I’m struggling with color theory in my short course.
You’re not alone—color theory is one of the hardest topics for new designers to grasp.
This is partly because color perception itself is highly subjective: we all have slightly different emotional and cultural associations with particular colors and color schemes. And to make things even more complex, around 8% of men and 1% of women have a form of colorblindness.
It takes practice to become truly proficient in choosing and combining colors, so you certainly shouldn’t expect yourself to achieve mastery within your first few weeks or months of learning.
Instead, we suggest that you aim to get a basic understanding of the principles behind how to combine different colors, learn what a balanced color palette looks like, and get familiar with some tips and shortcuts that will help you to make effective color choices.
Here are a few tips that might help in your Designlab projects:
- Aim for a balance of light and dark colors in your color palette. The technical term for light and dark in color theory is “value”. One shortcut for thinking about value is: if I made a copy of this block of color on a black-and-white Xerox machine, how dark would it come out?
- Particularly when designing for digital interfaces like websites and mobile apps, aim to “stay on the bright side”. Particularly when choosing accent colors for elements like buttons, try to stay close to the top-right of the color picker. This is where you will find energetic, contrasting color options. Note in the example below that the more intense (saturated) a color is, it is often most effective in small amounts.
- Small changes can make a big difference. If you’ve got an idea for a color palette, keep duplicating it and make small changes, one step at a time. You’ll then have lots of options to compare, and be able to identify which ones are the strongest options for your project.
For more color tips, check out this awesome advice from Patrick Multani, Designlab’s in-house designer. He shares his personal tips for how to create harmonious color palettes.