Whether you’re making a logo, website, advertisement, or anything that involves words and images, you need to understand one very important aspect of design: color. This articles talks about the basics of color design, specifically the color wheel and color relationships.

The Color Wheel
Every color, shade, or tint can be traced back to what we call the color wheel. This wheel has three “building blocks” — blue, red, and yellow — more commonly known as the primary colors. Why are they called the primary colors, you ask? The reason is that blue, red, and yellow cannot be created from mixing other colors; hence they are “primary.”

What happens when you combine the primary colors? Try mixing blue with red, red with yellow, and yellow with blue. The results — violet, orange, and green — are your secondary colors. These colors can be blended further, resulting into “yellow-orange,” “red-orange,” and other varying combinations. You get the picture.

Color Relationships
Now that we have the color wheel, what comes next? Is there a system or pattern for putting these colors together in a design? Indeed, there is. When we consider how the colors are located to each other in the wheel, and whether or not they make a good “match” — we are actually looking at color relationships, of which there are four basic types:

  1. Complementary colors. As the term implies, these are colors that “complement” each other. On the color wheel, they are located at the exact opposite of each other. Red and green — which are often paired together as “the colors of Christmas” — are complementary.
  2. Split complementary colors. This may sound complicated, but it is actually quite simple. A split complementary combination makes use of colors that are situated beside another color’s complement. For instance, green (which is the complement of red), is flanked by blue-green and yellow-green, respectively.
  3. Triadic colors. As the term suggests, triadic colors are colors that are located at the angles of a triangle in the color wheel. The primary colors (red, blue, and yellow), along with the secondary colors (violet, orange, and green), are triadic. The same goes for the colors red-orange, yellow-green, and blue-violet, which are situated in a triangle.
  4. Analogous colors. These refer to colors that are right beside (or very near to) each other in the color wheel — yellow, yellow-orange, and orange, for example. Putting them together creates a “gradient” effect since they are very similar to one another; hence, the use of the term, “analogous.”

So there you have it: the color wheel containing the primary and secondary colors, as well as the basic color relationships (complementary, split complementary, triadic, and analogous). Knowing about these concepts is an absolute must-have for every designer! When choosing a color scheme for your logo, website, advertisement, or any other visual presentation — make sure that you are guided by the color wheel and the different color combinations.