Color Theory: The ABCs of RGB

Graphic design is driven by the meaning behind colors, typography, layout, and shapes. It is important for both practicing graphic designers and Design degree students to understand the basics of color theory, and its impact on one’s brand. Whether you are a bachelor’s degree seeking collegiate, or a seasoned designer – this infographic on color theory will help illustrate the basics of color meaning, palate forming, and more. From monochromatic neutrals to triatic color schemes, step into the mind of expert designers while developing your design and color theory:

How Designers Use Color To Influence Audiences


A Quiver Of Colors
How designers use color to influence audiences
Warm Colors
■ Elicited concepts: Pride, strength, passion, love, heat, danger
■ Associated industries: Car manufacturers, sales
■ Elicited concepts: Cheerfulness, happiness, creativity, caution,
concentration, hope
■ Associated industry: Children’s products
■ Elicited concepts: Fun, joy, determination, encouragement, energy,
stimulates appetite and mental activity
■ Associated industries: Children’s products, fast food
Cool Colors
■ Elicited concepts: Tranquility, faith, wisdom, melancholy, trust, loyalty
■ Associated industries: Hospitals, corporate business, government
■ Elicited concepts: Royalty, power, mystery, luxury, spirituality, prestige
■ Associated industries: Children’s products, young women’s products,
luxury goods, furnishings, opulent decorations
■ Elicited concepts: Wealth, environmentally friendly, fertility, envy,
■ Associated industries: Military, finance, banking
■ Elicited concepts: Evil, sophistication, death, elegance, fear, wealth
● Used in most design to add contrast and make highlight
surrounding colors
■ Associated industries: High fashion, makeup, hygiene
■ Elicited concepts: Purity, cleanliness, freshness, goodness, peace,
■ Associated industries: Charities, NPOs, hospitals, hotels
■ Elicited concepts: Neutrality, mutuality, enhancement, future, innovation
■ Associated industries: Technology, travel
■ Elicited concepts: blandness, earthy, conservative, comforting
■ Associated industries: Environmental, green, travel, athletics
■ Elicited concepts: Earth, organic, health, durability, nature, comfort
■ Associated industries: Health food companies, environmental


New Palate Cannon 

Monochromatic: Using multiple shades of a single color
○ Creates harmony, peace, and unity
○ Commonly paired with branding and background patterns
  • Simple to design
  • No clashing colors
  • Crisp, minimal design
  • Easily emphasize important data points
  • Distraction-free
Analogous: Using related colors together
○ Pair warms with other warms, cools with other cools
  • Creates harmony
  • Pleasing to the eye
  • Versatile
  • Colors won’t compete
Contrasting: Using opposing colors
○ Emphasizes boldness
  • Visually appealing
  • Adds dramatic element to information
  • Can become too vibrant or jarring
Triadic: Using three colors equally spaced around the color wheel
○ Creates and emphasizes balance
  • Vibrant visuals
  •  Offers unity and stability

A Color For Every Design

CMYK = Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black

RGB = Red, Green, Blue

Expert Design Tips

  • Don’t get trapped in the color
  • Text must be readable
  • Color should enhance, not subtract
  • Avoid patterns behind text
  • Simple is ususally better
  • White space provides a subtle resting place for the eyes

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