They say, “Make love, not war!” Rainbow colors are the empowering symbol of gay pride and the flower children. The modern-day insignia of “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain” (a mnemonic for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet) form a chimera of peace and humanity. But when they’re not culminating in impactful ideologies, these colors are not just a leprechaun’s pathway to a pot of gold. Since auld lang syne, the rainbow has been reshuffled to form masterpieces over and over again. Rainbow hues today configure artists’ and graphic designers’ palettes in every creation.
And it’s not all Skittles and M&Ms. Colors should fit together like pieces of a jigsaw, and flow like cogs in a wheel. Despite living in a rainbow of chaos, a clash of distasteful combination reveals a creator flying blind in their flight of fancy. No matter if you’re an interior designer, a graphic designer, a brand manager, or a painter, we’re here to dish out some tips on how you can effectively showcase your concept’s true colors.
The Discovery of Rainbow Colors
Color theory creates the principle of which visual harmony exists. Greek philosopher, Aristotle, was the first man to discover the rainbow’s circular refraction of light. It was his revolutionary theory that fuelled Sir Isaac Newton’s prism on color relationships in the 17th century. A meteorological phenomenon, a rainbow arc forms when sunbeams shine through water droplets. The reflection, refraction, and dispersion of light results in a spectrum of the seven colors we identify with today. But here’s a fun fact. Did you know that when seen from an airplane, rainbows only appear in a full circle?
Rainbow Colors & Emotion
Today, we think of the anonym “ROYGBIV” with any mention of the rainbow. Natural sunlight is white, and when split into different wavelengths form the seven rainbow colors. Likewise, and vice versa, when these colors are combined, white light is being formed.
To date, many great minds have attempted to categorize and present colors through different models. Amid color wheels and triangles lie logic and the concomitant of human psychology. The colors designers choose to use today can affect consumer behavior as colors have been heavily influenced by culture over centuries. As such, the effect of colors is different on each individual, but there are certain general caveats and guidelines that designers can abide by to evoke different emotions. We’ll start by exploring the seven rainbow colors below.
The color red is a primary color and has the longest wavelength. It is, therefore, the most visible in the color spectrum. It provokes the strongest emotions that can be linked with passion, desire, and love. On the reverse end, red is also indicative of danger and aggression and is therefore often used to warn people of impending danger. Research shows that color also causes physiological effects on individuals. These include increased blood pressure, metabolism, heart rate, respiration rate, and overall, energy level.
Despite the common connotation of orange to incarceration-outfits in the US, the color is often related to positivity, excitement, motivation, warmth, and energy. Orange is a secondary color which means it can be created by mixing the two primary colors red and yellow.
Yellow is the fifth color of the rainbow and a primary color that is often associated with happiness, optimism, communication, and enlightenment. The hue is known to awaken the nervous system and is the most common choice used to represent gender neutralism in baby rooms.
Green is associated with nature, and hence tranquillity, wellbeing, and health. Research has discovered that green can improve one’s reading ability, speed, and comprehension. The secondary color can be created by combining primary colors blue and yellow.
The primary color, blue, is often preferred by men. Psychologically, it instills a sense of calmness, peace, order, stability, and reliability. Research shows that people can be more productive in rooms that are painted blue, though the color is also associated with feelings of melancholy, aloofness, and a decrease in appetite.
A combination of blue with a dash of violet, indigo is a trending color that promotes deep concentration, inner contemplation, and self-reflection. When used in branding, it represents honesty, friendliness, integrity, reason, and trustworthiness. Indigo creates an environment that is elegant, new-age, and empowering when weaved into interior design.
From a point of psychology, violet is often associated with sensitivity, creativity, mystery, and harmony. The color provides an escape from reality as it is often associated with the fantasy world. Violet is a secondary color that can be created by mixing blue with red.
Technical Color Systems Used by Graphic Designers
Now that we’ve talked about the basic rainbow colors and their impact on psychology, let’s dive into some graphic designer definitions of colors. If you’ve used any form of graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, or Illustrator, the following might be familiar to you. Otherwise, fret not. Because surprisingly, many designers know not the difference between each system and how to use them to their advantage.
RGB Color System
RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue. The system relies on the combining intensities of each of those hues to reproduce a spectrum of colors. 3 numbers, a value from 0 to 255 represent each intensity of Red, Green, and Blue. 0 creates the darkest color which is black, while 255 creates white. To reproduce a color, you’ll need to key in 3 values. For example: RGB(0, 0, 0) creates black, while RGB(255, 255, 255) creates white.
The RGB system is commonly used for digital design such as those to be presented on websites, televisions, and mobile screens. Technology that displays the RGB system includes LCD, plasma, OLED, and CRT. Each pixel screen is contributed with an RGB light source to display a full image from a common viewing distance.
CMYK Color System
CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. “K” represents black as black is the key color in all printers. Not to be confused with RGB, the CMYK color mode is best used to accomplish color accuracy in print. The four hues are the basic ink colors that can be found in printers. To reproduce a color, 4 values are required in percentages (i.e. values from 0 to 100). The higher the percentage, the darker the color intensity. For example, yellow can be reproduced with CMYK(0, 0, 100, 0).
Brand guidelines often include CMYK values of the brand logo and color schemes. This helps to preserve the uniformity and consistency of brand colors so as to build brand familiarity and recognition. Rather than relying on the eye’s perception, color accuracy by CMYK helps to account for any discrepancies between on-screen image displays and print outcomes. This is especially useful when printing name cards, posters, and logos on both large and small scales.
HEX Color System
Similar to RGB, digital displays such as television and mobile devices also use the HEX color-coding system. HEX stands for hexadecimal. It is a shortcode that represents the color reproduction instead of the 3-numbered RGB system. A combination of six characters including letters and numbers make up a color. The first 2 characters represent red, the second 2 represent green, and the last 2 represent blue. The HEX color system is commonly used in web design and creators can easily convert RGB values to HEX code with simple tools like this one.
Pantone Color System
Then there’s also the Pantone (PMS- Pantone Matching System) color-coding system. This color model is the standard language for print colors and is especially useful when your design translates to textile silk printing. PMS color coding is important for high-level design because not every color can be created with CMYK values. Rather than using the percentage of CMYK values, Pantone recreates colors from an 18-color palette. You can learn how to attain accurate spot colors for color precision here.
Picking Your Colors: A Graphic Designer’s Guide
When it comes to design, it’s not just about aesthetics. If anything, colors carry specific meaning and therefore it can influence mood, motivate call-to-action, and create personality. For example, green is not just green. It represents biophilia, environmental friendliness, and corporate responsibility. Hence, the sorcery of conveying emotion and communicating without words is a graphic designer’s superpower! If you’re just beginning your journey on colors, here are a couple of quick and useful tips to guide your way.
Choosing Between Warm and Cool Colors
Did you know that your demographics’ environmental-climate can affect the effectiveness of your design colors? In general, audiences that live in warm climates respond more positively to cool colors such as green and blue. In contrast, those who live in cold climates prefer warm colors such as yellow, red, and orange. As such, it is important to understand the context of attributes, personality, preferences, and cultural nuances of your color choice. Warm colors appeal to the extroverted while the introverted prefer cool colors. Another example of context adaptation is the use of the color red. While it’s an attention-grabbing color of warning in some cultures, red and orange represent prosperity, luck, and happiness in Chinese culture.
Creating a Color Scheme
If you’re a graphic designer looking to invent a brand, creating color schemes comes the part of the package. Professional color schemes include color combinations that exude harmony. One way to do this is the monochromatic technique. This means you use only one color but at different saturation. For example, matching dark red with pastel pink works because they belong to the same color family. If you’re looking to incorporate more colors, choose colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. For instance, different shades of green doeth go with blue hues. You can also pick colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel as they tend to complement each other.
Avoiding Color Clashes
Consider the color pairs red with purple, and pink with bronze. Not exactly appealing are they? Other than choosing the right colors with underlying symbolism, there are certain guidelines you can follow to ensure that your color scheme doesn’t clash. First and foremost, readability is an important element in the creation of all design pieces. In cases where you have text, ensure that you don’t use a jarring color (such as bright red), on a jarring background (such as bright blue). Naturally, choosing the right font and understanding the typography hierarchy is also as important. Another tip is to use neutral or pastel colors to balance out your design. Because, bear in mind that if you attempt to make everything stand out in a bright color, nothing will. You might just end up giving the audience a huge migraine instead!
Using Rainbow Colors As A Scheme
Using the rainbow color scheme for the right context can make a huge impact, but it’s not exactly corporate or professional. Trendy as it may be, you wouldn’t hire a law firm with a rainbow-colored to defend you. Unless, of course, you’re looking to sue on the grounds of LGBTQ rights! That said, multi-colored identities have become very popular in logo design as they exude a breath of vibrancy and freshness that motivates action. Rainbow colored logos have hence become very useful in design for the younger demographic such as children or teens. However, there are some ways to incorporate rainbow colors with a more professional corporate vibe. Tips include pairing bright colors with natural hues to create a balance, including textures, and utilizing gradients.
Wrapping It Up with a Rain-Bow
Colors speak louder than words! No matter if you’re looking to combine it all in a scheme or experiment with different saturation, rainbow colors are part of every graphic designer’s toolbox. That said, creating color schemes might seem fun, but it’s not exactly common sense. It’s not uncommon for you to find yourself struggling with making hue choices or running dry on inspiration. In cases like these, you might want to consider outsourcing your logo or animated video to a reliable and experienced designer. Because while words come and go in different languages, the visual impression your brand makes stick in your consumers’ minds for the long haul!