Color Theory: Symbolism and Harmony
Whether you’re painting, or putting together an outfit, you may notice that the colors you use matter. Maybe you’re try to convey a certain emotion or mood? Or maybe you want to pair the perfect hues together? Whatever your vision is, you’re using what’s called Color Theory. In today’s blog, we’ll go over what this theory is as well as discuss color symbolism and harmony.
What is Color Theory?
Color Theory is both the science and art of using color. It focuses on perception of color, the message that the hue communicates, and how colors match or contrast with one another. The theory creates a logical structure for color. Therefore, an essential element of Color Theory is the Color Wheel.
Here, different tones are organised into three categories: primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors.
- Primary Colors. These are red, yellow, and blue. They are ‘primary’ because they cannot be created by mixing other colors together. Instead, all other colors come from these hues.
- Secondary Colors. These are green, orange, and purple. They are ‘secondary’ because they are formed by mixing the primary colors.
- Tertiary Colors. These are yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, and yellow-green. They are ‘tertiary’ because they are created by mixing a primary and secondary color together.
The Color Wheel
A Color Wheel is a circle that is divided into a number of segments that is divisible by 3. All the primary colors sit in segments of equal distance away from each other. In between the primary colors sit the secondary. In between the primary and secondary colors sit the tertiary colors.
Color Theory also concerns itself with symbolism and meaning. This is the emotions and moods we associate with certain hues. While it is possible to go into deeper depth for each color, here is the basic symbolism theory for some key tones.
- Red. The color of love, education, violence, danger, anger, and adventure. In some cultures, red is the symbol of good luck.
- Yellow. The most attention grabbing hue on the color spectrum. It has a variety of meanings ranging from happiness and creativity to cowardice, caution, and betrayal. Yellow, in some cultures, is associated with deities .
- Blue. A favourite color among many, it is almost the opposite to red in its meaning. Different shades have different significance, but with an overarching theme of trust, serenity, and dignity.
- Green. Made by mixing yellow and blue. Universally associated with nature, green is both a lucky and unlucky color depending on whom you ask.
- Purple. Made by mixing red and blue. The most expensive color to create, purple often has a supernatural aura. It can also have dual meanings ranging from intellectual and dignified to decadent, pompous or even a symbol of mourning.
- Orange. Made by mixing red and yellow. Orange is vibrant, healthy, and abrasive. Thus, making it a very polarising color.
The last aspect of Color Theory we’re going to touch upon is Color Harmony. There are many different schemes that can be used to define “harmony”, but we’re just going to focus on three.
Scheme 1: Analogous Colors
These are any three colours which are side-by-side on a 12-part Color Wheel. For example: green, yellow-green, and yellow.
Scheme 2: Complementary Colors
These are any two colours which are directly opposite each other. For example: yellow-green and red-purple.
Scheme 3: Nature
This scheme works on the theory that if the colors are found together in nature then they can be used together.
And this has been a basic lowdown on Color Theory. Of course, you might have your own interpretation of the symbolism and harmony of colors, but consulting the theory can help with developing graphic design and branding skills!