August 13, 2020
3 mins read

Understanding and meaning of color in design

assorted color sequins
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

Color is the perceptible characteristic of light; light is energy, so color is a form of energy. In 1666 Isaac Newton  discovered that sunlight is a mixture of colors when he noticed that when a ray of light passed through a prism it dispersed in its seven constituent colors:  red,  orange,  yellow,  green,  blue,  indigo  and  violet. We see different colors because some objects reflect/absorb different wavelengths. Human eyes perceive these wavelengths as colors. 

Understanding The Color

In web design colors are very subjective; black for taking an example, for some people is the color of elegance and sometimes gives an idea of prosperity (you can immediately imagine a black and elegant limousine), but for others you may remember something not pleasant (death, hopelessness, evil, mourning). You can’t use a single color when you do a job whether it’s a web page, logo, or business card. It needs to be combined with two or more colors to be more effective. Unfortunately making a wise mix poses a very difficult choice; Modern monitors can display more than 16 million (16,000,000) colors, so it’s very easy to make the wrong choice.

Color Theory in Design
Color Theory in Design

To combat these situations, designers and in particular web designers, has an important and useful guide to color theory. This is a series of principles that help create harmonious combinations.

Primary Colors

In the traditional color theory there are three unique colors, which cannot be formed by combination of others, to be more specific there are only three colors that allow to form the rest. These colors are red,  yellow  and  blue – primary colors.

Color Theory in Design

Secondary Colors

By mixing the primary colors you will get the secondary colors  –  green,  orange  and  purple.

Color Theory in Design

Tertiary Colors

Tertiary colors are the combination between  primary  and  secondary colors (yellow-orange, red-orange, red-violet, blue-violet, blue-green, and yellow-green.).

Color Theory in Design

Cold and Warm Colors

As in life, harmony consists of a balanced disposition of the parts. To establish some color relationships in color color we distinguish two categories:

Warm colors are colors from  red  to  yellow  including  chestnut,  orange,  pink. These colors evoke warmth because they remind us of things like sun and fire. These colors tend to advance in space.  

Color Theory in Design

Cool colors are  from  green  to  blue, but also include some shades of  violet. Cool colors are better for backgrounds and give the impression of calm and reduce tension.

Color Theory in Design

White,  black  and  grey are considered neutral.

Useful Rules of Color Theory

These terms are also useful in color theory:

  • Color value  measures luminosity or darkness of a color.
  • Saturation  or  intensity is the brightness or opacity of a color.
  • Chroma is as a pure hue is in relation to  gray.
  • Shadow: a color produced by the addition of  black.
  • Tint: a colorproduced by the addition of  white.
Color Theory in Design

We can use different collections of primary colors, the most used are:

  • RGB color: This is based onlight. “RGB” means  Red  (red)),  Green  (green)  and  Blue  (blue)  (are the primary colors with the  green  replacing  yellow). Computer and tv monitors use RGB, but are not used in printing.
  • CMYK color: this is based onpigments. “CYMK”means  Cyan  (  cyan),) Yellow (yellow),) Magenta  and  Black   (K comes from blacK). Using these four colors most of the others can be obtained.  CMYK  can produce fewer colors than  RGB  (yellow-green sometimesnot have the best quality). This system is used in printing.
  • Pantone (PMS)  Color: this is another system used in printing; PMS  stands for Pantone Matching System and is a very long list of color mixing developed by  Pantone Corporation. Unfortunately they are very expensive.
  • Hexachromatic: more recently Pantone developed another system, based on  cyan,  yellow,  magenta,  black  and also  Pantone Hexacrome  Orange  and Pantone Hexacrome  Green. It will be used and used in printing, being a more advanced step than  PMS  or  CMYK.

The meaning of Color

Have you ever wondered why Vegas is the city of the neon red?  This is because  red makes people take more risks than  blue,whichsoothes the spirit. Scientists have shown that colors have an impact on the human brain, so if a human being is exposed to a certain color has a different reaction, some more exciting, and others increase appetite or give a feeling of warmth or cold. Colors are subjective, for each of us has an individual impact, but we generally accept the meaning of each color as:

  • black: mystery, elegance, death, evil, power, mourning.
  • azul: sadness, calm, loyalty.
  • green: abundance, natural, yellow
  • yellow gris: conservador, formalidad; : happiness, concentration, hope
  • red: passion, danger, love
  • white: purity, cleanliness, innocence
  • purple: royalty, luxury, richness, sophistication
  • cream: elegance, purity ;

But there are some specific interpretations depending on the country or region:

  • Black  is the brand of high quality and trust in China
  • Blue  in Iran has the meaning of immortality
  • Green means high technology in Japan, fortune in the Midwest, death in South America
  • Yellow is the color of mourning in Mexico and gives the feeling of strength in Saudi Arabia
  • Red  has multiple meanings, from good fortune in China, danger in Europe to mourning in Ivory Coast and death in  Blanco  Turkey;

Is the color our friend or our enemy?

Colors can be a great friend inside, but they can also be very powerful and strange enemies. Strange? Look at the image below, when do you see colors? You’ll probably say there are four colors.

Color Theory in Design

The correct answer is only three. Don’t forget: color is light, light is energy so color is energy..

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Avelino Dominguez

👨🏻‍🔬 Biologist 👨🏻‍🎓 Teacher 👨🏻‍💻 Technologist 📊 Statistician 🕸 #SEO #SocialNetwork #Web #Data ♟Chess 🐙 Galician

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