After going through the most basic elements of graphic design, we arrived at colour. In setting up a mood, this is the most important element of design. You can draw great black and white sketches, but just lines won’t have such a great effect. Shapes are a little bit different. I didn’t mention it in the last post, but obviously shapes have some kind of color, and that makes them different.
So what is colour? It’s light. It’s simple right? When white light contacts with a surface, the given surface will absorb and reflect some of the light. And depending on how much light does it reflect, its colour will differ. We perceive colour differently because of the wavelength of light. This is everywhere around us. For example we see the sky blue, because the reds are absorbed and shorter, blue light waves can make it through the atmosphere. But at a dusty sunset, or sunrise, blue light gets absorbed easily, while the longer red waves can travel through a greater distance, making the sky orange, or red. Well this is simplified, but it works basically this way.
So every surface absorbs and reflects light. The two opposite side of the spectrum is black (which absorbs everything) and white (which reflects everything). I’m sure that everybody experienced the effects of colours and lights – if you’re on a sunny place, you feel happy, and everything is cheerful. Also the human body reflects to happiness with a similar reflects: if you feel love very strongly, then your pupils will dilate, so your eye can receive more light, and then everything will seem more bright and happy. Now in a dark place you’ll feel uptight or scared. Or looking at a dark picture can make you anxious. Like the picture below, it is beautiful and frightening at the same time.
Colour has four dimensions, which we have to talk about (and you’ll find these in softwares like Photoshop). The first one is hue. Hue is the name we give a colour. The most basic ones are red, yellow and blue, these are the primary colours, and they cannot be reproduced by mixing other colours. When you mix these colours in the same amount, you get a secondary colour (green, orange, purple). The colours have some basic effects and they create different moods. Searching google you can find countless description of this, so I won’t talk about it.
The second dimension is value. This is the amount of light and dark in a colour, or hue. For example if you mix white into a primary red colour, you get a tint of the red, and if you mix some black into it, you’ll get a shade of red. But some colours inherently have more tints or shades (for example blue is a darker colour by itself, so there’s more tint of blue than shade). Value is also relative in relation to anything else. For example the same shade of a colour can seem darker when surrounded by black colours, and it can seem lighter when surrounded with bright colours.
Intensity is the measure of a colour’s saturation. You can lower a hue’s intensity by adding some gray colour to it, or adding a complement colour (the opposite colour on the colour wheel). A valued color is also less intense. A hue mixed with gray colour is called a tone. Lowering the saturation of a colour can drastically change its mood (a lively, vivid hue is more energetic, while a darker, saturated tone of the same hue is more melancholic).
The last dimension is temperature. There are warm colours (orange, red) and cold colours (blue, green), and they can also change the mood of a picture or a scene (red colours are more aggressive and passionate, blue ones are calming).
Now lastly we can mention the relations between the colour wheel: we can call analogous colors the ones that are close to each other. Complementary colours are positioned the opposite side. Split complementary is a variation of the complementary (and it takes the colours on the two side of one opposite). Triadic colour scheme is three colours placed equally apart from each other.
Next time we’ll finish discussing the basic elements of design, and we’ll talk about textures and patterns.