Chapter 8: Color Basics

Choosing & Using Color

Chapter 8 Color | White Space is Not Your Enemy

Chapter Outline

  • The power of color: impact, organization & emotion
  • Color theory
  • How to choose color: working the color wheel
  • How to choose color: culture
  • How to choose color: history
  • How to choose color: nature
  • Tips for designing with color
  • Color technology: that’s not the color I chose: what happened?
  • Working with screen color
  • Specifying color for print
  • Color rules!
  • Try this

Keywords | Vocabulary

  • Analogous color
  • Built or spot color
  • CMYK color (full-color, 4-color)
  • Color management
  • Color separation
  • Color Temperature
  • Complementary color
  • Desaturated color
  • Gray, neutral
  • Hue
  • Hexadecimal system
  • Monochromatic palette
  • Primary color
  • Registration
  • RGB color
  • RGBA color
  • Saturated color
  • Secondary color
  • Spot color
  • Tertiary color
  • Triads
  • Value

Related Unit Assignment

Designing with color is fun and exciting. Learning color theory, science and technology—not so much. This chapter builds on the fun of color while demystifying color theory, science and technology.

Key Student Takeaways

  1. Use color to create impact, organize what goes with what and get the emotional juices flowing.
  2. For color inspiration, look to the color wheel, nature, culture and history.
  3. Think “Christmas, kings and blue jeans” to remember the primaries and their secondary complements: Secondary green complements primary red; secondary purple complements primary yellow; secondary orange complements primary blue.
  4. For brightness or intensity, choose pure saturated hues.
  5. For desaturated light/pastel tints, dilute with white.
  6. For desaturated dark/earth tones, dull with black.
  7. For contrast, pair complementary colors, warm/cool colors, any hue with gray or light/dark values.
  8. For unity, choose analogous colors on the wheel and colors of similar saturation or value.
  9. The three main color technologies are:
  • CMYK, building full color from separated layers in 4-color process printing.
  • PANTONE® (sometimes referred to as PMS®), matching specific colors by ink formula.
  • RGB, adding color with light using the hexadecimal system.
  1. When designing with color:
  • Don’t go nuts in choosing a palette, whether it’s complementary, analogous or monochromatic.
  • Design for visibility and readability.
  • Use splashes of spot color for visual emphasis.

Quiz Questions

The 5-minute Motivation to Read Quiz

Share three things you learned from the reading. Be specific.

Short Answer Quiz Questions

Name the three primary colors and their complements.

Explain how nature, culture and history each can inspire a color palette.

Explain the difference between CMYK color and RBG color.

Define and explain analogous color and monochromatic color.

Multiple Choice Quiz Questions

When it comes to color, to get brightness or intensity

  1. Double check the grayscale
  2. Add black to dull
  3. Choose pure saturated hue
  4. Add white to dilute

Something important to know about screen color is

  1. Whatever color you specify will probably look different across browsers and devices
  2. Electronic color depends on the Humboldt formula for seven color contrasts
  3. Screen color reproduction is much more predictable than print color
  4. Never deviate from the Web-safe RGBA palette

Which of the following does not represent color contrast?

  1. Pairing opposite colors on the color wheel
  2. Pairing monochromatic colors
  3. Pairing warm and cool hues
  4. Pairing light and dark values

Color “value” refers to

  1. Lightness or darkness of tone
  2. Blending opposite colors on the color wheel
  3. Working from the inside of the color wheel
  4. Cost differences between quoting CYMK and matched spot color printing

Which of the following combinations is a poor choice for readability
and visibility?

  1. Yellow type on a black background
  2. Yellow type on a white background
  3. Black type on a yellow background
  4. Purple type on a yellow background