The Most Basic Color Guide for Designers

Label:CMYK, RGB Mode, Color Matching

Nov 12, 20214260

The Most Basic Color Guide for Designers

As an important part of design, color sometimes even determines the final presentation of a design and even the market competitiveness of a brand's vision. But often the color is also the most troublesome part, because there is not much method to base on, it will eventually become a kind of sensory training. This time we tried to refine some methods and ideas for exploration by disassembling the basic principles of color.


Basic Knowledge of Color




Hue refers to the external phase of color, which is the different colors that human eyes perceive under the irradiation of light. There are six basic hues: red, yellow, orange, green, blue, and purple. Arrange the colors of these different hues in order to get the hue circle, referred to as the color circle.





Saturation refers to the purity of a color, also known as purity or chroma. The higher the saturation, the more vivid the color, while black, white, and gray belong to no color, so the purity is 0.




Lightness refers to the degree of lightness and darkness of a color. In achromatic colors, white has the highest brightness and black has the lowest brightness. Among colors, yellow has the highest brightness and purple has the lowest brightness.


RGB Color Mode


It is an additive color model that adds the color lights of the three primary colors of red, green, and blue in different proportions to synthesize and generate various color lights. The more three colors are superimposed, the brighter the color, so it is also called additive color mode. This is a color model that depends very much on the device. The color materials (fluorescent agent or fuel) of different devices have different response levels to colors, so different display devices will have "color difference".


RGB Color Mode

CMYK Color Mode


It is a color model that mixes four color inks of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to form color printing. The more the four colors are superimposed, the darker the color, so it is also called subtractive color mode. Compared to RGB, its color gamut is not so wide.



Spot Color


Refers to the color of a specific ink mixture. Ink manufacturers will pre-adjust to find a specific color that meets expectations. All spot colors have a specific color number, which can be found in the color card. For example, Pantone, DIC, etc. have their own special color cards.


Color Matching Methods


Color matching is not just a combination of colors. Many times we say that the color matching is not harmonious, but it is not the fault of the color itself. The color itself is not good or bad, but refers to the inharmonious relationship between the color and the color combination, or the color does not match the content that the design wants to convey, and so on. This is a very complex relationship issue rather than a single right and wrong question.


The methods summarized below are based on the principle of dealing with relationships. These relationships are not an unbreakable rule, but make us able to create unique color relationships in your own works when we are at a loss for color matching.


Positional Relation


The same set of colors has very different effects. It is very likely that the problem lies in the proportional relationship. Before determining the ratio, we first need to arrange different roles for different colors just like the director arranges the roles.


Main color: The color that determines the tone of the color, and usually has the largest area.


Auxiliary color: the name implies the color of the auxiliary screen, and the selection logic is different for different purposes. You can choose the same color or adjacent colors to increase the sense of natural harmony, or you can choose complementary or contrasting colors to increase the visual tension. The proportion of the auxiliary color is usually smaller than that of the main color.


Embellishment color: The embellishment color can be a contrasting color to emphasize information, or a similar color can increase the level of the picture. The relationship between embellishment colors and auxiliary colors can sometimes be interchanged.


Strong and Weak


After clarifying the hue and proportion, if the picture color is still not harmonious or not up to expectations, you need to adjust the strength and weakness relationship of the color, that is, the brightness relationship.


Strong and Weak

Some Useful Tips


Emotional Information


Red is one of the most noticeable colors. Red stimulates our vision to the greatest extent and can cause our excited emotional response. It is widely used in various industries. Typical cases include Coca-Cola, KFC, Pizza Hut, Nintendo, etc.


Yellow represents vitality, sunshine, optimism, hope and other characteristics. Compared with red, yellow is a bit less popular, but it is more peaceful than red, and it is by no means unattractive. Typical cases include McDonald's and Ferrari. Yellow also has an eye-catching and warning effect. For example, school buses, traffic warning signs, and warning lines are all yellow.


Green is the shortest wavelength pair in the spectrum, which is the most relaxed color. Representing the characteristics of nature, harmony, growth, and tranquility, green is a neutral color, which is more balanced and harmonious than other colors, and it can also make people associate with nature and life. Typical cases include Starbucks and so on.


Blue represents the characteristics of calm, reliability, rigor, and freshness. It reminds people of the sky and the sea. It is often used in technology companies and financial institutions to give people a sense of security and trust. Typical cases are Intel, HP, Dell, IBM, etc. Blue is a cool color, sometimes it feels cold.


Industry's Color Matching


For example, the pharmaceutical industry often chooses blue and green, because blue and green give people a sense of calm and security, which is in line with the professional and safe emotional message that drugs hope to convey.


The reason why the food industry tends to seldom use dark blue or purple is because these colors often have associated associations with food spoilage or toxic, so they are usually more willing to choose high-saturation candy colors, vibrant orange, bright yellow, or healthy green and so on.