top of page
  • Writer's pictureVictoria Hall

A beginner’s guide to colour theory

Did you know that the colour of your artwork has a psychological impact on your audience?

Colour is a vital aspect of our lives that can impact our mood, behaviour, and perception of the world around us. Understanding the basics of colour theory can help you make informed decisions when it comes to visual artwork, design, branding, and communication.

In this blog, I explain the fundamental principles of colour theory, so you know which colours to use and when.

The colour wheel

The colour wheel is a circular diagram that displays the primary, secondary, and tertiary colours.

  • The primary colours are red, yellow, and blue. They cannot be created by mixing other colours.

  • The secondary colours are green, orange, and purple. They're created by mixing two primary colors together.

  • The tertiary colours are created by mixing one primary colour and one secondary colour.

Colour harmony

Colour harmony refers to the pleasing combination of colours in a design or artwork.

There are several ways to achieve colour harmony, for example, by using complementary, analogous, and monochromatic colour schemes.

  • Complementary colours are located opposite each other on the colour wheel.

  • Analogous colours are located next to each other on the colour wheel.

  • Monochromatic colour schemes involve using different shades and tints of a single colour. These colour combinations create a subtle, sophisticated effect.

Colour temperature

Colour temperature refers to the warmth or coolness of a colour.

  • Warm colours, such as red, orange, and yellow, are associated with energy, passion, and excitement.

  • Cool colours, such as blue, green, and purple, are associated with calmness, serenity, and relaxation.

Colour psychology

Colours can have a psychological impact on people, and different cultures and contexts can influence how colours are perceived. Understanding colour psychology can help you communicate the right message to your audience.

  • Red: Red is often associated with passion, power, confidence, energy, and excitement. It can also stimulate appetite, which is why it’s often used in restaurant branding.

  • Blue: Blue is calming and soothing, and is often associated with trust and reliability. It’s commonly used in corporate branding.

  • Green: Green is associated with growth, balance, and harmony. It is often used to convey a sense of calm and relaxation.

  • Yellow: Yellow is often associated with happiness, joy, and positivity. It can also be used to grab attention, which is why it is often used in advertising.

  • Purple: This colour is associated with luxury, creativity, and sophistication. It’s often used in high-end branding and marketing.

  • Orange: Orange is a warm and inviting colour that can evoke feelings of excitement and enthusiasm. It’s often used in advertising to convey a sense of urgency.

  • Black: Black is often associated with elegance, sophistication, and power. It’s commonly used in luxury branding.

  • White: White is associated with purity, innocence, and simplicity. It’s often used in minimalist branding and marketing.

By understanding the principles of the colour wheel, colour harmony, colour temperature, and colour psychology, you can create effective and impactful artwork and designs that resonate with your audience.

Colour theory is a fundamental aspect of visual design and communication.

How do your favourite colours make you feel? Pop your thoughts in the comment box below!

About Victoria Hall

Victoria Hall is an English-born, Australian-based writer and illustrator. She is the creator of three picture books for children, Penny Prickles at Coogee Beach, Eggy Peggy Has Lost Her Leggy and The Fairy Beasts. For more updates, follow Victoria on Instagram or check out her bio here.

bottom of page