Color Theory

All posts tagged Color Theory

Trending This Week: Monochromatic Illustrations With Stock Vectors

by Caitlyn Hampton on March 31, 2017 No comments

The tug-of-war between design and color is a tale as old as time, but at the end of the day, good design deserves a thoughtful color scheme—and vice-versa. To get the most out of this dynamic relationship, learning the fundamentals of color theory is one of the first things you should tackle as a designer. Sometimes an idea can spring from a color palette and breathe life into your designs. Other times, it’s the glue that keeps all of your ideas together.

This season, one color scheme in particular is ruling the design scene, and it’s refreshingly easy to achieve. A monochromatic color palette is a great choice for creating visual consistency while keeping your projects on-trend. Just take a look at our monochromatic book cover design below. With just a few simple stock vectors, some carefully placed text, and a Hue blend mode layered on top, we’ve created a beautiful cover design of one of our favorite books—Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace.

 
Stock Vectors

Download the geometric seamless plaid stock vector and flat illustration stock vector used in this design.

 
Beautiful design doesn’t have to be difficult to achieve—in fact, simplicity often makes for a more effective design. Monochromatic color palettes can take retro elements like plaid and a typeface like Bookmania and make them feel modern and fresh.

 
So, what do you say—are you bold enough to start designing your own monochromatic illustrations with stock vectors?

 

Explore Stock Vectors

 

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Caitlyn HamptonTrending This Week: Monochromatic Illustrations With Stock Vectors

A Visual Guide to Pantone’s Spring Colors: 10 Ways to Apply the Palette

by Caroline Mercurio on January 30, 2017 No comments

Hope isn’t just a feeling this season—according to the color experts at Pantone, it’s also a palette. Based on the prominent colors used in this year’s New York Fashion Week, Pantone’s most popular colors for Spring 2017 involve a playful yet thoughtful mix of vitality and relaxation. According to Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute Leatrice Eiseman, “designers applied color in playful, yet thoughtful and precise combinations to fully capture the promises, hope, and transformation that we yearn for each Spring.”

To help encapsulate the aspirational essence these colors represent in your next designs, we’ve compiled a guide to understanding the meaning behind each color choice—and we’ve created a few designs using resources from our library of stock images to get you started.

Pantone's SpringImage courtesy of Pantone

 

1. Primrose Yellow

 
Pantone's Spring
 
This vibrant yellow is bold and unabashedly cheery—especially as it skews more towards orange-yellow than green. Reminiscent of warm, sunny days, this color can be especially impactful when you want your designs to draw instant attention.

If the brand you’re designing for is a playful one, then this color is just right—but use it with care. When paired with white text, it can be difficult to read and therefore quite inaccessible for those with limited eyesight. It’s best used sparingly as an accent color—but then again, rules are made to be broken.

Pantone's Spring

Download the GraphicStock images used in this design.

 

2. Pale Dogwood

 
Pantone's Spring
 
This beautifully subtle pink is soft and relaxing. It is innocent and pure, like a softly lit spring morning, which probably explains the name. This color is so unobtrusive, it could easily be used as a neutral in your designs. Let it lead from a place of support: the background.

For a brand that is calm and feminine, this color is ideal. It makes an excellent supporting color for bold and loud colors. For a minimalist feel, pair it with grayscale photos and rich black text to let your content carry the weight of your message.

Pantone's Spring

Download the GraphicStock images used in this design.

 

3. Hazelnut

 
Pantone's Spring
 
As the most neutral color of the bunch, Hazelnut truly represents the earthiness of Pantone’s collection. It’s grounding, calming, and provides roots for punchier colors to contrast with. Described as “unpretentious and with an inherent warmth,” this color eases you into the transition of the seasons, with warm days spent outdoors just on the horizon.

As a neutral, this color is another excellent supporter for pairing with others. If you’re going for an approachable, earthy look in your design, Hazelnut can be more warm and friendly than the popular light gray as a neutral.

Pantone's Spring

Download the GraphicStock images used in this design.

 

4. Island Paradise

 
Pantone's Spring
 
A strikingly vibrant and appealing color, Island Paradise mimics the pristine aqua waters of islands far off. It exudes an air of paradise and inspires tropical escapes far away from the colorless cold winter.

Blue colors generally evoke a sense of calm, peace, and responsibility for brands, but this brighter and more energized aqua radiates excitement. It has a freshness that is playful and fun. For a happy and bright brand, let Island Paradise take center stage. Try a monochromatic look with varying shades of blue—like Lapis Blue and Niagara—to really dive into Bahamian waters. Or try a look that pops by pairing it with Pink Yarrow and Flame.

Pantone's Spring

Download the GraphicStock images used in this design.

 

5. Greenery

 
Pantone's Spring
 
As the 2017 Pantone Color of the Year, this shade of green is all about breathing new life into the spring season and reinvigorating our passions. It’s about experimentation, exploration, and adventure. This green is fearless and borrows some of its boldness from the hints of yellow found within.

Use this color in your designs if you want to create a feeling of freshness and vibrancy. Green in branding can create a sense of balance and harmony—yet this hue is also energizing and invigorating. Pair it with a minimal and clean design that emphasizes the use of negative or white space to really nail a refreshing look and feel.

Pantone's Spring

Download the GraphicStock images used in this design.

 

6. Flame

 
Pantone's Spring
 
Arguably the hottest color of the bunch, this color is also the loudest and most intense. More approachable than reds in general, orange has a friendly and energetic appeal—a common theme throughout Pantone’s collection. This shade is “gregarious and fun loving” and adds heat to the spring collection to balance out some of the more peaceful and relaxing colors.

Don’t be fearful of the bold and bright Flame color. In fact, if you’re going to give this color a shot, go all the way and flood your designs with it. With a color like this, it’s asking to make a statement. If your brand is strong and determined, this could be the color for you. Try using it in marketing pieces that have an informal voice and approach or for an intense call to action.

Pantone's Spring

Download the GraphicStock images used in this design.

 

7. Pink Yarrow

 
Pantone's Spring
 
This pink is lively, whimsical, and quite the showstopper. It isn’t shy and it doesn’t mind taking center stage—which is exactly how you can utilize it. This bold, bright, and saturated hue is captivating and will immediately draw attention to wherever it is used in a design.

Highlight an important call to action with Pink Yarrow—or emphasize an area where the message is particularly important. But keep in mind that this color is not the most traditional or conservative. If you use it in your designs or for branding, understand that you’ll be giving the impression of youth and a casual approach to business—think T-Mobile, which emphasizes targeting youthful and open-minded consumers.

Pantone's Spring

Download the GraphicStock images used in this design.

 

8. Niagara

 
Pantone's Spring
 
Niagara was coined as speaking “to our desire for ease and relaxation.” It was awarded as the most prominent color of Spring 2017. While it’s one of the more muted colors of the collection, its strength lies in its comfort and dependability.

Used alone, the mood it elicits is one of relaxation, comfort, and dependability, which makes it an excellent partner for pairing with bright Primrose Yellow. Or if you want to keep your designs calm, it could work very well with Pale Dogwood.

Pantone's Spring

Download the GraphicStock images used in this design.

 

9. Kale

 
Pantone's Spring
 
Though the actual vegetable probably reached peak trendiness back in 2014, Kale as a color is making its way into fashion and design strongly this spring. Another green in the collection to emulate the beauty of nature and the desire to get outdoors, Kale is more muted and reserved than its Greenery counterpart. It makes an excellent backdrop and could almost get away with serving as a neutral.

For a complimentary collision in hue and saturation, try pairing Kale with Pink Yarrow—it will look modern and bold, but also quite fun. For a monochromatic look, work with Greenery and Kale. Or for a sweet and inviting combination, try Kale with Pale Dogwood.

Pantone's Spring

Download the GraphicStock images used in this design.

 

10. Lapis Blue

 
Pantone's Spring
 
Lapis blue is one of the more modest and traditional colors in Pantone’s collection. It radiates inner confidence and a calm, stable energy, yet it holds its own against some of the brighter colors like Primrose Yellow, Flame, or Pink Yarrow.

Paired with a heavy use of white space, Lapis Blue works well along side any of these brighter colors—especially when used in the style of Material Design for websites, web applications, or mobile apps. The heavy saturation of the color makes for an excellent contrast with white space and therefore makes a hierarchy of information easier to accomplish—a must-have for successful visual design.

Pantone's Spring

Download the GraphicStock images used in this design.

 
Want a little more in-depth analysis to color theory before you begin your designs? Check out our Color Theory 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Complementary Colors, RGB, and More.

And did you know that with Graphicstock you can search by any color for completely customized results—just by using the hex codes we provided!

 

Get Colorful

 

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Caroline MercurioA Visual Guide to Pantone’s Spring Colors: 10 Ways to Apply the Palette

Color Theory 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Complementary Colors, RGB, and More

by Caroline Mercurio on January 13, 2017 5 comments

We don’t live in a black and white world. From Pantone to Pinterest, color theory impacts the way we see and feel the world around us. It can influence our purchasing decisions and affect our mood. It attracts the eye and it even tells us what to look at and what to ignore—which is why it’s important that anyone working with visual media and stock images learns to speak the language of color. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can even search by color in our GraphicStock library to find the perfect photos, vectors, and illustrations to complete your projects.

To get you started, we’ve drawn up a crash course in the basics of color theory. These essentials are important building blocks for any artistic endeavor, from graphic design to painting and photography.
 

The Basics of Color

Let’s start at the very beginning, shall we? Long, long ago, Newton began studying color theory. His color wheel laid the groundwork for later generations of scholars, most of whom lived and worked in the 19th century. These scholars provided us with modern color theory, one tenet of which is the principal that there are primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Colors

Color Theory

Primary Colors are, in their most basic definition, the colors from which any other color can be created by mixing. Not everyone agrees on what colors are true primary—but we’ll discuss that later. In traditional painting, the primary colors are red, yellow, and blue (as seen in the color wheel above).

Secondary Colors are colors that result from mixing two primary colors, such as green (yellow + blue), purple (blue + red), and orange (red + yellow)

Tertiary Colors are colors that are obtained by mixing two secondary colors or a secondary color with a primary color. For example, if yellow is a primary color, and orange (the mixture of yellow and red) is a secondary color, yellow-orange would be a tertiary color. Tertiary colors are shown on the color wheel above in parentheses.
 

The Other 10 Million Colors

Obviously, we all know that there are more than 12 colors available to you for any given project. In fact, the human eye can see approximately 7-10 million colors. So how do we make up this massive difference? With hues, shades, tints, and tones.

Hue is almost the same as color, and the words can sometimes be used interchangeably. However, there is a slight difference in that hue generally refers only to those 12 basic colors from the color wheel. They are the twelve purest and brightest colors on the spectrum.

A shade is the mixture of a color with black.

A tint is the mixture of a color with white, also known as a pastel.

Tones (also called saturation) is achieved by mixing a color with both black and white (gray) to adjust the intensity of the color.
 

Additive and Subtractive Color

Now that you understand how colors are created, it’s time to fill you in on why people disagree on what colors are primary. It all comes down to how you are creating your colors, for what purpose, and with what medium. Are you working on a digital screen? With oil paints? For print? All of these things make a difference because how we see color is determined by one very elusive property: light.
 
CMYK
CMYK is a subtractive color model whose primaries are cyan, magenta, and yellow (the CMY in CMYK). In simple terms, that means that when all three primary colors are combined, the result is black (K). Removing one of the colors will result in red, green, or blue. Removal of all of the colors results in white. This is the most common color model used for printing—just think of your color printer ink cartridges.

Color Theory
 
RGB
The RGB color model is an additive color model whose primaries are red, green, and blue. An additive color model means that if you combine all three primary colors you get white instead of black. This works the same way light waves do, which is perfect for systems that emit light, such as electronics like monitors. Because of this, RGB is used for computers, phones, and other digital displays including web graphics.

Color Theory

The computer code for black on an RGB model would be B=0. Each primary is 255 (R=255 ; G=255 ; B=255) and all the colors in-between will have a corresponding code somewhere between those values. If you are looking to create a color on a web-based platform, many will only give you the option to use RGB values or a HEX code, so this system is hugely important for web designers in particular. It’s worth noting, however, that most computer and non-web-based systems will allow you to use either RGB or CMYK numbers to find the color you are looking for.

Note: color HEXcode is a letter and number value beginning with a # sign, which is used in HTML, CSS, SVG, and other computing applications to represent colors.
 
RYB
“But wait,” you say. “I thought the primary colors were red, yellow, and blue—not red, green, and blue or cyan, magenta, and yellow.”

RYB is still the oldest (some date it as early as the 16th century) and simplest color model and is the one taught in most fine arts institutions today. It is primarily used for painting but does not take light into account as much as the other models do.
 

Colors in Action

Creating Color Schemes

Now that you know the basics of color theory, we can get down to the nitty-gritty of actually applying everything you’ve learned. What makes some color combinations “clash” while other combinations work well together?

One—sometimes aggravating—exercise many art students are forced to undertake in color theory classes is to place the same color next to two other colors in order to make the original color appear different in each instance. In the example below, the blue tile in the middle of each larger square is the same exact color. It only looks different in comparison because the colors surrounding it have changed.

Color Theory

The way we perceive color is directly related to the way it reacts to its environment. The color doesn’t change, but our perception of it does. Some of this is intuitive, particularly when it comes to contrast—you wouldn’t put a dark green text on a black background because you wouldn’t be able to see anything! You intuitively know that contrast makes foreground items more visible. Whether or not you should use orange and green on the same web page is a trickier problem. Luckily, there are several different models for approaching color schemes to help you out.

 
Monochromatic Color Schemes are color schemes which use only one hue, such as blue, and individual shades, tones, and tints are used for contrast.

Color TheoryDownload this peaceful winter landscape.

 
Analogous Color Schemes use colors that are next to one another on the color wheel, such as blue, blue-green, and green.

Color Theory

Download this flatlay of asparagus and salt.

 
Triadic Color Schemes use colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel, such as green, purple, and orange.

Color TheoryDownload this whimsical orange lantern.

 
Complementary Color Schemes are color schemes which use colors on opposite sides of the color wheel, such as red and green.

Color TheoryDownload this photo of a Chinese red rose blossom.

 
Split Complementary Color Schemes are a variation of the complementary color scheme. It uses one base color and the two colors next to that color’s complement (the color directly opposite it on the color wheel). For example, since yellow’s complement is violet, it’s split complementaries would be blue-violet and red-violet.

Color TheoryDownload this vintage-style photo of a yellow rose bush

 
These are not the only color schemes, but they are the most basic and popular. Play with colors within each scheme (and outside of them) to learn for yourself how colors interact!
 

Color and Emotion

There’s a reason spa’s are usually decorated in shades of pale blue, sage, lavender, and white. And there is a reason that the Russian Constructivists creating state posters and propaganda chose red and black for their media and posters. Color is emotional. You can create a basic ad, but the colors you choose will impact the message your audience receives as much as the text and design do.

This can seem intimidating, but it’s actually great! It’s a powerful weapon in your arsenal—which is exactly why you need to understand some basics about color psychology. Color and emotion is a very complex subject, but in general:

Cool colors like blue, lavender, and teal are associated with feelings of tranquility and loyalty. They make viewers feel secure, trusting, and peaceful. They are (usually) not flashy colors, and so they convey a sense of sophistication and elegance. Tints of blue are also often associated with young boys. Negatively, these shades can also be used to convey coldness and fear.

Color TheoryDownload this photo of a blue sailboat on a clear day.

 
Red is usually the most saturated and dominant color on the spectrum. Because it always stands out, it’s associated with very strong feelings and always relays a sense of confidence. Red is the color of love and passion, but also of power, desire, and fire. Red is also associated with speed—there is a reason red cars are rumored to get pulled over more frequently than cars of other colors.

Conversely, red can convey danger, warning, and anger. It’s softer cousin, pink, is symbolic of love and femininity. Pink is a sensitive, romantic color that can also come across as saccharine and childish. It almost goes without saying that pink is generally associated with women and young girls.

Color TheoryDownload this photo of pink and red tulips.

 
Orange, like red, is associated with motivation, strength, and courage, but also has a reputation as friendly, cheerful color. Be wary, however, as it can come off as cheap. If you work in the restaurant biz, it’s good to know that orange is thought to stimulate the appetite (as does placing it’s primary colors—red and yellow—side by side. You’ll see this at play in the color schemes for many fast food chains).

Color TheoryDownload this abstract landscape photo of a tree growing before a mountain.

 
Yellow is the color of joy, sunshine, and optimism. It is the easiest color to see, and always stands out—but its brightness can make it difficult to see clearly against many background colors, and like orange, it can seem cheap. Yellow can also make viewers feel anxious because of its overwhelming brightness.

Color TheoryDownload this vintage yellow concrete wall background.

 
Jewel Tones such as deep blue, purple, green, and garnet have a feeling of luxury and wealth. This may be ingrained in our psychology because of these color’s histories. Deep red and blue were among the most expensive pigments artists could purchase, and so were reserved for the most luxurious and ornate paintings, often alongside gold leaf. Purple, another outrageously expensive pigment in earlier times, was a color only the richest could afford to wear and was even reserved for royalty under Elizabeth I.

Color TheoryDownload this lavender flowers background.

 
Green and Brown are shades closely identified with nature and the outdoors. They remind us of the environment, longevity, fertility, new life, peace, and of the warmer seasons. Green can also be associated with money and wealth, along with all of money’s negative connotations—envy, jealousy, and greed.

Color TheoryDownload this red-eye frog in nature.

 
Finally, shades of Gray range from the luxurious, high-tech platinum to the solid reliability (or conservative gloominess) of charcoal. Black, the eternal classic, can exude classic elegance and formality, or can be the dark harbinger of mystery and death. Pure white imparts a feeling of cleanliness and purity, but can also come off sterile and cold.

Color TheoryDownload this serene photo of an iceberg reflected under a grey sky.

 
Finally, when you are thinking about your color schemes, consider where your creation will be displayed—for example, Facebook is predominantly blue. If you want to get noticed, you need to ask yourself which colors will pop against your intended backdrop.

 
The meanings of colors can vary widely based on the perception of each individual viewer. You aren’t a mind reader, but you can manipulate these colors according to your needs by thinking carefully about how you will combine colors to create a color palette that will appeal to your ideal audience. If you wanted to attract a high-end clientele for a jewelry business, you would probably consider palettes consisting of precious metals, jewel tones, or soft blues and whites (a la Tiffany & Co). If you were designing a movie poster for a film about vigilante justice and war—think V for Vendetta or Gladiator—the same color scheme would be completely out of place.
 

A Few Notes in Closing

Now that you’re fully briefed on the basics of color theory and color psychology, experiment to find the color palettes that work best for you! A few more takeaways to remember:

  • Trust your instincts—you intuitively know more of this than you may realize.
  • Keep consistency of color throughout your design, be it a poster, home color scheme or a multi-page site. If each room or page is in a totally different color palette, it can create an inharmonious experience and confuse people as to your personal brand.
  • Explore free web-based color tools, such as Adobe Color and Illustrator Color Guide. These programs have preset color palettes and can be a good place to start.
  • Always test colors on your audience, and on the platforms you use most. See what works well and what doesn’t.
  • Once you’ve established your color palette, save time and money by finding royalty-free graphics, photos, and vectors that fit your scheme. With Graphicstock, you can search by any color for completely customized results.

 

Discover a World of Color

 

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Caroline MercurioColor Theory 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Complementary Colors, RGB, and More

A Visual Guide to Pantone’s Summer Palette: 4 Organic Color Trends

by Caroline Mercurio on June 8, 2016 No comments

“We are moving beyond 
the visual, to see it as part
of a total experience. We don’t just look at color now, we experience and feel color.” – Pantone Spring/Summer 2016 Color Guide
 
The ever-chic style and design trendsetters at Pantone have spoken, and this summer’s colors are vibrant, earthy, and full of organic texture and light. Rather than picking just one or two shades to focus on, they’re celebrating a whole spectrum of bright hues inspired by the natural world. To help you create your own Pantone-worthy design projects, we’ve outlined the four most important themes from this season’s color guide.

 

1. Natural Colors

Pantone emphasizes colors that are both sensory and tactile, rather than flat tones on a screen. They reflect this aesthetic in the theme of the Pantone summer guide—“Eat.” With names like “ocean depths,” “melon,” “orchid haze,” and “apricot buff,” the palettes are as felt and tasted as they are seen.

To capture the look, avoid designs that are neon or artificial, focusing instead on the the wide array of color seen in food, plant life, and the natural world.

Download these ornamental decorative cabbage and assortment of cream soups stock images.
 

 

2. Strong Textures

Branching out beyond two-dimensional palettes, Pantone also points out important visual aesthetics—like these strong textures—as part of their color design. From rough fabrics to gritty stonework, textures make colors pop, prompting viewers to not just see but to feel them, which is why they are fundamental to this season’s trends.

Download these jeans fabric and old brick wall stock images.
 

 

3. Rough Design

Over-polished and over-produced aesthetics have been and continue to be less fashionable than the minimalist, no-frills appeal of handmade designs. There is something honest and imaginative to creative projects that are asymmetrical and a bit rough around the edges—it speaks to the human element in both the artists and their audiences. Pantone highlights the importance of messy, analog designs, which closely echo the natural themes underlying its color guide.

Download these colorful pastel art and orange grunge watercolor stock images.
 

 

4. Dynamic Light

The interplay between light and color is also a key theme for Pantone. “Metallic surfaces, pearlescent finishes, and sheen all affect how we interpret color and respond,” notes the guide. This applies as much to photographs that use light to illuminate textures and palettes as it does to design elements that create a more sensory experience through tone, shading, and sheens. Ultimately, the interplay between light and shadow makes colors more vibrant and real, bringing them to life.

Download these royal golden background and Keila waterfall stock images.
 
 
 

Search for Graphics by Pantone Color

Feeling inspired by Pantone’s summer trends? You can use the advanced search function on GraphicStock to find images that perfectly match Pantone’s palettes. Watch the video below to get the search tips, or start browsing our library of delicious photos, vectors, and illustrations.

 
 

Bite into Pantone’s Summer Colors

 

 

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Caroline MercurioA Visual Guide to Pantone’s Summer Palette: 4 Organic Color Trends