Colour Theory

Colour Theory

There are so many important decisions to make when it comes to card making, but one of the first most important decisions that you need to address once the theme has been decided upon is colour. Now there are a lot of things to consider when choosing colour, and the purpose of this post is to direct you on some ways to choose your colours as related to paper, embellishments, and colouring of images. First we will be addressing some key terms, next we will move on to the relationships between colours, and we will finish off with some great tips to achieving a winning colour combination.

Key Terms:

  • Hue: refers to the purest form of the colour ( for instance red, orange, magenta are all hues)
  • Temperature: the temperature of a colour is classified as either warm or cool. Any amount of blue in a colour will give it a cool classification. The rest are considered warm. There are warm and cool reds, warm and cool yellow’s, and by the nature of its colour, blue will always fall to the cool side, even when it has the characteristics of a warm colour (anything with the smallest amount of blue is considered cool).
  • Intensity: This refers to the brightness or dullness of a colour. The brightest of any intensity of a colour is called its Hue (so ink or watercolor crayon with little dilution). As you darken or grey down the color, you are dulling it down and reducing its intensity.
  • Value: refers to the lightness and darkness of a colour. The lightest form of the colour is the tint, and the darkest form of the colour is a shade. Shades are achieved by adding more black or darkness to a colour.

Primary Color Wheel:

The primary colour wheel shows the most basic hues in our colour system. All colours can be made from these three hues (Red, Yellow, Blue), but no colours can create these three hues.


Secondary Colour Wheel:

The secondary colours are the colours which are created when you mix two primary colours together. So Red and Yellow create Orange, Blue and Yellow create Green, Red and Blue create Violet. These secondary colours are also called hues. Now if you look at the colours represented in this wheel, you will notice that specific colours lay opposite each other. These opposing colours are called Complementary Colors, and they are the colors which intensify each other. So if you look at all the complementary pairs, you will see that Red and Green are complementary, Yellow and Violet, and finally Blue and Orange. Each of these combinations will make the other seem brighter and more vibrant.

Tertiary Color Wheel:

The next hues we are going to look at are called the Tertiary colours. These colours result when we mix a Primary colour with one secondary colour which lies directly to the Left or Right of it. In this photo, we have shown the names inside of the corresponding colour. The complementary colour theory tightens even more over here as we view for instance the Blue-Green being complementary to the Red-Orange.

Here is the final view of the completed colour wheel, which shows the different values along all the colour relationship. Remember, the value refers to the lightness and darkness of a colour. This will be a visual guide when viewing the complementary relationships. You will also see a dividing line which shows off the cool vs warm colours. The colour labelled Crimson, can also be referred to as Magenta.

Please remember that in using some of these colour combinations, you are applying it to the whole card or project, not just a section.  So combine these within the image, the cardstock, and the embellishment.


colour theory

  • Do use strong contrasts in your card.  Whether this is used within the paper image relationship, or just the image or just the paper.  Strong contrasts can create bold eye catching designs whereas using all the same value (such as everything done light or everything dark) can create a visually boring creation. Highlighting with a gel pen emphasises this idea of highlighting with a light colour to emphasise and bring forward a certain area.
  • Do use complementary colours, but not necessarily with the same intensity.  Two bright complementary colours are definitely vibrant, but often, can be too vibrant.  They become hard to look at after a period of time.  Instead try pairing a bright hue, with a toned down version of its complementary companion.  This can be done either with sponging or picking a duller version of the same hue.  (its is not to say that the all bright never works, just that it may not be the most ideal).
  • Remember that cool colours visually appear to move back within a composition, and warm colours visually appear to move forward.  When colouring, this can be an important trait for emphasising your image.  In terms of CS choice, it is prefered to stay within the same temperature range (so all cool, or all warm)
  • Try out a monochromatic colour scheme, where you are using the different values of one hue within the same composition, and then pair it with some sort of neutral
  • Do try Analogous colours, or colours which are located next to each other. So for instance Red, Red-Orange and Orange-Yellow would all look great together, as would other colours which lie next to each other.
  • Do rely on the colours used within Designer Paper, they have chosen out harmonious colour combinations.
  • Do pick up a colour wheel which can show you interesting ways of using triangles and rectangles to create harmonious colour combinations. These combinations are known as Triad’s (triangle) and Tetrad (square). By drawing a Triangle which touches three colours, and a square or rectangle which touches four colours, you will achieve successful combinations.

Analogous Colour Scheme

Analogous colour schemes use colors that are next to each other on the colour wheel. They usually match well and create serene and comfortable designs. Analogous colour schemes are often found in nature and are harmonious and pleasing to the eye. Make sure you have enough contrast when choosing an analogous colour scheme. Choose one colour to dominate, a second to support. The third colour is used (along with black, white or gray) as an accent.

Triadic Colour Scheme

A triadic colour scheme uses colours that are evenly spaced around the colour wheel. Triadic colour schemes tend to be quite vibrant, even if you use pale or unsaturated versions of your hues. To use a triadic colour scheme successfully, the colours should be carefully balanced – let one colour dominate and use the two others for accent

Rectangle or Tetrad Colour Scheme 

The rectangle or tetrad colour scheme uses four colours arranged into two complementary pairs. Tetrad colour schemes works best if you let one colour be dominant. You should also pay attention to the balance between warm and cool colours in your design. It is a rich colour combination.

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