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Complete Guide of How to Use Color in Design

Complete Guide of How to Use Color in Design

The colors of a design is the first thing someone notice. It’s the first impression you make to your audience and what can make your work really stand out. It has an impact of how the people will perceive your brand. That’s why choosing the right color can be a very overwhelming process that consumes a lot of your time. Here I’m gonna give you all the information you need to know regarding colors, to help you use them the best way possible for your brand, for your designs.

Color Terminology

First of all let’s clear up the air around the color terminology that is getting used before we dive any further.

Hue: is the value of the primary colors and how they are perceived through the eye

Tint: is when you mix the color of your preference with white, which increases lightness

Shade: is when you mix your preferable color with black, which increases darkness

Tone: is when you are blending a color with gray

Value: is the lightness or the darkness of a color, how close it is to white or black

Saturation: refers to the intensity of a color. How rich, vibrant and bright a color is

The Color Wheel

The color wheel or color circle is an illustrative diagram that displays 12 colors around a circle and shows the relationships between them. It helps you understand the colors and their relation in order to combine them in a beautiful way that gives you an appealing result. Let’s explore the different types of color relationships that we see in the wheel:

Primary Colors

Primary colors are considered the “original”colors because you can’t mix any of the other colors together, to get these. These are: red, yellow and blue.

Secondary Colors

When you combine the two out of the three primary colors together. Your result is a secondary color. To be more specific, in the wheel the position of the secondary color is in the middle of the two primary colors that you mix to get it.

Tertiary Colors

When you put together primary and secondary colors.The name of the tertiary color is the colors that you combine together but remember that you put first the primary color and after that the secondary. For example, yellow-orange, not orange-yellow.

The Color Wheel

The Color Wheel

Color Schemes

Trying to find the good color combinations can be time consuming so why not just look up color schemes? Here I have listed some of them that hopefully will be very helpful to you.

Monochromatic color scheme

Monochromatic or monotone color schemes are when you use one color in a variation of shades, tones, tints etc. The whole design focuses in one single color which in a lot of people might sound boring but believe me the result will change your mind. Your work will be easy on the eye, look clean, elegant and balanced.

A Monochromatic Color Scheme Example

A Monochromatic Color Scheme Example

Analogous color scheme

In an analogous color scheme you use three or four colors that in the color wheel they are close to each other. A good idea will be that when you choose this scheme to select colors that are all other warm colors or cool colors and not blend them because you won’t achieve a harmonious combination but a very chaotic one.

An Analogous Color Scheme Example

An Analogous Color Scheme Example

Complementary color scheme

Complementary colors are the ones that are in the opposite side of the color circle. Usually the one color is a primary and the other is a secondary. The more popular one the blue and orange. The purpose of this color scheme is to make a beautiful contrast.

A Complementary Color Scheme Example

A Complementary Color Scheme Example

Triadic color scheme

Triadic colors are the ones that are equally spaced around the color circle creating a triangle. It can be three primary, three secondary or three tertiary colors. It’s very risky to use this scheme because the outcome can be very obnoxious but handling it the right way it can be a pleasant view.

 A Triadic Color Scheme Example

A Triadic Color Scheme Example

Color Psychology

Color psychology plays a major part on picking the proper color for our project for the reason that it is the study of colors in relation to human behavior. It can enhance the design in a good way. For that to happen we have to know what the meaning is behind every color, what it symbolizes and in what way it affects the human being. More specifically:

Red: attracts attention, passion, aggression, power, leadership

Yellow: happiness, playfulness, freshness, arrogance

Green: wealth, calmness, serenity, protection, stability, balance

Blue: trust, security, wisdom, loyalty, confidence

Orange: energy, impulse, vibrancy, enthusiasm, creativity, fun

Pink: romance, love, feminine, beauty

Purple: luxury, expensive, bravery, romance

Brown: earthy, vintage, reliability, loneliness

Black: elegant, sophisticated, mysterious, powerful

White: stability, innocence, simplicity, completion

60-30-10 Rule

The ultimate technique that works really well in design and creates a perfect balance is the 60-30-10 rule. It’s very easy to understand and to use. You choose a color to be your fundamental color, to be in the 60% of your design, a secondary color that will be in 30% of your design and a color for the other 10%.


The easiest way to find inspiration is for you to just look around you. If you pay attention you can really see that the perfect color combinations exist around us. From nature such as, looking at a sunset, to just enjoying a music video or a movie.


Understanding the color combinations is not an easy thing but learning a few things will make the process easier for you because now you know in which direction you can start moving forward. Being an ui designer myself I know how much time can someone spend thinking what color combinations to use in their designs. I was feeling trapped in my thoughts, I was overthinking everything until I understood. It just needs practice and research and knowing the basic information about colors really made the whole process much easier to me. Hope you'll find it helpful too!

© 2021 Elisavet Vasilakou

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