Visual element of Graphic Design: Colour

In this article I'm going to discuss the second key visual and discuss colour as a visual element in graphic design. So colour plays one of the biggest roles in graphic design, it can give emphasis it can be used as a mechanism of the organization, it can create impact and create a specific look and feel in a piece of graphic design work.

When working with colour it helps to have a good knowledge of colour theory.

colour, beginners guide, graphic design, visual element

Colour theory provides us with practical guidance to help us mix colours and create interesting colour combinations and it all starts with the colour wheel. The colour wheel is a really useful tool designed to help us choose colours that work well together.

So this here is the red, yellow, blue colour model which consists of 12 colours.

12 colours - colour wheel - colour spectrum
colour wheel and colour spectrum

Now if we jump onto the Adobe colour website we can see this colour wheel as more of a spectrum. This is an amazing resource to explore and create colour schemes. The address for this website is I'll be referring to this website later in this article but for now to help explain colour theory I'll use this simple example.

So the colour wheel consists of primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary colours and these can be split into warm and cool colours. So let's take a look at each of these.

First is primary colours. Primary colours make up the basis for the colour wheel here they are red, yellow and blue.

Next are the secondary colours. Secondary colours are made by mixing equal portions of the primary colours, these create green, orange and purple.

Next are the tertiary colours. Tertiary colours are made by mixing a primary colour with a neighboring secondary colour, for example if we mix the yellow with the orange we get a yellow orange colour in between. If we continue to mix the primary and neighbouring colours, we fill the gaps and get the remaining tertiary colours.

Now if we separate the colour wheel we get two categories, warm and cool colours. On the right we have the warm colours, these incorporate the red, violet colours through to yellow. On the left we have cool colours, these incorporate the colours yellow through to indigo.

So that completes the colour wheel. Now this is a really useful tool designed to help us choose color schemes. To help us choose interesting colour combinations that have harmony together or create contrast there are some colour rules we can explore.

colour examples
colour examples

These colour rules are referred to as:

  • Monochromatic colours,
  • Analogous colours,
  • Complementary colours, and
  • Triadic colours.

So first we have monochromatic colours.

Monochromatic colours are shades and tints of the same colour. The monochromatic colour scheme is typically balance and easy on the eye. Now if we jump onto the Adobe color website at we can see some of these colour rules on the left if I click on monochromatic, it will generate a monochromatic colour scheme below.

Now if I click and drag the middle colour circle in the spectrum and toggle the otherit will generate new schemes.

Next we have analogous colours.

Analogous colours are those found close to each other on the colour wheel. Analogous colours typically always work well together since they have similar origins. Like the monochromatic colors they are also balance but typically more interesting as these colours have more contrast.

This time on the Adobe colour website if I click on Analogous it will generate an analogous color scheme. If I click and drag the middle circle it will generate new schemes. Notice all the colours are similar to each other.

Next we have complementary colours.

Complementary colours are those found on opposite ends of the colour wheel. Complementary colors have high contrast which produce vibrant exciting colour schemes, as implied complementary colors enhance each other and typically always work well together.

Back on the Adobe colour website if I click on complementary it will generate a complementary colour scheme. If I click and drag the middle circle it will generate new schemes.

Finally we have Triadic colours.

Triadic colours are those spaced equally on the colour wheel. Triadic colours typically produce vibrant effects. Back on the Adobe colour website if I click on triadic it will generate a triadic color scheme. If I click and drag the middle circle it will generate new schemes.

So those are some rules you can keep in mind when exploring colours. That is the second key visual element in graphic design.

Well I hope you enjoyed this article. The next visual element is 'Shape' in the next article I'm going to be talking about shape as a visual element in graphic design.

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Dafi Deff DFX Animotion Hi! Saya Dafi Deff, Motion Graphics Designer di kota Makassar yang berasal dari Banda Naira. Saya menggunakan After Effects dan Cinema 4D dalam bekerja. Saya juga membuat dan menulis di blog dan

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