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How to practice color theory

Whether you are a graphic designer or a visual artist, you have to work with different colors daily. Color theory helps you find different feelings and attitudes that different shades and color combinations convey. To practice and integrate color theory into your latest art projects, choose a variety of shades or color schemes to communicate a particular message. If you want to satisfy a specific emotion or mindset, use both color theory and color psychology to find out which emotions are associated with different colors.


[[[[Edit]Choose shades and color schemes for a project

  1. Create basic color schemes with primary and secondary colors. Take a look at your color palette before you start a new creative project. Red, yellow and blue are primary colors that work together to create secondary colors such as orange, green and purple. As you begin new colorful projects, review these different color mixes and how each shade connects to other shades.[1]
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    • “Hue” is another term for a generic color.
    • Look at a color wheel to see how different shades bleed and connect with each other.
    • To review, red and yellow shape orange; yellow and blue shape green; and blue and red are purple.
  2. Use additive color mixing model to create digital color schemes. Imagine 3 separate red, blue and green headlights intersecting in a large Venn diagram, forming smaller lines of yellow, cyan, magenta and a white centerpiece. Remember that different colors can be formed when different light colors are combined. Because the additive color blend model focuses on how light colors are seen by the eye, try applying it to a potential logo or other types of professional digital publications.[2]
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    • Additive color mixing model focuses on how the human eye perceives color.
    • Use an online blending tool to see how different colors are displayed on the screen with additive color blending model: https://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/scienceopticsu/primarycolors/additiveprimaries.
  3. Implement the subtractive color mixing model in your printed publications. The subtractive color mixing model combines the wavelengths in different colors to create new shades. To better understand this model, imagine a Venn diagram with 3 separate cyan, magenta and yellow circles. Imagine chips of blue forming between cyan and magenta, green forming between cyan and yellow and red forming between magenta and yellow. Note that cyan, magenta and yellow are combined in black when combined.[3]
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    • This model is used by color printers and helps the human eye process color on printed material.
    • Different colors have different light wavelengths, which cancel each other out in this model. For example, red has a long wavelength, green has a medium wavelength and blue has a short wavelength.[4]
  4. Go with warm tones like red, oranges and yellows to create bright color schemes. Associate warm colors with bright, sunny shades. On the color wheel, remember that red, red-orange, orange, orange-yellow, yellow and yellow-green are all on the warm spectrum because they are sunny, fiery tones. Note that warm tones have longer wavelengths, with red as the longest and yellow-green as the shortest. [5]
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    • Warm tones are often associated with sunsets, campfires and other bright color combinations.
  5. Choose cool tones like greens, blues and purples to create a color scheme. Connect cool colors with darker, more subtle shades. When examining the color wheel, place green, green-blue, blue, indigo, blue-purple, and purple on the cool color spectrum, as opposed to the warm spectrum. Create reflective and soothing color schemes by combining different variations of these colors. When considering the additive and subtractive color models, note that cool colors have shorter wavelengths, with green as the longest and purple as the shortest.[6]
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  6. Play with tone, hue and hue to create new colors. When designing a color palette for a new project, try adjusting different shades to make them lighter or darker. To “tone” a shade, mix white in the original shade. If you prefer to create a darker color, use black to add “hue”. If you are looking for some kind of intermediate, incorporate a splash of gray into a shade to add “tone”. Use different variations of both primary and secondary colors to create new shades.[7]
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    • For example, Robin’s egg blue is a toned change of a generic blue hue. On the other hand, navy blue is a shaded variation.
  7. Create a synchronized color scheme with analog colors. If you are trying to create a subtle, stylish background for art or interior design, you can try using different color variations of the same shade. Add white, black or gray to a color to change the hue and then combine different variations to create a fun color scheme. Experiment with both light and dark versions in different colors, whether you are working on an art project, a publication on graphic design or an interior renovation.[8]
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    • For example, if you are trying to paint a sky background for a work of art, try using an analog blue color scheme. Use darker blues for the base of the sky and then mix in lighter shades of blue.
  8. Make your project pop with complementary colors. Look at a color wheel to find shades that are opposite each other on the color wheel, such as red and green. These opposite shades emphasize each other with their different color values. Keep in mind that complementary colors do not have to be generic shades – tinted and shaded colors also have respective opposites on the color wheel.[9]
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    • For example, try creating a more engaging logo by including two complementary colors in your brand identity. If you run a sea-themed jewelry store, try mixing light blue and peach to design an effective, instant logo.
  9. Develop a dynamic color scheme with triadic colors. Choose three colors that are equidistant from each other on the color wheel to create a triadic color scheme. If you want to add more depth to an aspect of your design or art project, use triadic colors to provide harmony and emphasis without the direct contrast of complementary colors. To find a triadic color scheme, place an equilateral triangle on top of a color wheel and use all three colors that the triangle points to.[10]
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    • For example, purple, orange and green are equally separated from each other, forming a color triad.

[[[[Edit]Communicate messages with color

  1. Associate different blues with a sense of security. Incorporate shades of blue into your art and design projects to provide a soothing and safe atmosphere. While color alone may not fully define the mood of a design or work of art, you can use it to set an emotionally driven scene for your project. Use blue to create a comfortable, relatable environment for potential viewers, so these people are more likely to get involved in your work.[11]
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    • In some high-risk areas, blue light is used successfully to prevent suicide attempts.
    • Many stores use blue paint on the walls, as it has a calming effect on customers.
  2. Connect green shades with a sense of luck and harmony. Fill in your art, interiors and other creative projects with a sense of luck, health and positivity by including the color green. Choose from different shades of green to convey this message, whether you are painting a bedroom or designing the background for a website. Before deciding on a final color scheme, note that green can also be attributed to jealous feelings.[12]
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    • Because green is associated with happiness and wealth, use a shade of this color when designing a website for a financial consulting firm or an investment firm.
  3. Generate positive, fun vibes with the color yellow. Warm yellow is a great option when designing a friendly, engaging background or logo. People tend to associate brightness, happiness and sunny images with the color yellow, which can make it a great option for a classroom, gym or other decor. Because yellow is particularly bright, use it sparingly as a backdrop for websites and other forms of high-text media.[13]
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    • Yellow is a color with a lot of intensity, so it can generate many strong emotions from a viewer.
  4. Embrace originality and optimism with orange tones. Choose this warm color to create an engaging, enthusiastic presentation. If you are trying to draw attention to one aspect of your creative project, choose a little shade of orange to draw in the eye. In addition, you can use this color to create feelings of warmth and excitement.[14]
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    • For example, if you’re trying to start a cooking channel on YouTube, try using an orange hue in your logo. This can help give your channel an energetic attitude.
    • People tend to have divisive opinions about the color orange. Do not be surprised if some people really like or really dislike its use in different patterns.
  5. Show passion and excitement with the color red. Use the color red to your advantage when designing a bedroom, dining area or other intense creative project. Note that people tend to feel empowered around this color, whether they feel eager and excited or passionate and angry. Choose red in your creative projects when trying to make a statement or when trying to appeal to an intense, serious audience.[15]
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    • The color red is associated with different things. While some people attribute the color to romance and love, others associate it with dangerous feelings and situations.
  6. Associate calm and intuition with pink. Add a soft, romantic attitude to your art, decor or brand identity with a splash of pink. Note the feminine and sensual associations that people have with the color pink, even if they are linked to common stereotypes. If you are trying to create a romantic atmosphere in your creative project, choose pink, as opposed to passionate red or energetic yellow.[16]
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    • For example, if you are designing a website for a floral business, use a pink color scheme to cater to hopeless romantics and similar clients.
  7. Create an aura of imagination and mystery with shades of purple. Embrace a sense of royalty and intrigue by adding different shades of purple to your projects. Note the historical significance of purple and how it is usually associated with rich, royal concepts and individuals. If you are working on a project that naturally satisfies a person’s imagination, a purple color scheme is a good option for you to consider.[17]
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    • For example, if you are working on a work of art with a mysterious, mysterious atmosphere, try using different shades of purple in the background or incorporate the color into the entire design.


  1. https://cios233.community.uaf.edu/design-theory-lectures/color-theory/
  2. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/vision/addcol.html
  3. https://isle.hanover.edu/Ch06Color/Ch06ColorMixer.html
  4. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/vision/addcol.html
  5. https://cios233.community.uaf.edu/design-theory-lectures/color-theory/
  6. https://cios233.community.uaf.edu/design-theory-lectures/color-theory/
  7. https://cs.nyu.edu/courses/fall02/V22.0380-001/color_theory.htm
  8. https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=B1396&title=Landscape%20Basics:%20Color%20Theory
  9. https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=B1396&title=Landscape%20Basics:%20Color%20Theory
  10. https://cios233.community.uaf.edu/design-theory-lectures/color-theory/
  11. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-personal-renaissance/201810/surprising-research-the-color-blue
  12. https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/design/blog/psychology-of-color/
  13. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-color-psychology-of-yellow-2795823
  14. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-color-psychology-of-orange-2795818
  15. https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/design/blog/psychology-of-color/
  16. https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/design/blog/psychology-of-color/
  17. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-color-psychology-of-purple-2795820

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