Color Meanings & Theory – a little

They are non-verbal communication. Colors have symbolism and color meanings that go beyond ink. It is helpful to keep in mind how the eye and the mind perceive certain colors and the color meanings we associate with each color.

Colors affect us in numerous ways, both mentally and physically. A strong red color has been shown to raise the blood pressure, while a blue color has a calming effect.

Being able to use colors consciously and harmoniously can help you create spectacular results.

Physical and Cultural Color Reactions:

Sometimes colors create a physical reaction (red has been shown to raise blood pressure) and at other times it is a cultural reaction (in the U.S. white is for weddings, in some Eastern cultures, white is the color for mourning and funerals). Colors follow trends as well. Avocado, a shade of green, is synomous with the 60s and 70s in the minds of some consumers

Color Relationships:

In addition to understanding color meanings, it helps with mixing and matching colors to know the relationship of adjacent, harmonizing, contrasting, and complementary colors, below is a brief synopsis:

Adjacent or harmonizing colors appear next to each other on the color wheel. Harmonizing colors often work well together but if too close in value they can appear washed out or not have enough contrast. A harmonizing trio could be something like blue, light blue, and cyan or perhaps red, orange, and yellow.

Contrasting colors are separated from each other by other colors — they come from different segments of the color wheel. The further apart, the more the contrast. Red (from the warm half of the color wheel) contrasts with green and blue (from the cool half of the color wheel). Shades of purple contrast with shades of green. Contrasting colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel may be described as clashing colors — see the description for complementary. Despite the name, colors that clash are not always a bad combination if used carefully. They provide great contrast and high visibility.

Complementary colors are on opposite sides of the color wheel — they are each half of a pair of contrasting colors. For example, blue is a complementary color to yellow. Green is complementary to purple and magenta. A pair of complementary colors printed side by side can sometimes cause visual vibration (clash) making them a less than desirable combination. However, separate them on the page with other colors and they can work together. Note the spelling. These are not complimentary colors. They don’t always flatter (compliment) one another but they do complete (complement) each other

  • Cool Color Meanings (calming): Blue, Green, Turquoise, Silver
  • Warm Color Meanings (exciting): Red, Pink, Yellow, Gold, Orange
  • Mixed Cool/Warm Color Meanings: Purple, Lavender, Green, Turquoise
  • Neutral Color Meanings (unifying): Brown, Beige, Ivory, Gray, Black, White

Tints, Shades, and Tones

These terms are often used incorrectly, although they describe fairly simple color concepts. If a color is made lighter by adding white, the result is called a tint. If black is added, the darker version is called a shade. And if gray is added, the result is a different tone.

Tints – adding white to a pure hue:tints

Shades – adding black to a pure hue:Shades

Tones – adding gray to a pure hue:Tones
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