In the first part of this blog series, we explained how the color wheel works, based on 12 main colors and the different colour hues, tints, tones and shades. For those who missed this blog, see In part two of this blog series, we discussed seven common color schemes,. Including some pros and cons of each of those schemes. For those who missed that blog, see In this third and final part of the blog series, we describe how to choose a color scheme that suits you as a designer.

Okay, you’ve outlined and illustrated what you have in mind for your brand, applictaie front-end, web shop, website or project, and now it’s time to select colors, but you’re not sure what looks good. What to do.

1. Leverage natural inspiration

So, you have sketched and illustrated what you have in mind for your brand, website or project, and it is now time to select colours, but you are not sure what looks good.

Nature is the best example of colours that compliment each other – from the green stems with bright blooms of flowering plants to azure skies and white clouds. You cannot go wrong taking context from natural colours and combinations.

2. Set a mood for your colour scheme

With some colour choices in mind, take a moment to consider the mood you want to set with your colour scheme. If energy and passion are on top of your list, you can lean more toward the usage of brighter shades of yellow or red. But if you are looking to create a feeling of calm, peace and tranquillity, then lean in to using lighter shades of blue and greens.

3. Consider colour context

How colour behaves in relation to other colours and shapes is a complex area of colour theory. It is therefore also worth considering how colours are perceived in contrast.

For example, in the image below, the center of each rectangle is the same size, shape and colour, the only thing that changes is the background colour. Yet, the squares in the center appear softer or brighter depending on the contrasting colour behind it. You may even notice depth or movement changes just based on a single colour change.

This is because the way in which we use two colours together changes how we perceive it. So, when selecting colours for your designs, think about how much contrast you want in the design as a whole.

4. Refer to your colour wheel

Consider the colour wheel and the colour schemes mentioned in the post above, select a few colour combinations using schemes such as monochrome, complementary or triad to see what works best for you. The goal is not to find the exact colours on the first try and to proceed with creating the perfect design, but rather to get a sense of which scheme naturally resonates with your personal perception and the look of your design.

5. Draft multiple designs

Draft and apply multiple colour schemes to your designs and see which one(s) stand out to you. Then, take a step back, wait a day or two, and check again to see if your favourites have changed.

While many designers go in with a vision of what they want to see and what looks good to the eye, the finished product often times differs on digital screens than that of a physical colour wheel – what originally seemed like a perfect complement or an ideal colour pop may end up looking drab or dated.

Don’t be afraid to draft, review, draft again and throw out what does not work. Colour, like website creation, is a constantly-evolving art form.

Why is Colour Theory Critical in Design?

The effective use of colour matters for many reasons. Firstly, colour is one of the primary ways designers can create an emotional response in their audience. Different colours have different associations, and can evoke specific emotions. For example, the colour red is often times associated with passion, love and energy, while blue is associated with calmness, stability and trust. But it is important to note, be careful of which part of the world you find yourself in, as many colours have different emotional associations in different countries around the world – it is imperative to always do your research before settling on a specific colour scheme.

Secondly, colour can support basic design principles, contrast, and hierarchy. By making use of contrasting colours, designers can draw attention to specific design elements and create a sense of visual order. This can be especially useful in website design, infographics or signage designs, where it is imperative to communicate information quickly and effectively.

Thirdly, colour can be used to create the identity of a brand. Consistent use of colour in branding can support recognition and familiarity with a brand across different mediums and products. This is why many well-known brands consistently feature a specific colour scheme in all their marketing materials.

Another important aspect of colour theory in graphic design is the psychological concept. Colour psychology is the study of how colours affect emotions and behaviour. Different colours can evoke different emotions and influence human mood, feelings, and even decision making.

Understanding colour psychology can help designers create designs that are more effective at communicating the desired message or evoking the desired emotional response.

In addition to understanding colour psychology, designers should be aware of cultural differences in the interpretation of colour too. Different cultures have different associations with different colours, and what might bear a positive connotation in one culture could be seen as negative or inappropriate in another.

To avoid cultural misunderstandings, designers should research and understand the cultural associations of different colours when creating designs for a global audience.