Color theory is an integral part of all design processes. In short, color theory assigns a logical structure to color based on light spectrums, highlighting which colors aesthetically complement each other. When you employ the fundamentals of color theory in your design, you can create unforgettable branded products.

The Color Wheel and Color Categorization

Isaac Newton first designed the color wheel in 1666 to orient and observe the harmony of the three primary colors — yellow, blue and red. All colors are derived from a mixture of these three primary hues, which you can then use to create secondary and tertiary colors. However, certain industries may use red, green and blue or cyan, magenta and yellow as their primary colors, depending on the demands of their medium.

The primary colors — yellow, blue and red — combine to create the secondary colors green, purple and orange. No matter the orientation of the wheel, the primary colors are always across from each other and create a triangle. Colors are then categorized by complementary colors, which are located opposite each other on the color wheel. Complementary colors are great for creating eye-catching accents. However, overusing complementary colors might appear garish and overwhelming to your viewer.

You can also mix secondary colors to create tertiary colors like blue-green, blue-purple, red-purple, red-orange, yellow-green and yellow-orange. All tertiary colors are formed by mixing a half-saturated primary color with a fully saturated primary color. Learn more about other types of color mixing below.

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Additive Color Mixing

Additive color mixing is reserved for digital media that uses red, green and blue as their primary colors. In additive color mixing, you can mix light waves to create new colors using RGB colors of varying intensities. The more light you add to a color, the brighter a color you will create.

Subtractive Color Mixing

Colors schemes designed for physical surfaces such as packaging, paper and signage are created using a subtractive color mixing practice. When you add more color, you subtract the light from your color scheme. You can create the primary colors with the following mixes:

  • Cyan and yellow create green.
  • Magenta and yellow create red.
  • Magenta and cyan create blue.
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Why Color Theory Matters

Color is a product of our perception of light reflections. When you take advantage of this perception, you can create a memorable product that stands out above your competitors and is instantly recognizable. Creating a distinct and consistent color scheme for your products is essential to building your brand image because consumers tend to make snap judgments about whether they’re likely to purchase a product. If they recognize your colors or design, they’re more likely to pick you.

When you thoroughly understand color theory and how it affects your customers and keep your designs consistent, you can create memorable and trustworthy branding that consistently grabs your customer’s attention.

Spectrophotometers From HunterLab

At HunterLab, we’ve led the field of spectrophotometry for more than 40 years and carry the precise instruments you need to measure color. Contact us online today to learn more about how we can help your business.