example, black and pink is a bold color combination that’s modern, stylish and can make whatever you’re working on stand out as a statement piece.

There’s no “right” answer to color

Of course, there’s no hard rule for any of this. For some, the color green represents nature, but for others it might bring to mind finance/money or even vomit. So while there’s definitely an unwritten “rule” that people tend to attach to certain colors, it doesn’t mean you have to follow it. Colors are some of the most subjective topics, and can mean different things to different people.

Focus on what you want your design to convey, maybe start with what the “traditional” color scheme would be and then start to branch out from there. Know who your target audience will be, because as different as opinions are in this country, it’s moreso when you start thinking about what colors mean for cultures in other countries.

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