Trucos de diseño para diseñar como locos

Color theory

There can`t be a design blog that does not have a publication about the color theory, whether viewed from the standpoint of the composition, selection, space, or psychology. Since the data available on the web is much i’ll try to be very specific.

Before you start talking about the color and artistic theory  i should explain what and how we perceive color in our computerized world. Designers mainly use two spaces or color models, basically, though not the only ones available. These models define how computers simulate the color.

The color property of the light emitted by the sun or an artificial source, reflected and received by the optic nerve, is emulated by using the RGB color space. This model is based on the sum of three monochromatic lights: red, green and blue, from which you can reproduce the light spectrum. It is an additive model, which means the sum of the three primary light produces white light (more light more color), while its absence produces black.

The behavior of the paint, ink or pigment mixture is reproduced using the CMYK color space. This is a color model radically opposed to the previous one because the light absorption by the material follows different rules from the perception of light by the eye. This model uses three inks, which mixed and printed, can reproduce the widest possible range of colors: cyan, magenta and yellow. In this model it is paper, when white, which produces white, while the black color is emulated using an extra ink because of the saturated mixture of the three primary colors produces a dark brown color. This color model is subtractive, ie, the pigments absorb certain frequencies of the spectrum while reflecting the rest.

In the picture below are represented both models, left additive, subtractive right, and their tight relationship.

In the additive model the sum of green and red lights produce yellow, green and blue light produce cyan, and red and blue light produce magenta. The point at which converge the three lights is completely white. The mixture of yellow and magenta pigments produce red in the subtractive model, the magenta and cyan produces blue and the yellow pigment and cyan produces green. Or you could say that cyan absorbs red light, blue light and reflects green magenta absorbs green light reflects red and blue lights, yellow absorbs blue light, reflecting red and green lights. The mixture of the three pigments produces saturated dark brown close to black.

None of the two color spaces is able to reproduce completely the full range of light and color

The traditional color theory is based on three primary colors: red, yellow and blue, from which blend the other colors. Using this method red and yellow makes the secondary color orange, red and blue mix to form violet while yellow and blue combine to produce green. Secondary and primary colors together make up the visible light spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. By combining primary and secondary, tertiary colors are produced, with which it ends to form the traditional color wheel.

Before discussing the harmonies of color is necessary to distinguish between cold colors and warm colors of the traditional theoryo. The determination that seems cold or hot color is relative, that is, apart from other considerations, any color can seem cold or hot depending on the context in which it is used. The traditional color theory, perceptual as it isdescribed as warm color ranges from red-violet to yellow, and as cold ones from the yellow-green to violet. This distinction is not based on actual temperature, but how it is perceived as color. For example, relatives of the ice is in our subconscious with the color blue, while the fire is with red, orange or yellow. Moreover, the temperature of the light is completely different from that assessment, a very energetic fire produces a bluish light, however a flame produced by combustion of an scarce materials energy cast a red light. The depth of color is another characteristic perceptual. Called warm colors appear on leave or attract attention while cool colors away into the background.

The qualities of color are: hue (hue or chroma), saturation and brightness. The tone is the first thing to look to recognize a color, a green leaf, blue sky. The purity of color is determined by the saturation, more of greater purity of color pigment. Brightness measures the lightness or darkness of color. The color is clarified by adding white and dark black.

The traditional theory of color has long had the goal to predict which combinations of colors could function properly. The color wheel has been adopted as a design tool to define these combinations as detailed below:

  1. Complementary colors are pairs of opposites 180 degrees apart on the color wheel. These colors are removed each producing quality gray.
  2. To be complementary split is necessary to choose a color, plus the two colors adjacent to its corresponding complementary.
  3. A step further in terms of color harmony is complementary double. This model is formed by two opposing pairs of colors spaced 60 degrees.
  4. A further combination of the energy is the color triads, consisting of three colors equidistant on the color wheel.
  5. To get a palette of colors that work well together but not belonging to high-contrast combination can be used to harmonics. Harmonic colors are adjacent on the color wheel.

The choice of either color composition depends mainly on the purpose of the color palette you want to get: high-contrast, consistency, etc …

The color wheel has limited application due to the impact produced by the combinations of colors depends heavily on the choice of colors and tastes, lifestyle and culture of the users that the design is addressed. It is also limited by the use of computers, color combinations which differ from those used in traditional painting. As shown in the image below, the traditional palette of a painter with a greater range of oranges while the computer offers a range of blue above. The success of a combination of colors is also affected by the context of the design. The same could apply to the meaning and psychology of color.

The symbolism of the colors is based on a series of cultural ties of anecdotal evidence that vary significantly over time, distance and culture. In fact, a color can have different meanings, often contradictory, depending on the context in which it is used. However, the symbolism of the colors play a major role in graphic design. The symbolism of primary and secondary colors is:

  • White is the color that represents purity, virtuosity, innocence, virginity, youth, sterility or cleanliness. Peace and neutrality are also represented by this color. It is also the color of winter, vacuum, simplicity, hope, marriage (Western cultures) and dead (in Eastern cultures).
  • Black: for obvious reasons associated with darkness, mystery and death, the paranormal, demonic and corrupt. Also symbolizes elegance, power and sophistication.
  • Gray: halfway between white and black symbolizes both the elegance and simplicity. Similarly it is culturally associated with aging and pessimism. Also with the stability, neutrality and reliability.
  • Red: any other color red has the ability to attract attention, this is the main reason used in the warning signs and prohibition. Red is the color of passion, heat, fire. It is also intimately relatives of the velocity, arrogance, blood, anger, war and violence.
  • Orange: Like red symbolizes energy, heat, ignition of the fire and desire. At the same time symbolizes the divinity, spirituality and royalty. Orange, like red, has the ability to capture the attention immediately, for this reason is widely used in advertising and sports media.
  • Yellow: typically symbolizes sunshine, sunshine, happiness, summer, and idealism, hope.Although it is also associated with the disease, greed, bad luck and anger.
  • Green: There is no color that defines the nature and the green. It is also relatives of the youth, good luck. Green represents life, growth and health. But it also has negative connotations, suggests disease, ill health and decay (in food that is not green). It means spring force, Land and progress.
  • Blue: a cool color and tone of the daytime sky. More reassuring is the color of the spectrum, while in many cases relatives of her depression. Blue is in high demand in corporate image.The relatives of water, ice, cold, winter, nobility, truth.
  • Violet: the most exotic of colors, mystical and meditative. Spiritual health and economic means.

There are many other relatives of important symbols and colors like brown, pink and purple. Moreover, each day that passes these relatives are renewed and reinvented. For this reason before you select a main color with which to work, it is important to consider what you want to communicate using that color, in which audience and the cultural connotations of that group. Nevertheless, it is often desirable and / or necessary to break down cultural stereotypes and dare to give a particular color on a new meaning.


Links: Wikipedia


About mimoriarty

Diseñador gráfico multidisciplinar; me gustaría trabajar y compartir experiencias con diseñadores de todo el mundo

2 comments on “Color theory

  1. Pingback: The art of text printing (Part Three) « MiMoriarty's Blog

  2. Pingback: The art of text printing (Part Three) « MiMoriarty's Blog

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This entry was posted on July 9, 2010 by in Conocimientos, multilanguaje and tagged , .

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