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How to Use Color Theory to Elevate Your Creative Projects

To the average person, color is probably just an unimportant visual detail of design. To an advertising artist, color is one of the most powerful tools they have at their disposal.

Unbeknownst to many, colors are the key to capturing a consumer's attention; they are the bridge that connects a project to its target audience.

Hopefully by the time you reach the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of what colors are, and how you can use color theory to elevate your projects to another level.

The Basics of Color Theory

Color theory is a topic big enough to fill an encyclopedia or two, but we can boil the essentials down to three fundamental categories: the color wheel, color harmony, and color relativity.

The Color Wheel

The color wheel is divided into three groups: primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors. Red, yellow, and blue are primary colors because they cannot be mixed or formed by any combination of other colors in traditional paints. The secondary colors of green, orange, and purple are achieved by mixing the primary colors.

Tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color with an adjacent secondary color. While they have unique names, you can also simply refer to a tertiary color by combining the names of what you mixed to create it (e.g. yellow-green instead of chartreuse, red-purple instead of magenta, etc.).

Color Harmony

Once you know the basics of the color wheel, you can employ color harmonies. These are common, established combinations of hues that create an instinctively attractive, satisfying color balance to the eye.

Complementary colors are any two colors opposite each other on the wheel. Analogous colors, meanwhile, are colors located right next to each other. Triadic and square schemes are colors in a trio and a quartet respectively, evenly spaced away from each other on the wheel.

A split complementary scheme is where a primary color is used with the two colors next to its complement. Finally, the rectangle scheme uses four colors arranged into two complementary pairs.

Color Relativity

Have you ever felt as though the color teal looks green when next to blue, and blue when it's next to green? The reason why is because of something that is referred to as color relativity, color context, or color interaction.

Simply put, it's how color behaves or seems in relation to other colors and shapes around it. You want to take the time to try and understand how people perceive color, so that you may work either within or around those visual tendencies.

If you're starting to feel like all this is causing a bit of information overload, fret not. It is a lot to process initially, which is why even experienced artists revisit these basics from time to time. The good news is that these principles stay the same, regardless of what you're working on.

Alternatively, you could use one of these apps to help you pick a color palette instead.

How Colors Just Might Change What You Think

There is a dedicated—albeit somewhat controversial—branch of study that focuses on how colors relate to human thought and behavior called color psychology. 

It has become commonplace amongst creatives to hold the belief that colors can subconsciously and consistently alter a person's perception of something (e.g. how an art connoisseur interprets a museum painting).

Some typical color associations include:

  • Red = passion, danger, anger, hunger
  • Blue = sadness, tranquility, trustworthiness
  • Yellow = optimism, youthfulness, humor
  • Green = growth, healing, jealousy, guilt
  • Orange = playfulness, friendliness, adventure
  • Purple = royalty, luxury, creativity

A 2006 study by Satyendra Singh did conclude that at least 62 percent of a consumer's assessment of a product is based on colors alone, but reputable sources on this topic are still few and far-between.

The masses seem unable to come to a unanimous decision as to whether or not any of the above is true. Nevertheless, artists are studying up anyway, presumably on the off-chance that there is some actual validity to this pseudoscience.

Is it possible to universally translate colors to specific feelings that are true for everyone? Maybe it would be safer to assume that one's feelings about color are deeply intertwined with their personal preferences, life experiences, and a multitude of other factors. Or perhaps there really is a set of rules that rings true for everybody that a lucky, observant designer could discover and exploit for unmatched success.

Either way, it's some food for thought worth keeping at the back of your mind whenever you move to create something.

How to Apply Color Theory to Creative Projects

When thinking about how you want your creative project to look, there are three things you need to clearly establish first: your project goal, your target audience, and your desired impression.

Think about the influence you want to have. Take a moment to ask yourself all of the questions that have to do with the message you're attempting to send to your audience:

  • What do you want this project to do?
  • Who are you trying to reach out to?
  • How do you want people to feel when they come across your project?

Both good designs and great designs are aesthetically pleasing, but the groundbreaking difference lies in the fact that the latter has built its visual appeal on a strong foundation of clean-cut intent. When you choose a color, a shape, or any other design element, try and think about why.

Examples of Color Theory in Action

Image Gallery (3 Images)

Let's look at some of the world's biggest brands to see this thought process in action.

In 2018, Coca-Cola stated that its iconic crimson hue was chosen because the brand wanted to distinguish itself from the alcoholic beverages sold in the mid-90s (alcohol was taxed, but soda was not).

The graphic designer behind the currently used Google logo, Ruth Kedar, claims that the company chose the chose primary colors of red, blue, and yellow because the team wanted to start with a recognizable pattern. The hint of green provided by the lowercase 'L' was to show that Google doesn't always follow the rules.

Related: How to Build an Online Brand as a Freelancer

We don't know for sure why Steve Jobs chose white for Apple, but we can make an educated guess. White is often associated with balance, minimalism, purity, and cleanliness; adjectives that are in line with his vision of sleek technological innovations. On top of that, many of the competing brands at the time of Apple's inception were very big on the color gray.

It's clear that sometimes it isn't just what you want to say but how you're going to say it. This is what makes design so important, and why color is worth thinking about at all times. Your project's objective should be what dictates your project's design direction. In need of inspiration? Here's a list of the best design podcasts to help spark your creativity.

Picking the Perfect Color Scheme

At the end of the day, there isn't a numbered step-by-step process nor a perfect formula to using color correctly. You can, however, learn about how color tends to work in order to create a more well-informed approach to the designs of your creative projects.

To summarize: Do your research, put a lot of thought into it, and don't be afraid to experiment.

Categories
News

How to Use Color Theory to Elevate Your Creative Projects

To the average person, color is probably just an unimportant visual detail of design. To an advertising artist, color is one of the most powerful tools they have at their disposal.

Unbeknownst to many, colors are the key to capturing a consumer's attention; they are the bridge that connects a project to its target audience.

Hopefully by the time you reach the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of what colors are, and how you can use color theory to elevate your projects to another level.

The Basics of Color Theory

Color theory is a topic big enough to fill an encyclopedia or two, but we can boil the essentials down to three fundamental categories: the color wheel, color harmony, and color relativity.

The Color Wheel

The color wheel is divided into three groups: primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors. Red, yellow, and blue are primary colors because they cannot be mixed or formed by any combination of other colors in traditional paints. The secondary colors of green, orange, and purple are achieved by mixing the primary colors.

Tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color with an adjacent secondary color. While they have unique names, you can also simply refer to a tertiary color by combining the names of what you mixed to create it (e.g. yellow-green instead of chartreuse, red-purple instead of magenta, etc.).

Color Harmony

Once you know the basics of the color wheel, you can employ color harmonies. These are common, established combinations of hues that create an instinctively attractive, satisfying color balance to the eye.

Complementary colors are any two colors opposite each other on the wheel. Analogous colors, meanwhile, are colors located right next to each other. Triadic and square schemes are colors in a trio and a quartet respectively, evenly spaced away from each other on the wheel.

A split complementary scheme is where a primary color is used with the two colors next to its complement. Finally, the rectangle scheme uses four colors arranged into two complementary pairs.

Color Relativity

Have you ever felt as though the color teal looks green when next to blue, and blue when it's next to green? The reason why is because of something that is referred to as color relativity, color context, or color interaction.

Simply put, it's how color behaves or seems in relation to other colors and shapes around it. You want to take the time to try and understand how people perceive color, so that you may work either within or around those visual tendencies.

If you're starting to feel like all this is causing a bit of information overload, fret not. It is a lot to process initially, which is why even experienced artists revisit these basics from time to time. The good news is that these principles stay the same, regardless of what you're working on.

Alternatively, you could use one of these apps to help you pick a color palette instead.

How Colors Just Might Change What You Think

There is a dedicated—albeit somewhat controversial—branch of study that focuses on how colors relate to human thought and behavior called color psychology. 

It has become commonplace amongst creatives to hold the belief that colors can subconsciously and consistently alter a person's perception of something (e.g. how an art connoisseur interprets a museum painting).

Some typical color associations include:

  • Red = passion, danger, anger, hunger
  • Blue = sadness, tranquility, trustworthiness
  • Yellow = optimism, youthfulness, humor
  • Green = growth, healing, jealousy, guilt
  • Orange = playfulness, friendliness, adventure
  • Purple = royalty, luxury, creativity

A 2006 study by Satyendra Singh did conclude that at least 62 percent of a consumer's assessment of a product is based on colors alone, but reputable sources on this topic are still few and far-between.

The masses seem unable to come to a unanimous decision as to whether or not any of the above is true. Nevertheless, artists are studying up anyway, presumably on the off-chance that there is some actual validity to this pseudoscience.

Is it possible to universally translate colors to specific feelings that are true for everyone? Maybe it would be safer to assume that one's feelings about color are deeply intertwined with their personal preferences, life experiences, and a multitude of other factors. Or perhaps there really is a set of rules that rings true for everybody that a lucky, observant designer could discover and exploit for unmatched success.

Either way, it's some food for thought worth keeping at the back of your mind whenever you move to create something.

How to Apply Color Theory to Creative Projects

When thinking about how you want your creative project to look, there are three things you need to clearly establish first: your project goal, your target audience, and your desired impression.

Think about the influence you want to have. Take a moment to ask yourself all of the questions that have to do with the message you're attempting to send to your audience:

  • What do you want this project to do?
  • Who are you trying to reach out to?
  • How do you want people to feel when they come across your project?

Both good designs and great designs are aesthetically pleasing, but the groundbreaking difference lies in the fact that the latter has built its visual appeal on a strong foundation of clean-cut intent. When you choose a color, a shape, or any other design element, try and think about why.

Examples of Color Theory in Action

Image Gallery (3 Images)

Let's look at some of the world's biggest brands to see this thought process in action.

In 2018, Coca-Cola stated that its iconic crimson hue was chosen because the brand wanted to distinguish itself from the alcoholic beverages sold in the mid-90s (alcohol was taxed, but soda was not).

The graphic designer behind the currently used Google logo, Ruth Kedar, claims that the company chose the chose primary colors of red, blue, and yellow because the team wanted to start with a recognizable pattern. The hint of green provided by the lowercase 'L' was to show that Google doesn't always follow the rules.

Related: How to Build an Online Brand as a Freelancer

We don't know for sure why Steve Jobs chose white for Apple, but we can make an educated guess. White is often associated with balance, minimalism, purity, and cleanliness; adjectives that are in line with his vision of sleek technological innovations. On top of that, many of the competing brands at the time of Apple's inception were very big on the color gray.

It's clear that sometimes it isn't just what you want to say but how you're going to say it. This is what makes design so important, and why color is worth thinking about at all times. Your project's objective should be what dictates your project's design direction. In need of inspiration? Here's a list of the best design podcasts to help spark your creativity.

Picking the Perfect Color Scheme

At the end of the day, there isn't a numbered step-by-step process nor a perfect formula to using color correctly. You can, however, learn about how color tends to work in order to create a more well-informed approach to the designs of your creative projects.

To summarize: Do your research, put a lot of thought into it, and don't be afraid to experiment.

Categories
News

The 5 Best Photo Collage Apps for Android and iOS | MakeUseOf

Thanks to smartphones and their excellent cameras, most people are taking more photos now than ever before. And if you want to consolidate your best photos, whether serious shots of the great outdoors or silly shots of your downtime, these photo collage apps will help.

1. Canva

Image Gallery (3 Images)

In January 2012, Melanie Perkins made quite a splash in the graphic design scene. She founded Canva, a graphic design platform committed to providing your average person with the tools to easily create professional designs. And the numbers speak for themselves.

In the first year alone, the app garnered over 750,000 users thanks to the range of things you can create with Canva.

While the online graphics editor is by far the most popular amongst its users, Canva's mobile counterpart is not something to be ignored. Advertised as a platform you can use to "design anything," putting collages together is just one item on its resume that it does extremely well.

Upon pressing the Photo Collage option on the main screen, you will be given the choice to start with a blank canvas, or get a head start on your design by choosing one of the 60,000 ready-made templates. It takes only a moment to create and edit beautiful photos, videos, logos, posters, mood boards, and more.

Related: How to Brainstorm With Simple Mood Boards

You'll need to sign up for a Canva account to use the app, and some of the more advanced features are locked behind a subscription of $12.95/month.

Download: Canva for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

2. Layout

Image Gallery (3 Images)

Perhaps you're the type of person who doesn't need all the bells and whistles. If so, then Layout is exactly what you're looking for.

It's quick, simple, and straight to the point. Pick photos straight out of your camera roll or take new photos on the fly right there in the app, then select your favorite layout from the ones available. You can make use of the very handy Faces feature, which allows you to quickly select the photos that have people in them.

As Layout was brought to mobile by the same team behind Instagram, you can use Instagram's filters and tools directly on your collages.

Related: How Instagram Filters Work

After that, the process of sharing them to your social media accounts or saving them to your gallery is seamless. In case you're in a hurry to get your hands on the basic stuff, you can stop your search now, as you don't need to sign up to use this app.

Download: Layout for Android| iOS (Free)

3. Unfold

Image Gallery (3 Images)

Unfold was created to fill a void that international architect Alfonso Cobo found when he was searching for a sleek photography portfolio app to use for an upcoming career fair. He enlisted the help of multi-disciplinary entrepreneur Andy McCune to create one when he couldn't find one that he liked.

The pair launched their creation in January 2018, and all eyes were on them almost immediately. Google named Unfold as one of the best apps of that year, and Apple proclaimed the very same for 2019. Despite little to no marketing at the time, Unfold managed to capture the attention of some big names in the entertainment industry, such as Camila Cabello, Ashley Tisdale, and Alicia Keys.

Unfold has a sizable library of over 200 filters, backgrounds, fonts, stickers, and templates that range from simple to eccentric. While free to download, you will have to pay for a membership to Unfold+ ($2.99/year) or Unfold for Brands ($99.99/year) for access to the full collection of tools that the app has to offer.

Download: Unfold for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

4. PicCollage

Image Gallery (3 Images)

The straight shooter of this list, PicCollage does precisely what its name suggest, and with absolute ease. The app provides you with just about everything you would need for traditional scrapbooking, such as patterned backgrounds, fonts, stickers, and doodle pens.

You can also add images from the web and (if you're looking for a more modern twist) smooth transitional animations.

PicCollage has comfortably moved up and down within the Top 20 Photo & Video apps on the App Store for quite some time now, and it's easy to see why. It has what's probably the largest selection of design options available for free in comparison to rival apps.

You have the option to subscribe to PicCollage Premium for $4.99/month or $35.99/year. Either way, you will have access to enhanced features, and both advertisements on the app and watermarks at the bottom of your collages will be removed.

Download: PicCollage for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

5. MOLDIV

Image Gallery (3 Images)

JellyBus Inc. is a mobile media company that has been dedicated to creating powerful, easy-to-use photo and video apps for its users since 2009. It only makes sense that its all-in-one editor should get some time in the spotlight.

MOLDIV has a lot to brag about. There are over 400 collage and magazine frames ready for you to choose from right at your fingertips. Its photo editing feature alone has 180 filters and textures, 300 fonts, 560 stickers, 92 background patterns, and an impressive array of professional tools.

Related: The Best Free Photo Editing Apps on iPhone

And as if that wasn't enough, videos can also be filmed in-app with filters applied live, and you can add ready-made graphics as soon as you're done recording.

A shop inside the app offers a series of packs with varied prices that you can purchase to expand your photo editing options, and remove ads and watermarks.

Download: MOLDIV for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)

Mix Your Photos Together With Style

Putting a photo collage together is one of the best ways to reminisce about your most special moments. The feeling of taking a memory and elevating it to something better, or even turning it into a whole new creation entirely, is so incredibly satisfying.

Whether you prefer a minimalist vibe or feel the urge to crowd your photos with playful decals, it's all about making something that you like the look of.

Be sure to explore all the editing options available to you so that you can look back upon past life events with a smile even wider than it would have been otherwise.