Selecting colours & creating colour palettes in UX & Product Design

The mystery of how to choose colours in digital design is unravelled here by the use of some basic principles, tools & tricks

Colours and Hues

Hue defines the primary color family such as red, blue, yellow, purple etc.

Understanding color harmony and knowing how to mix hues can unlock a whole new level of creativity. Finding colors that go well together is essential to achieving the desired look.

In this article, we'll delve into the secrets of color harmony and provide you with practical tips on mixing hues to create stunning combinations. Get ready to discover your own unique style and add a splash of visual appeal to your surroundings.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understanding color harmony is crucial for creating visually pleasing combinations.
  • Color psychology and theory play a significant role in determining how different colors work together.
  • Experiment with various color combinations, including monochromatic, harmonious, and bold contrasting schemes.
  • Apply the principles of color theory, such as complementary and analogous colors, to achieve balanced palettes.
  • Let your creativity shine by embracing the world of color and defining the colours your target market will respond well to

Understanding Colour Psychology and Theory

Building a solid foundation in colour psychology and theory is essential to unlock the secrets of colour harmony. In this section, we will delve into the psychology behind different colours and explore how they affect our emotions and perceptions. Understanding the impact of colours on our mood and behavior can help us make informed decisions when combining them.

Moreover, we will explore the fundamental principles of colour theory. This theory provides a framework for understanding how colours relate to each other and how they can be combined to create aesthetically pleasing compositions. Key concepts such as complementary, analogous, and triadic colour schemes will be discussed, offering valuable insights into harmonious colour combinations.

The Psychology of Colours

Colours have a profound impact on our emotions and can evoke specific feelings or associations. By understanding the psychological effects of different colours, we can harness their power to create desired atmospheres. Here are a few examples:

  • Red: Often associated with passion, energy, and excitement.
  • Blue: Known for its calming and soothing effects, promoting a sense of tranquility.
  • Green: Symbolizes nature, growth, and balance, creating a harmonious and refreshing ambiance.
  • Yellow: Conveys optimism and happiness, adding a vibrant and energetic touch to spaces.

The Principles of Colour Theory

Colour theory provides a systematic approach to combining colours harmoniously. By understanding these principles, we can create visually appealing compositions. Here are the key concepts:

  1. Complementary colours: These are colours that are opposite to each other on the colour wheel, such as red and green or blue and orange. Combining complementary colours creates a dynamic and visually striking effect.
  3. Analogous colours: These are colours that are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel, such as blue and green or yellow and orange. Analogous colour schemes create a harmonious and cohesive look.
  5. Triadic colours: These are colours that are evenly spaced on the colour wheel, such as red, yellow, and blue. Triadic colour schemes offer a balanced and vibrant combination.

Starting with the brand colour for this website #84cacc, I used the Coolors colour tool to show:

By understanding the psychology of colours and the principles of colour theory, you can make informed decisions when selecting and combining colours in various contexts, be it in interior design, fashion, or visual art. Let's now explore different colour combinations to see these concepts in action.

Exploring Different Colour Combinations

Now that you have a basic understanding of colour psychology and theory, it's time to unleash your creativity and put that knowledge into practice. In this section, I'll guide you through various colour combinations, showcasing examples of successful pairings and offering insights on how to create your own unique combinations.

Monochromatic Schemes

A monochromatic colour scheme involves using different shades, tints, and tones of a single colour. It creates a harmonious and elegant look that is easy to pull off. Experiment with different intensities of your chosen colour to add depth and visual interest to your designs.

Harmonious Choices

Harmonious colour combinations involve selecting colours that are adjacent to each other on the colour wheel. These combinations create a sense of cohesion and balance. Look for colours that share a similar undertone or have a subtle contrast to create a harmonious palette that speaks to your personal style.

Bold and Contrasting Options

If you're feeling adventurous, try out bold and contrasting colour combinations. This involves pairing colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel, such as blue and orange or red and green. These combinations create a striking visual impact and can add excitement and energy to your designs.

Remember, when mixing colours, it's best to start with a base colour and then gradually add in other colours to create a balanced and cohesive look. Don't be afraid to experiment and trust your instincts. By exploring different colour combinations, you'll discover endless possibilities and uncover unique ways to express your creativity.

I used the colorhexa tool to generate the below based again on my brand colour of 84cacc:


How can I work out which colors go well together?

To work out what colors go together well, you can use color harmony principles. One approach is to use complementary colors, which are opposite each other on the color wheel. Another option is to select colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel for an analogous color scheme. You can also experiment with triadic color schemes by choosing three colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel. Additionally, consider using color theory principles such as the 60-30-10 rule, which involves using a dominant color for 60% of the space, a secondary color for 30%, and an accent color for 10%.

How can I mix hues effectively?

Mixing hues effectively involves understanding color theory and experimenting with different combinations. Start by familiarizing yourself with the basic color wheel and primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. You can mix hues by combining different amounts of primary colors to create secondary colors, or by mixing secondary colors with each other or with primary colors to create tertiary colors. It's important to keep in mind the color properties, such as hue, saturation, and value, to achieve the desired results. Practice mixing colors on a palette or using digital color mixing tools to develop your skills.

Can color psychology influence which colors I choose?

Color psychology suggests that different colors can evoke specific emotions and perceptions. For example, warm colors like red and orange are associated with energy and passion, while cool colors like blue and green are often linked to calmness and tranquility. Consider the mood you want to convey and the purpose of your design or space when choosing colors. Keep in mind that cultural and personal associations with colors can also play a role in how they are perceived.

What are some popular color combinations?

Some commonly used combinations include complementary colors, which create a high contrast and dynamic effect, such as opposite colours:

Blue and Orange

Take for example a designer who has chosen a dark Indigo as the main brand colour for a banking app. In this case I would recommend using a Gold to go with it because it's an opposite colour and the two look great together.

On the Coolors website the opposite colour doesn't look attractive:

So I manually chose a better one:

So, lets get to choosing colours!

I hope this article has provided you with valuable insights on how to work out what colours go together well. By understanding colour psychology, exploring different colour combinations, and applying the principles of colour theory, you can confidently create stunning and harmonious colour palettes.

Embrace the world of colour and let your creativity shine! Experiment with different hues, try out various combinations, and don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.

I cover much more in my Visual Design Principles course which you can find out more about here...

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