Colors and Psychology: Color circle

Today I want to talk ablut color psychology, symbolism of colors and how we might see colors.

Everybody sees colors in a different way. Some are talking about a very light blue, while others see the same color as a light purple. That’s why it is so difficult for graphic designers to fullfill the color wishes of their customers. Everbody knows it: “I want a very happy green for my website” and then they show you an example of this happy green which turns out to be the backside of some dried leaves. It is a way to see things.


This is not our business today, we will be dealing with color reception on a more general, social, historic or religious level

As a start I have some color circles for you.

color circles:

Most of you will know these circles from art class at school. We used to mix the so called basic colors: red, blue and yellow. They are called basic colors, since we can’t create them by mixing colors.

Colorpsychology: basic color circle with red-blue-yellow
basic color circle with red-blue-yellow

It is getting really cool, when you start to mix colors.To mix them in an equal ration, like really 50:50 red and yellow to create a wonderful orange, I really never mangaged to do in art class. Today with Illustrator it is easy. So here is a color circle mixing two colors in the equal ration:

Color circle: secondary colors
Color circle: secondary colors

You can also easily understand the idea of “complementary colors”, which are colors right on the otherside, the opposite side of the color circle and which, let me quote my art teacher from highschool: “enhance each others glowing”. Well said M’am.
You will find complementary colors in all different kind of color circles.
In this one it is: red-green, yellow-violett, blue-orage. If we would change all these complementary couples into gray scale, we wouldn’t be able to see a difference, since all have similar contrast.

We can enhance the color circle by adding next to the secondary colors more colors. Secondary colors get mixed by basic colors in ratio 1:1, and tertiary colors are mixed e.g. in ratio 25:75 or 75:25.

Color circle: tertiary colors
Color circle: tertiary colors

I have to admit: this is a color circle that could get me drunk, just by watching it.

But we designers are a bit special, we are not sitting around and using the good old color box, we create our work via color modes like RGB or CMYK.
I could not resist and I had to create color circles for these systems to. Maybe you ask yourself: “Why”. Just have a look and you can already see how different colors can appear. I have added the ratio next to the colors. I have skipped black at CMYK. Black or keycolor is also used to add shadows to a picture. .

RGB color circle

RGB color circle
RGB color circle

Really glowing! You can easily understand why we are tallking about colors of light.

 

 RGB color circle – secondary colors
RGB color circle – secondary colors
 RGB color circle – tertiary colors
RGB color circle – tertiary colors

 

 

CYMK color circle

And here the CMYK color circle for primary, secondary and tertiary region:

 CMYK color circle – primary colors
CMYK color circle – primary colors

You can easily recognize the difference between CMYK and RGB colors, just by watching the primary colors. It is because of the different color space: RGB is the so called additive colors or light colors – all colors will add to white light in the end. CMYK can be compared to the good old color box at school, they are called substractive colors, and all colors mixed will be black. Hands up, who ever managed to do this with his color box: I mean getting black? I never managed, just something muddy, strange, brownish whatever. But it is possible, theoretically.

CMYK color circle – secondary colors
CMYK color circle – secondary colors

Secondary CMYK-colors are mixed 50:50, and the tertiary colors are mixed e.g. 50% Cyan and 100% Magenta, which makes a lovely violett.
Yes and I couldn’t resist to set up a color circle in the 4th dimension = mixing colors 25%:75%.

 

CMYK color circle – tertiary colors
CMYK color circle – tertiary colors
CMYK color circle – the 4th dimension
CMYK color circle – the 4th dimension

 

As a start you got an impression of the different appearances of colors. When talking about color psychology it doesn’t matter which color space you will be using. We also won’t talk so much about gradation, not a very very tender green or lovely vanilla yellow. It is more the all in all direction.
But it is important to talk about color psychology e.g. in webdesign or graphic-design, since colors are emotional. You can create emotions by using the right or wrong colors. Some colors work for some brand and not so well for other brands.

to be continued next week

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