Color is one of the most important of all design concepts. In fact, many design ideas begin with color. The delicate colors of a sunrise or the vibrant tones a bouquet can inspire all kinds of project ideas. When you start decorating a room, the first choices you make are color-related. Color is your most powerful design tool so you should learn to use it wisely.[sociallocker id=”2869″][/sociallocker]
Working with a Color Wheel
When I start a new design project, I like to select a palette of colors before anything else. A short menu of colors helps guide all my subsequent design choices. This handy rule applies to interior decorating, website design, fashion design, and much more. Design directors often ask their team to develop a palette of colors before any other work advances so it’s good to know how it works.
Before you start picking colors, it’s helpful to refer to a color wheel. A color wheel is a circular diagram that illustrates the all the colors and their relationship to one another. The segments of color on the wheel show how colors combine and blend; this is helpful when mixing your own paint or otherwise combining pigment. You’ll be selecting colors off this chart, so have it handy when you’re ready to create your palette.
How to Choose a Palette
- Begin with a foundational color. This one will be the fundamental color that will form the canvas, so to speak, of future color choices. Red, yellow, blue, and green are the most frequently chosen foundational colors. The intensity and saturation of these colors are easy to vary and they’ll continue to coordinate well with other shades. Because these colors are so popular, you have no trouble selecting items to incorporate into your design.
- Once your foundational color has been chosen, you will need to select one or two complementary colors. These should colors should be no more than three degrees from your foundational color. Depending on how many segments your color wheel has, you might only need to move one degree. This complementary color will enrich the foundational color and make it “pop” visually.
- Now you’ll need to choose your contrasting color. This color is selected from the opposite side of the color wheel. Refer back to your foundational color and then look at the color directly across from it. Surprised? The contrasting color may not be a color you ever thought about working with. If you find the color too hard to work with, you can also select something different later on. For now, I recommend sticking with the color wheel’s recommendation.
What About Black and White?
Black and white are a designer’s best friend and their worst enemy at the same time. Both are very powerful, visually speaking, and are thus the hardest to learn to use well.
White is a bright, expansive color that will visually lift any color it’s placed next to. It can be used to draw attention to darker elements, especially blocks of text or lines. The human eye is naturally drawn to whitespace, so its inclusion can be used to call attention to important design elements. In interior decorating, white is used to evoke feelings of calm, cleanliness, peace, and even other worldliness.
The challenge of using white is to avoid creating empty, unused space. There’s a big difference between whitespace and empty space. Whitespace is a deliberately chosen design element; empty space exists by accident, usually as a result of not taking that space into account during the early stages of the design process. Too much white can make elements appear small and shrunken; its brightness overwhelms darker elements and ends up detracting from their importance.
Black, on the other hand, constricts and narrows. A room with lots of black elements will appear much smaller than the same room filled with white and light colored elements. This tendency can be used to adapt a space that’s difficult to fill but more often than not black simply makes a design look weighed down. Careful application of black details will add definition and importance though too much will throw off the visual balance of your project. Too much black is arguably worse than too much white. White can be filled easily; black is more challenging to manipulate with additional elements.
Using all the colors, including black and white, takes considerable practice though you’ll have a lot of fun along the way. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new combinations and when in doubt, just add a little white.
Lauren Hill writes for Conquest Graphics, a printing company offering quality marketing materials for your business.