Colour theory gives you the definitive guide to color so that you can print your designs clearly

To understand the processes of color matching for your fabric printing project we first want to explain the basics of color theory.

Creating aesthetically pleasing prints often begins or ends with color. Evoke emotions and creativity with color and color palettes.

What is Color Theory?

Yes, it’s another rule book – the introduction to colour theory. But where would we be without guidelines? Colour theory is like a textbook that outlines all the points designers need to use color effectively. It’s a collection of information about color: how we see color, the psychology of different shades, how color is different according to our cultures and much more.

Developed many years ago, this concept is a science and art unto itself; it puts color into perspective and gives it a structure.

Look at it as the collection of rules and guidelines which designers use to communicate with users through appealing color schemes in visual interfaces.

Why you need to know about color 

Research has shown the importance of color choices when it comes to marketing your brand. In fact, “People decide whether or not they like a product in 90 seconds or less. 90% of that decision is based solely on color,” according to the online graphic design marketplace 99designs

That’s why you need to worry about color in your small business! Having a background in this concept can help your marketing; it can help build your brand and get more sales. All you need is the basic know-how about colors, color schemes and which color works best when it comes to evoking specific feelings. 

Positive reactions based on the color scheme will make your brand stand out and help you sell your products. For instance, we associate yellow with happiness and blue with dependability (think about how many banks and insurance companies have blue logos!). That’s where this theory comes in…

Let us help you brand your company – read on and find out all about color theory.

What exactly is color?

We all perceive color in a specific way. We learn that early in Imagine you’re looking at a stretch of green grass. Your eyes send information to your brain telling us that the grass is green.

That's how the light reflects the light waves. Every color has different combinations of light waves, which we translate into specific colors. 

We create different colors by mixing wavelengths or light waves of different intensities, for instance red and yellow make orange, blue and yellow green, and so on. We get bright colors by adding more light.

Now imagine you’re in a store looking for a tin of cold drink. How do your eyes land on the Coke tin? It’s because it's a red tin. Coke sells billions of cans with its iconic red and white brand colors.

The Basics of Color Theory

A discipline about color was first developed by Sir Isaac Newton in the year 1666. Since his first creation, the color wheel has changed over time; modern versions feature several variations.

The colour theory behind the wheel? It contains pure colors that build the basis of all colors. You can change each color on the wheel by mixing it with white, black, or black and white.

It’s important to understand exactly how the color wheel works. And you need to know which colors harmonise together, and which colors don’t. Let’s take a look…

Interpreting the color wheel

The wheel is a set of color rules that help us understand how different colors behave and interact with each other. 

There are three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. We combine these colors to make secondary colors. So, blue and yellow make green, red and yellow make orange and red and blue make purple (we create these colors created by mixing those primary colors together). There are also 6 tertiary colors. We create these shades by combining primary and secondary colors. They include blue-green, red-violet and others.

If you draw a line down the middle of the color wheel image, you’ll find warm and cool colors. Notice that the warm colors (orange, red and yellow) are on one side, and the cool colors (purple, greens and blues) are on the other side.

Now here’s something you may not know: color has a temperature. So we divide the wheel into cool and warm colors. Think about the psychology of color. You'll notice that warmer colors are equated with energy, movement and brightness, while cooler colors symbolise calm and tranquillity. Now you can imagine how you can change your brand’s message to paint a picture by using a specific set of colors!

colour theory explained

Hue, tint, shade and tone

The 4 elements of hues, tones, tints and shades make up the 4 basic parameters for colors. By combining them we are able to create a limitless amount of colors. Check this out…

·      Hue: It’s another word for ‘color’ and it explains the different colors we find on the color wheel. 

·      Tint: This is a color on the wheel that has white added to it. For example, purple and white make lavender and red and white make pink.

·      Shade:  Here we have a hue where black has been added to a color on the color wheel. A shade is a dark version of an original color. So, a combination of black and blue will give navy blue. 

·      Tone: This particular hue is a color on the color wheel which has had black and white (which make gray) to it. Adding white and black results in a muted, less intense tone of the original color. In this example, if you blend red and grey, you will get a muted, dull red.

A color scheme for patterns and designs

The colour combinations you use to create a design or pattern will change the way your customers perceive your product or brand. Let’s take a look at the different color scheme options, so that you can make patterns that will be particularly appealing:

·      Analogous colors: These colors sit next to each other on the color wheel, for example purple, blue and green or yellow, orange and red. This maximises the contrast between the colors.

·      Complementary colors: These are contrasting, opposite colors on the color wheel, examples would be red and green or yellow and purple. We usually use 2 complementary colors.

·      Monochramatic colors: This is where you take one color, or hue, and make other shades or tints from it. 

·      Split complementary color scheme: These colors are created by adding colors from either side on the color wheel of the 2 complementary colors you have chosen. This will soften the contrast between the two complementary colors.

·      Square colors: Similar to tetradic colors (see below), this color scheme involves 4 colors that are evenly set apart on the color wheel, approximately 90 degrees apart. This color mix works well when you use all 4 colors evenly.

·      Tetradic colors: This color scheme involves 4 color ways – 2 sets of complementary colors, for example yellow, orange, blue and violet. Creations made from these colors will be rich and unique.

·      Triadic colors: These 3 bright, dramatic colors are equidistant on the color wheel, ie about 120 degrees apart. When you use triadic colors together, they offer high contrast and create a harmonious accent. This color scheme creates extremely appealing designs.

What to look out for when combining colors together

It’s very important that you use colour theories to get the right colour mix so that your designs, logo’s etc are appealing to your target audience. 

1.     When it comes to color, we do this through contrast. If the contrast is correct, your audience will be attracted to your product. 

2.     Vibrancy is very important. The color you choose needs to create a positive emotional response. The more vibrant the colour, the more likely you are to achieve the response. Of course, you do need to know your target audience at the outset to get the right response.

3.     Take color-blindedness into account. Many people are color blind and don’t see red and green color the way they really are. 

4.     Think about the culture of your audience. Make sure that the color has positive associations for your audience. Color has very different meanings. It’s important to know about colors, particularly how people see them in Eastern and Western cultures. For instance, Chinese people consider red to mean good fortune, while Americans associate the color with danger.

How to create harmony in your design or logo

Colour theory teaches us the science of color. It also gives us a background in the art of how using color effectively. This article already explains how humans perceive color and how we can mix colors together to create different effects.

But it’s also important to understand the effects different colors have on each other. Harmony involves blending warm and cool colors to reflect your message and depict your brand’s personality.

Designers often use the additive color models for visual designs; this involves the 3 primary colors: red, blue and green. They use this color model to create the design that will appeal to the audience. They also do this so so that they can use design extensively. 

Your end goal when it comes to color and color theory is to use color to reflect the personality of your brand and also to get a positive reaction from your target audience. 

The primary color settings 

There are 2 basic primary color settings – RGB and CMYK. 

·      RGB: Color is an essential part of human-computer interaction. We make RGB from 3 primary colors – blue, green and red, which are the colours we see on our computer, TV and mobile phone screens. We also combine those RGB colors to create other colors that we see on our screens. Remember: we always use RGB colors for screens.

·      CMYK: We make these colors using a combination of 4 primary colors - cyan magenta yellow and black (key). Printers mostly use CMYK – we use this setting for signage, magazines, printing on fabrics etc. The reason is simple: you can make other color combinations on fabric using those 4 colors. CMYK printing is how colors print bold, clear and vibrant.

Why is Color Important for Fabric Printing?

Our eye can see billions of colors. Your screen can display millions. The best fabric printer can make thousands.

So, when it comes to designing your ideal fabrics for your project or company, choosing the right color can make or break your printing results. 

Setting up your design files with the correct color settings will definitely affect the way the color may print. You’ll find out how to do that on our website when you upload a file for printing.

How to use the maake Color Atlas

We created our iconic color atlas using more than 2,400 colors and their color codes. We have designed this atlas to fit on 1m of fabric so that you can see exactly how you will see a particular color when we print it on fabric. 

The color atlas gives designers the opportunity to select particular colors to use when printing patterns. It is essential for color matching and color selection. 

Once you have done your color matching and selection, we always recommend that customers get a sample print from our color sample book. It features swatches of our 80 base fabrics that you can print on. Order a sample of your design to see exactly what the design and color choice will look like on your choice of fabric once we have printed it. 

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