Welcome to the fourth blog in my series looking into the basics of design skills. Taking each one of these fascinating elements, and helping you to consider them when thinking about your own projects. I’m excited about this one as we study the world of COLOUR, my favourite design element, and yours too no doubt!
What is COLOUR?
Colour is one of the most dominant element. It is created by reflected light. Organised on a colour wheel with three primary colours, three secondary colours, and six inter-mediate colours. They have three properties – HUE which is pure colour. VALUE which is the lightness and darkness of colour. INTENSITY which is the saturation of colour, the amount of pigment.
Here is a mind map showing the colour wheel, and some colour combinations…
It would be useful to create your own colour wheel as it is an important tool in using colour.
The solid arrows in the centre of my colour wheel point to the three PRIMARY colours – yellow, red and blue. These are the colours that make up all the other colours. When you mix two primary colours together, the result is a SECONDARY colour. These are pointed out on the wheel with a dotted arrow. Many secondary colours can be mixed using different proportions of two primary colours. The other six inter-mediate colours are also called TERTIARY colours. These are mixed by using a primary and a secondary colour, again many combinations can be made.
ANALOGOUS colours are sitting next to each other on the colour wheel. Choosing three of these can give harmony to your work. If the opposite is desired, and you would like colours to vibrate together. Then pairs of colour that sit directly opposite on the colour wheel can intensify each other when used side by side in similar quantities. These special pairings are called COMPLEMENTARY colours, and some are grouped on the right hand side of the mind map.
Another important feature of the colour wheel is that all the WARM colours are grouped on the right hand side of the wheel. All the COOL colours can be found on the left hand side. Choosing only colours from one of these halves, will help add to the mood of your work. If you need a small amount of colour to add a focal point, then pick one from the opposite half, and it will ‘pop out’ of your design and stand out from all the other colours. This can be a really interesting way of using colour as a design skill advantage.
When mixing your own colours to create new ones, another major factor is decreasing the saturation of colour. By this I mean adding white for example, to dull down the bright hue. This is called TINTING down a colour, to lighten it’s value. If black is added to a colour, making it darker in value, then this is called SHADING. A neutral grey can also be added to decrease the saturation of colour, whilst actually keeping a similar value. This is called TONING. Colours can also be mixed by adding another colour hue. By doing this in slight amounts, you can give a colour an UNDERTONE. For example if you add a tiny amount of red to blue, the blue will have a warm undertone compared to the saturated blue. This can be interesting if you want to give a cool colour a warm undertone to help harmonize your design.
Gosh there’s so much to talk about when colour is concerned! I hope you are still with me here! Let’s see some card samples now to liven things up a bit…
I adore the colours of a rainbow, they just work so brilliantly together. That’s nature for you! Here I had a go at making my own rainbow blend. Never forget the order by remembering ROY G BIV!
Using the same colours now, but in a random way. This card looks colourful enough, but I’m not so easily with the design. It’s no longer a gentle blend, but a crazy noise, almost a crash! Weird how colour can excite your other senses. It’s also sending my eyes dashing all across the design. Notice how a border of simple black lines is trying to hold it all together.
This card design is far more calming. Three different coloured squares behind some stamping. The colours are yellow, yellowy orange and yellowy brown. By using the same yellow hue family, they sitting together harmoniously, adding an Autumnal mood. On cream cardstock too to add extra warmth. Brown isn’t on the colour wheel because it’s mixed by using all the colours. So brown is a useful colour to add to any colour combination.
This card has a completely different mood, cool, airy, and fresh. Cool blue used with a purples having a cool undertone. Pastel colours help create a light feel as they are tints. Fresh green stems add to the focal interest. This is because the addition of a third colour green, is used in smaller quantities. The lavender isn’t quite so pale either. Analogous colour scheme here, creating a restfulness.
Another calming, card here. Leaving plenty of white card untouched is a recipe for a CAS card – Clean and Simple. Colour is used more sparingly on this design, which can help you to focus on it more. This colour sheme is MONOCHROMATIC, a single hue, used in various different blends. This pink colour has been tinted in a descending order giving an OMBRE effect.
There is a lot of science behind colour, with it being created by reflected light. Sun light shins through a prism splitting the reflection into a spectrum of rainbow colours. The colours we see are actually visible wavebands belonging to a larger scale of wavebands, called the ELECTROMAGNETIC SPECTRUM. Fancy a mini science lesson?… then please read on, or just skip these next few paragraphs…
The electromagnetic spectrum is a fascinating scale of different length wavebands. Starting from high frequency, damaging radiation waves at one end, to harmless longer wave lengths at the other end. In the middle of electromagnetic spectrum are the VISIBLE LIGHT WAVES which our eyes can detect. A rainbow in the sky is a clear view of these waves as sun light passes through drops of rain acting like thousands of tiny prisms.
As the wavebands become more frequent extending beyond the violet end of the colour spectrum, our eyes are unable to detect these. These bands are called ULTRA-VIOLET radiation. Hence the name! With the help of an ultra- violet light emitter, we can see these rays when they hit certain substances and appear fluorescent. I think every disco in the 1980’s had one of these, making all white clothing and underwear ‘glow in the dark!’ As the waves become more frequent along the electromagnetic spectrum, they are more damaging too. Stronger ultra-violet (UV) rays from the sun, can cause possible sunburn to our skin. Then turning into X-RAYS and finally dangerous GAMMA RAYS.
At the other end of the colour spectrum, beyond red, we have bands called INFRA-RED radiation. Hence the name again! Infra-red waves cause thermal radiation, emitted by objects at near room temperature. They can be used to form thermal images on an infra-red camera, which is exposed by heat rather than light. We are then able to see infra-red images as a false colour image, detecting a heat source. Handy for police in helicopters seeking criminals in the dark! These waves then extend to greater heat generating radiation, called MICROWAVES. Used to heat food rapidly in microwave ovens. As the waves become even longer along the electromagnetic scale, they turn into RADIO waves, used for standard radio and TV broadcasting. Eventually these waves become LONGWAVE RADIO waves.
Okay…Science lecture finished!
Sorry to include that, but I find it so interesting. Well done for staying with me…
So lastly, I just want to quickly mention green! I want to celebrate green! It’s a special colour, seen in abundance in nature’s countryside. Many names for green are plant related… grass, sage, mint, pine, apple, etc. It is the colour that has the most variety of tints, tones and shades. You can mix more greens than any other colour. One of my favourite greens is mixing yellow and black together. Green sits right in the middle of the rainbow colour spectrum, enabling it to be either a warm or cool colour.
So here’s a card I made using a few greens to celebrate. Also to say thanks to you, for reading this lengthy blog all about COLOUR!
Hope this gives you enough of an understanding to make colour work well for you in your projects. A very special element with so much meaning and emotion. There’s more to COLOUR than meets the eye!!!
Thanks for your interest, and any comments you leave me. Thanks to Google Images for the diagram, and thanks to those DIY stores who have paint mixing systems with irresistible colour swatches. Please return next month, to read about VALUE… our next visual design element.