Wednesday, 30 January 2013


1. Why do colours force out complimentary colours?

The brain fills in missing complimentary colours, for example, when red and green are shown together, the red appears stronger and forces out green. This is due to red, green and blue are already mixed in the opposing colour, which leads to the eye to view this. 


Complementary colours are really bad for text as shown above and prove illegible. The green text on the green background is hard to read due to the colour vibrations and highly saturated colour.

However, when 2 complementaries are mixed in appropriate proportions and neutral grey will be made. This varies from colour to colour, due to the colour balance ratio of complimentary colours. This can be shown below were a neutral shade of grey is clear in the centre. This can be used to balance out colour when needed.

2. Is it always a case of contrast of hue and tone working together?

Tone and hue always work together. Tone only exists with monochromatic colour (tints). There is only one set of colour information - CMYK, RGB or BW.

A shade is simply any colour which has black added to it

Semiotics and connotations of 'shades': "Shades are deep, powerful and mysterious. Be careful not to use too much black as it can get a little overpowering. These darks work well in a masculine environment. They are best used as dark accents in art and marketing graphics."

A tone is any colour which has been 'toned down' with black and white (grey).

Tints are sometimes called 'pastels' as they are created by adding white. 

3. How many colours can one use in a piece of design?

The rules for this are similar to type, in that their are no limits. However, it is recommended one uses the most of 3/4 fonts, and a similar variation of colour. Shades, tints and hues can be used however to create more balance and visual stimulation, opposed to adding more colours as this can make the design harder to understand or read.

This isn't necessarily a design decision, and is rather based on simplicity, legibility and readability, as type and colour equally fall hand in hand. You can lose control of your design if you add too many colours. 

Aesthetic balance, personal opinion, client restrictions and brief guidelines restrict colour use, as well as stock, cost, composition and image.

Source: martymccolgan

Here you can see the designer has used one typeface, and two colours along with black. The colours stand out against the background and are highlighted with the band of colour in the middle. The type is legible and readable, due to the use of minimal colour use.

Source: graphics

However, here you can see the blue background with yellow text "workbook" wobbles at the sight due to two highly chromatic colours being placed together. You can also see the green which can be seen which is being forced out of the yellow on the blue. Yellow + Green = Blue. There is too much colour and variation of tones, shades and hues to make the cover aesthetically pleasing, as well as allowing for no colour balance. 

Source: behance

This is the same for this example. 5 colours have been used to make up the title 'colour' including darker shades for a shadow, Due to the highly chromatic background imagery and colour, this makes it illegible at a distance. There is too much colour here to have a specific focus; it has been lost through over use of colour, which is something to be aware of.

It is said that whilst using colour in design, you should follow the following percentages:

60% = Primary
30% = Tertiary
10% = Secondary

However the number of colours, likewise with fonts, also varies on the clients needs, preferences and specifications on pre-defined colour schemes for branding, costs and the brief. It is recommended you use tints and tones opposed to different colours.

4. If everyone perceives colour differently does this mean we perceive contrast differently?

Contrasts can be used to help continuity, but can be perceived differently to each individual, as is colour. Sensitivity can affect colour perception, which therefore can hinder perception of contrasts, for example, lighting, RGB (screen), CMYK printing. To avoid this pantone swatches are used to ensure continuity.

Pantone used to help simplify/understand subjectivity of colour (systematic outcome).

Source: brandigirlblog

Source: washingtonpost

Here you can see Pantone's 2013 Spring Colours. These are identified specifically with swatch codes to ensure continuity globally, for textiles, print and fashion. The pantone colour of the year is Emerald; as seen above.

Tangerine Tango; Colour of 2012.

"Fashion, is in part, dictated to by colour. It’s one of the important considerations any designer takes to heart during the creation of a new years line.
These seasonal colours, used by famous fashion designers, subsequently influence buyers of high street clothing lines which inevitably, are then worn by ourselves.
As a fashion sewer, we must source our own fabric, and for those wanting to keep up to date with today’s fashion lines, this means hunting down the ‘in‘ colours.
Not an easy task in some fabric stores!

- - -

The Pantone Colour Matching System is a standardized colour reproduction system. By standardizing the colours, different manufacturers can refer to the Pantone system to make sure colours match.
This colour system is used by most manufacturers, from paint and printers, graphic design to our beloved textiles and fabric. So as I hope you can now see, their colour palettes are of vast importance to us all."
Pantone plays an important role with colour and the varied perceptions. It ensures colours are systematically identical worldwide, on screen and off.
Why do we see colour differently?

"The first thing to remember is that colour does not actually exist… at least not in any literal sense. Apples and fire engines are not red, the sky and sea are not blue, and no person is objectively "black" or "white".
What exists is light. Light is real.
How do we know this? Because one light can take on any colour… in our mind.

You can measure it, hold it and count it (well … sort-of). But colour is not light. Colour is wholly manufactured by your brain.
Here's another example. If you look at the cubes to the right, notice the four grey tiles on the top surface of the left cube and the seven grey tiles on the equivalent surface of the right cube.
Once you've convinced yourself that these tiles are all physically the same colour (because they are), look at the next image down.

What's amazing is that now the grey tiles on the left look blue, whereas the same grey tiles on the right look yellow. The yellow and blue tiles of the two cubes share the same light, and yet look very different."

Colour Memory:
"This is why you see optical illusions, because when looking at an image that is consistent with your past experience of "real life", your brain behaves as if the objects in the current images are also real in the same way.
If we are using past experience to make sense of light, how quickly can we learn to see light differently? It is a matter of seconds."

Source: bbc

Colour Blindness:

"An expert in colour science has hit upon an intriguing idea on why Van Gogh painted as he did - and his insights could change the way we view the Master's art.

It has long-been rumoured than Van Gogh was colour-blind, and this theory is often cited as to why the artist painted with such bold strokes and vibrant, occasionally quirky hues.

When Japanese-based Kazunori Asada, giving a speech in Hokkaido about vision deficiencies, found himself viewing Van Gogh's work in a room illuminated to give the impression of colour-blindness, he found the pieces of art transformed into even better pieces of art."

How life looks to the colour-blind:

These sequences are as close a rendition as Asada has been able to re-create in a tool available to the public

"Photography from Iceland shows us a vivid landscape of red and green, as lava flows underneath the Northern Lights"

"But the landscape gets lost, with green and reds sapped from the picture: To a colour-blind viewer, some of the spectacular imagery is muted"

Colourful carnival image.

As seen by the colour blind; muted colours and dull tones. Red and Green are stripped from the image.
Source: dailymail

Van Gogh's The Starry Night, 1988, Unaltered colour.

Van Gogh's The Starry Night, 1988, Altered colour.

It has been said that Van Gogh had some form of colour blindness due to tone and the hues used in his works, as shown above.

"Improvement? Viewed through a colour-blind lens, the textures and mood alters subtly, the outlines become less harsh, and the colours take on a different hue.

Speaking of his experiences, he said: The 'Color Vision Experience Room' used illumination filtered by an optical filter - providing a modified spectrum of light.

'In this room, the person who has normal color vision sees color the same as the person who has protan or deutan color vision. 

These types of color deficiency mean that certain color combinations are difficult to differentiate.

'There were prints of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings in the room. 
Under the filtered light, I found that these paintings looked different from the van Gogh which I had always seen.
He added: 'I love van Gogh’s paintings and have been fortunate to view a number of the originals in various art museums. 
    'Although the use of color is rich, lines of different colors run concurrently, or a point of different color suddenly appears. 
    I’ve heard it conjectured that van Gogh had color vision deficiency.

    'However, in the van Gogh images seen in the color vision experience room, to me the incongruity of color and roughness of line had quietly disappeared.

    'And each picture had changed into one of brilliance with very delicate lines and shades. This was truly wonderful experience.'"

    Source: dailymail

    5. Does sensitivity affect colour perception? 

    Sensitivity can affect colour perception, which can therefore hinder perception of contrasts. Pantone is used to help simplify and understand the subjectivity of colour, using a systematic approach.

    6. Should colour be chosen in natural light?

    No, surroundings can affect perception of colour but physically won't change. Consistent natural light will be perceived differently after printing also. 

    Pantone is used again to create a systematic approach to colour selection and continuity.

    7. Is colour relative to metallics?

    Metallics are included with tertaries and have their own pantone swatches.

    Source: blogspot

    8. Does temperature affect spatial awareness?

    Too much temperature can cause it to be hard to relate to/read text. This can be disregarded by using black lines as colours can recede and contract. 

    9. Connotations of colour?

    Blue is known as the favourite colour for both boys and girls, however it has a calm connotation to it, as green reflects a calm environment. Red appears hot/warm. However, semiotics involving pink/blue for girls/boys is a well known trend, but each colour is subjective and has an emotional response.

    Psychology of colour: 

    "Color is a form of non verbal communication. It is not a static energy and its meaning can change from one day to the next with any individual. For example, a person may choose to wear the color red one day and this may indicate they are ready to take action, or they may be passionate about what they are going to be doing that day, or again it may mean that they are feeling angry that day, on either a conscious or subconscious level.

    The color orange is the color of social communication and optimism. From a negative color meaning it is also a sign of pessimism and superficiality. 
    For more on the color orange

    In the meanings of color in color psychology, the color yellow is the color of the mind and the intellect. It is optimistic and cheerful. However it can also suggest impatience, criticism and cowardice. 
    For more on the color yellow

    Green is the color of balance and growth. It can mean both self-reliance as a positive and possessiveness as a negative, among many other meanings.
    For more on the positives and negatives of the color green

    Blue is the color of trust and peace. It can suggest loyalty and integrity as well as conservatism and frigidity. 
    To understand the color blue

    Indigo is the color of intuition. In the meanings of colors it can mean idealism and structure as well as ritualistic and addictive. 
    For more on the color indigo

    Purple is the color of the imagination. It can be creative and individual or immature and impractical. 
    For more on the color purple

    The color meaning of turquoise is communication and clarity of mind. It can also be impractical and idealistic. 
    For more on the color turquoise

    The color psychology of pink is unconditional love and nurturing. Pink can also be immature, silly and girlish. 
    For more on the color pink

    In the meaning of colors, magenta is a color of universal harmony and emotional balance. It is spiritual yet practical, encouraging common sense and a balanced outlook on life. 
    For more on the color magenta

    The color brown is a serious, down-to-earth color that relates to security, protection and material wealth. 
    To read more about the color brown

    From a color psychology perspective, gray is the color of compromise - being neither black nor white, it is the transition between two non-colors.
    For more information on the color gray

    The color silver has a feminine energy; it is related to the moon and the ebb and flow of the tides - it is fluid, emotional, sensitive and mysterious.
    To understand more about the color silver

    Gold is the color of success, achievement and triumph. Associated with abundance and prosperity, luxury and quality, prestige and sophistication, value and elegance, the color psychology of gold implies affluence, material wealth and extravagance. 
    For more on the color gold

    White is color at its most complete and pure, the color of perfection. The color meaning of white is purity, innocence, wholeness and completion. 
    For more on the color white

    Black is the color of the hidden, the secretive and the unknown, creating an air of mystery. It keeps things bottled up inside, hidden from the world.
    For more on the color black"

    10. What are the best colours for body copy, that isn't black and white?

    Black and white body copy is the best possible combination. It always has a high contrast making it easy to read.

    Due to the reduced contrast, using alternate colours can slow down reading, and make it harder to read/illegible. 

    Never use yellow for type, due to the really low contrast of colour. Body copy should be kept simple by using one colour.