What is Colour theory? 3 tips from a designer to use colours effectively.

Image source: Google

Colour theory is the art and science of using colours in an aesthetic and functional manner. They are organised on a colour wheel and categorised as primary, secondary and tertiary colours. The colour wheel which is used by designers particularly was designed by Issac Newton in the 17th century.

The three primary colours are Red, Blue and Yellow. When these are combined together, they give rise to secondary colours which are Orange(Red and Yellow),Purple(Red and Blue) and Green(Blue and Yellow). The six tertiary colours are formed by mixing the primary and secondary colours.

Image source: Google

Hues, Tints, Shades and Tones

Every colour that is present on the colour wheel is a Hue. This includes the primary, secondary and tertiary colours. So technically, colours that are not present in the colour wheel are not hues. All hues are colours but all colours are not hues.

Mixing white to hues gives us tints. Pink is a tint of red since it is a combination of red and white. Adding greys to hues gives us shades. If we take the same example of red and mix it with grey, we get a lighter shade of brown. Now, when we add black to red, we get brown and this is called a tone. In simple terms,

  1. Hue and White = Tint
  2. Hue and Grey = Shade
  3. Hue and Black = Tone

Colour Palettes formed by the colour wheel

There are various colour palettes that can be formed with the colour wheel.

1. Warm and Cool colours

Warmth and heat is synonymous with the sun as it is the main source of energy. Similarly, colours that induce a sense of warmth and comfort for the human mind come under the warm colour palette.

Water as an element evokes a sense of calmness and soothes the mind. Cool colours do the exact same thing. Multiple colour palettes can be formed by using warm , cool or a combination of these colours. Have a look at the colour wheel image below to understand how it is differentiated.

Image source: Google

2. Complimentary and Split complementary colours

Colours that are on the opposite sides of the colour wheel are called complementary colours. Split complementary colours are colours that are on the either sides of the complementary colours. The contrast created by only using these colours is very high.

Pro tip: Always use these colours in spaces where you want to have a lot of vibrancy and visual attraction. A child’s room, interiors of a play school etc.

Image source: Google

3. Monochromatic and Achromatic colours

A single hue, its tones, tints and shades constitute monochromatic colours of a particular hue. These colours can be used together as a colour palette. Below is a monochromatic colour palette of blue.

Image source: Google

Achromatic colours are not present in the colour wheel but are an important aspect in creating the right visual balance. They are neutral colours like greys, blacks and white. The image below shows an achromatic colour palette.

Image source: Google

Use of colours is extremely important in a lot of fields and not just interior design. Here are 3 pro tips that would be of great use to understand the use of colours in different fields.

  1. If you are a Branding Consultant or related to the field of Branding, you have to understand colours and its visual appeal really well. Use of appropriate colours for your particular brand is the best way to attract your potential customers. If you do a small case study and look for the most popular brands, you would notice that they have used colours based on the target audience. If done correctly, they catch your visual attention within seconds and make you want to go through the product or service immediately. Brands which sell fast food usually have complimentary colours which immediately catch your visual attention. Have a look at some of the logo designs of these famous brands.
Image source: Google
Image source: Google

2. Now coming to the field of Interior Design, opt for cool colours or a monochromatic colour palette of cool colours for a calm, open and spacious feel to your home. Another way to approach the same design synopsis is to opt for a neutral or achromatic colour palette with cool colours as accents. On similar lines, if you want a warm and a cozy atmosphere, opt for warm colours like reds, yellow and browns. Neutrals always balance your space visually so do not hesitate to use them in your design.

Image source: Google
Image source: Google

3. On a more generic note, Colours also define our personality. The idea of power dressing or in simple terms being well groomed, is an extremely important need today. Dress well to get that confidence required to achieve your personal or professional goals. If you have a warm skin tone, use the warm colours of the colour palette and vice versa. Use basic colours like whites, blacks and grey and team it up with colours that match your skin tone.

Image source: Google
Image source: Google

Colours are an amazing visual tool to communicate a lot of things to the subconscious mind. They do affect us visually and mentally more than what we can imagine. Use them wisely and effectively in your day to day life.

Hi, I’m Swathi Suresh. As an Architect and an Interior Designer from Bangalore, I write about topics that are related to my field of expertise.