The Color Theory Crash Course Pt.1

Color is another fundamental block of design and you will encounter it everyday in your job. So, let’s talk about all the nuances color includes and the way it affects how it form our experiences of the world around us.

Color theory is based on color wheel that contains primary, secondary and tertiary colors. This wheel is visual representation of these colors and it is arranged by their chromatic relationship. Primary colors are red, yellow and blue. These colors cannot be created by mixing others. The are the fundamentals of all colors you know and are used to create secondary colors. Secondary colors are mix of two primary colors. Tertiary colors are mixture of both, primary and secondary colors.

According to color wheel you might also hear terms like complementary and analogous colors. Complementary colors are any two different colors that are directly opposit to each other. They also create highest contrast and stability. Analogous colors are any three colors which are side by side. One of them is usualy used as dominant.

Warm & Cool

We can split the color wheel in half on warm and cool colors. Warm colors are red, orange, yellow and their variations. As you already know, red and yellow are primary and orange is their mix. These are the colors of sunsets, sunrises, fallen leaves and fire. Warm colors are associated with passion, energy, happiness, enthusiasm and positivity. The naturally stimulate to activity and grab our attention. Just a side note – bulls don’t care about red color (they don’t see it) at all, they focus on the movements of torero and the blanquet in his hand(s). Cool colors are green, blue and purple. These are colors of night, water and nature. They are viewed as relaxing and calming. Psychology studies showed that looking on green colors (nature, plants, wallpaper) has health benefits and can lower stress.

Next to warm and cool colors there is one special group of colors called neutral colors. They are special becase their meaning and impression is more affected by other colors used with them. These colors are often used by designers as backdrop and combined with accent colors. Neutral colors are black, grey, white, brown, beige or tan and cream or ivory.


Next thing we’ll talk about are properties of colors. These properties are hue, saturation, chroma, value, tone, shade and tint.

Hue is one of the most basical terms you can see in color theory. It simply means the color of particular object. The hue of colors differs to individual color. Colors and how their meaning:

– red: passion, love, anger

– orange: energy, happiness, vitality

– yellow: happiness, hope, deceit

– green: new beginnings, abundance, nature

– blue: calm, responsible, Sadness

– purple: creativity, royalty, wealth

– black: mystery, elegance, evil

– gray: moody, conservative, formality

– white: purity, cleanliness, virtue

– brown: nature, wholesomeness, dependability

– tan or beige: conservative, piety, dull

– cream or ivory: calm, elegant, purity

Saturation is how hue appears under light conditions. You can think about it as weak or strong and pale or pure.

Chroma is purity of the color or can be also called brightness in comparisom to white. So, hue with high chroma includes no black, grey or white. Adding any of these colors reduces the chroma.

Value, also lightness, refers to how light or dark the hue is. Lighter colors has higher values and darker lower.

Tone is created by adding grey. They are softer then pure ones. Tones can be used to soften elements in design and creating elegant works.

Shade is created by adding black. Don’t overuse them or you might end up with too much dark designs.

Tint is created by adding white. Hues with very high tints are sometime also called pastels.

If you liked this article, please subscribe so you don't miss any future post.

If you'd like to support me and this blog, you can become a patron, or you can buy me a coffee 🙂

By Alex Devero

I'm Founder/CEO of DEVERO Corporation. Entrepreneur, designer, developer. My mission and MTP is to accelerate the development of humankind through technology.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.