The Three Colour Theories

In art, architecture, graphic design, and any other industry that relies on visual media, colour theories help advise and guide the use of colour to portray the correct message, feeling, or emotion behind the design. Colour theories can help dictate everything from the correct colours to use in everything from artwork and paintings to television adverts, company logos, and interior décor. There are many colour theories that have been used by artists and designers the world over, but they are broadly grouped into three main types: the Colour Wheel, Colour Harmony, and Colour Context.


The Colour Wheel


The colour wheel has been around for centuries and is one of the oldest methods of logically organising colours in a circular gradient. It is believed that the colour wheel was first proposed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666.

Colour wheels can come in many forms, from the simple tricolour (red, blue, and yellow) primary colour wheel to the secondary colour wheel which also includes green, orange, and purple. Finally, the tertiary colour wheel contains 12 shades attained by mixing primary and secondary colours together.


Colour Harmony


Colour harmony theory is a more poetic approach to visual design. Colour harmony attempts to find the perfect balance between colours by asserting that, in order to be harmonious and look appealing to the human eye. shades cannot be too similar or too different. In the former case, extreme similarity causes a boring visual that does not engage the eye, while severe complexity of colour overstimulates the eye. According to colour harmony, harmonious colours are either those that are directly adjacent to one another on a 12-colour wheel (analogous colours), or those which are directly opposite one another (complementary colours).


Colour Context


Colour content theory looks at how colours blend and interact with one another, and how colours offer different aesthetics based on the context of the colour around them. Similar to how you perceive optical illusions, by placing different backgrounds on a certain colour, you can see how your brain will interpret the visual differently. For example, a red logo will appear lusterless and dull on an orange background but will pop dramatically from a cyan one.

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