Introduction to Color Theory
Color & Rhetorical Purpose
Color Theory
Color Theory is a system of rules and guidance for
mixing various colors in order to:
• Create Aesthetically ...
The Foundation of Color
At its core, color is light.
Light is composed of many different colors and the
various mixtures o...
Primary Colors
Secondary Colors

(colors made by mixing primaries)
Tertiary Colors

(colors that mix primary and secondary)
Take Together . . . Color Wheel!
Using the Wheel
The colors are arranged on the
wheel in such a way that
purposeful color choices can
be made.
Choices of c...
Using the Wheel
Complementary Colors
Colors opposite from one
another on the wheel.
These colors will provide
the most vis...
Contrast with Text
The more a color contrasts with the colors around it, the more
easily visible that color will appear. T...
Contrast with Text
But be careful, even though colors may contrast they may not
always work well for text and background p...
Rhetorical Color Contrast

Contrast draws attention to the item that is most
contrasting (or different) among a number of ...
Practical Example
Neither of these flyers is
completely ineffective and
both provide shape
contrast with the text box.
But...
Using the Wheel

Analogous Colors
Colors positioned next
to each other on the
wheel.
These colors have very
little contras...
Analogous Colors in Nature

Nature offers an excellent
look at analogous colors in
action.
Question: what color of
flower ...
Color and Cultural Association
Color’s often come with feelings, moods, and associations that you
can draw from in your wo...
Color and Cultural Association

It’s an important to remember that these color associations do not
come from the color its...
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  • Primary colors are a good way to introduce the categorizations for the various color types. First, as the name suggests, they are the building blocks for all the other colors. Additionally, thinking about red, blue, and yellow as the primary colors predates current color theory and is therefore an important historical aspect of the topic. Finally, many of us have been introduced to (and likely retained) this concept from basic art courses.The primary colors are: red, blue, and yellow.
  • This is only one way of representing the color wheel visually. There are a number of different visual interpretations of the color wheel that may be more effective for different people. More complex color wheels show even more colors and set up a way to read them that highlight even more complex relationships. These can easily be found through a Google search; however, this basic color wheel should effectively introduce the concept.
  • Black text on a white background is a convention that many of us simply write-off as a “it just is.” In other words, we are so accustomed to it that the rhetorical reasoning behind the contrast becomes invisible. In fact, the black/white combination is a purposeful choice based on maximum readability.
  • Depending on the resolution of the computer on which this slide is displayed, and depending on how far away the audience is from the screen, the red/orange text box may be completely unreadable. This is one of those rare cases where that is actually all right. The impossibility will only further make the point that choosing contrasting colors is a medium and context specific decision.
  • Beyond aesthetic concerns, the decision to contrast an element of a design should be intimately tied with the communicative purpose of the document. If an item contrasts, it will stand out and draw attention. For what reason do you as the designer want that element to stand out? What is communicated?
  • This presentation is specifically about color; therefore, color contrast is the primary focus. However, contrast is obviously a more complex idea that this and involves a number of variables. Contrast can come in the form of colors, shapes, movements, fonts, sizes, and more. Learning to use different kinds of contrast together is another important technique in effective visual composing.
  • This slide provides an opportunity to go back and actually use the color wheel the way it is intended. If we look at where these colors are on the wheel, and if we use the theory of analogous colors, the color wheel will suggest that a flower in a purple shade will provide the most contrast.
  • Although most people would agree with these associations that come with the color red, it is important to stress that these associations do not HAVE to go with this color. In other words, they are ultimately arbitrary connections that have developed through a history of social meaning making.
  • Color matches2-1225285125023446-8

    1. 1. Introduction to Color Theory Color & Rhetorical Purpose
    2. 2. Color Theory Color Theory is a system of rules and guidance for mixing various colors in order to: • Create Aesthetically Pleasing Blends • Produce Maximum Readability and Clarity • Draw on Cultural Associations to Effect Meaning
    3. 3. The Foundation of Color At its core, color is light. Light is composed of many different colors and the various mixtures of light compose the colors that we can see. Colors that can not be created by mixing other colors are called: PRIMARY COLORS
    4. 4. Primary Colors
    5. 5. Secondary Colors (colors made by mixing primaries)
    6. 6. Tertiary Colors (colors that mix primary and secondary)
    7. 7. Take Together . . . Color Wheel!
    8. 8. Using the Wheel The colors are arranged on the wheel in such a way that purposeful color choices can be made. Choices of color combination depend on what you are trying to accomplish. Such as: • Contrast • Blending • Affect
    9. 9. Using the Wheel Complementary Colors Colors opposite from one another on the wheel. These colors will provide the most visual contrast. Contrast is the noticeable level of difference between two colors.
    10. 10. Contrast with Text The more a color contrasts with the colors around it, the more easily visible that color will appear. This fact is extremely important when using different colored texts and backgrounds. This is why black text on a white background is so popular and effective. There’s a high degree of contrast. On the other hand, blue and black offer little contrast. An extended read of this combination could be painful.
    11. 11. Contrast with Text But be careful, even though colors may contrast they may not always work well for text and background pairing. “Simultaneous Contrast” occurs when a color like red is fore grounded on blue. Note how the text appears to slightly vibrate. This would get annoying real quick. But simultaneously be aware of extreme lack of contrast in your text and background choices. Honestly, this is just painful. Do not make your readers struggle with this!
    12. 12. Rhetorical Color Contrast Contrast draws attention to the item that is most contrasting (or different) among a number of other design elements. Therefore, you can use color contrast to draw attention to an element of your design that is more important, relevant, or immediately pressing.
    13. 13. Practical Example Neither of these flyers is completely ineffective and both provide shape contrast with the text box. But the orange box above provides a nice contrast with the blues and grays of the clothes rack. The blue box here, however, is too similar to the clothes’ color palette.
    14. 14. Using the Wheel Analogous Colors Colors positioned next to each other on the wheel. These colors have very little contrast; therefore, they will provide harmonious blends.
    15. 15. Analogous Colors in Nature Nature offers an excellent look at analogous colors in action. Question: what color of flower could be added to this photo to provide a strong and attention drawing contrast?
    16. 16. Color and Cultural Association Color’s often come with feelings, moods, and associations that you can draw from in your work. For example, the color Red is largely associated with danger, aggression, stimulation, and excitement. Red stop signs signify danger if you don’t stop, and stimulates the senses with excitement less you don’t see one coming up!
    17. 17. Color and Cultural Association It’s an important to remember that these color associations do not come from the color itself. Without us to interpret it, red is simply light and doesn’t need an interpretive characteristic. Because these associations depend on us, they can differ from culture to culture, and they can also change over time. For example, purple used to be associated with solely belonging to royalty.

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