There are three basic categories of colour theory that one must be familiar with in order to understand colour synergy: the colour wheel, colour harmony and how colours are used. Colour can be used to create structure by, for example, ordering things by their colour.

Colour Wheel

The first rendition of the colour wheel was created by Isaac Newton in 1666. As society has progressed, concentrated thought has been exercised in studying the humble diagram. It has become a source of much debate with some asserting that certain formats are more valid than others.

Within the differing colour sphere formats there are three standard categories of colours that appear on every colour wheel.

Primary Colours - red, yellow and blue. These hues serve as the base of all other colours and cannot be formed by combining other colours.

Secondary Colours - green, orange and purple. By mixing the primary colours, the secondary colours are produced.

Tertiary Colours - yellow-orange, red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green and yellow-green. Mixing the primary and secondary colours will produce tertiary colours. The two-hue name makes the colour composition clear.

Colour Harmony

Img: UX Rave
Harmony is used to describe something that is in agreement, consistent or, visually, as something pleasing to look at. Harmony between colours is not something that can be determined by an individual or coaxed out of mismatched colours. Colour harmony simply is. Certain combinations of colour are pleasing to the eye and automatically trigger “visual interest and the sense of order created by the harmony.” When presented with colour harmony, the brain is able to form “dynamic equilibrium.”

If colour combinations are dull, the brain ignores the under-stimulating information. If colour combinations are garish, the brain rejects what cannot be understood or categorised. By putting things into agreement based on colour combinations, the brain is able to detect order. 

The basic colour wheel is an imperative tool for creating colour harmony. It should be looked to as a reference to select colours that go well together. Once colours are selected, red and blue for example, don’t stick with primary red and blue hues. Explore the different tints/shades, value and saturation of these colours to find other renditions.

Colour Context
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Colour context is the way in which colours and shapes are influenced by colour. Pairing certain colours can alter the way that we perceive colours. This is because colours have a direct effect on one another. This concept is easier to understand once one has a firm grasp on tint/shades, values and saturations. Understanding colour lays the groundwork for understanding the interplay between them.

Some of the interior boxes stand out more against different backgrounds. For example, the orange square is bold against the black background but blends into the red background. The pink square is complemented by the green background but is glaringly unpleasant against the red background. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).
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