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Color Theory Essentials for Designers

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While many of you may be graphic designers who studied graphic design software programs and computer graphics, the basics of fine art color theory are essential knowledge tools that can assist you within every aspect of your career goals; whether computer graphics, desktop publishing, web design, graphic arts, etc. Color theory involves all aspects of design, whether website design or painting. While web design doesn’t require the fine art skill that painting does, it will require that the designer understand basic visual patterns and effects.
Basic color theory can have a major impact on any one person’s reaction to a website, graphic piece or printed piece. In this article I am going to cover the basic color combinations most appropriate for text and websites. Any and every designer, digital or fine art, should understand the fundamental theories of color combinations, while they also apply it in each one of their creations. Believe me, you’ll be surprised at how useful this information will lend itself once you begin designing! After you master these basic fundamental theories for color and color design, you will have a hard time remembering how you ever designed without taking into consideration color combinations and effects.

Primary Colors: Red, Green and Blue
These three colors can be combined to make almost every color you can imagine. Acrylic painters often only need to buy these three tubes of acrylic paint in order to create their art.

Combining the three primary colors in different amounts and proportions will give you varying levels of colors.

Secondary Colors are made by combining only two of the primary colors…Cyan, yellow and magenta.

Additive colors: Red, green and blue…Why?
As you add color to them they turn more white. This is how a computer works with additive colors. But, color printed on paper is different because computers use light, the color turns more white, but printed color on paper use pigment like toner, dye or ink. These types of colors absorb light and reflect other colors.

Subtractive Colors: Cyan, yellow and magenta…Why?
As you add more color pigment to these, they become darker as they are subtract light and reflect the color coming from a flat piece of paper emitting no light like a computer screen does.
There are fundamental theories involved with hue, saturation and brightness that do not directly relate to Photoshop…But, I’ll cover those aspects in the second part of this color theory series.