Designer Secrets: Colour Schemes

Colour has the amazing potential to change our mood, make us hungry, and inspire us. While colour theory is in every designers’ back pocket, understandably you might not have space for it in yours right now.

Figuring out what colours are going to work with your logo, or in your logo, can be a challenge. Our post on colour, Get More Bites Using Colour, will get you pretty far down that road.

But I get it.

You may not have the time to invest fully in understanding colour theory beyond the general direction you’re headed. You just want to know what will look good together.

For that you need to check a designer’s other back pocket. In it you’ll find a little secret called Adobe Color.

At one time it was called Kuler. I’m not entirely sure if it is because the tool is so dang cool or if it really just sounded like a fun way to say colour. Maybe in the same way the US drops the “U”, Adobe drops the “O”.

The point is, you can use Adobe Color to find useable colour themes that actually look good very easily. Best of all it’s free.

The themes you create or find on Color all come with five swatches. For the most part this won’t be the ideal number of colours for your logo design’s reproduction’s sake. These colours can be useful for other things though.

Let’s dig into the tool first and come back to that in a bit.

The first screen you are presented with will look a little like this:

Try playing with the colour wheel by dragging colours around.

You are in the “Create” menu. This is where you will want to be since you have a good idea of where to start with your colours (based on our previous colour post).

“Color Rule”, the sidebar on the left side, is where the magic happens. You see, Adobe has provided you with 6 preset colour rules. These rules restrict how colours will relate to each other in the palette you create.

The rules are Analogous, Monochromatic, Triad, Complementary, Compound (aka Split Complementary), and Shades. These schemes are wholly based in colour theory. This is great because we know they will work and we don’t necessarily need to know how they work (even better if you do though!).

The last option is “Custom”. That’s just there if you want to get crazy. It’s best for tweaking a colour scheme after you’ve played with the standard schemes. For now I suggest sticking with the tried and true schemes.

Pull out the swatch or whatever you have that you are thinking about as your main colour. In the tool there will be one colour that has a white arrow on it. This is your base colour. By pushing and pulling the sliders or the colours on the wheel you can change your base colour to match the swatch of your main colour. If you have RGB values already, have at it and put those directly into Adobe Color.

Once you’ve got that dialed in, you're set. You can quickly and easily flip through the six different colour schemes to find the colours that will match yours splendidly.

Really, it’s that easy.

One thing to keep in mind is these colours are all RGB—colours for screens. In order to print them you will need to convert them to CMYK (easily done in Adobe programs) or find swatches in a Pantone book that closely match (also fairly easily done in Adobe programs).

On another note, don't try combining colour themes. Stick to one rule with one set of 5 colours. Different rules do not necessarily work together in harmony.

There is one other feature of Adobe Color I like to check out on occasion. That is “Explore”. It sits on the top menu.

This option is great if you don’t have a colour to start with or are simply painting your dining room and need some ideas.

These themes are created by other users of Adobe Color. That means, just like Wikipedia, not everything will be perfect but there will be a lot of beautiful options to find.

To use it simply type in the Search bar a keyword. For instance, by typing in “Easter” you get a whole slew of pastels that feel very Eastery. Someone has already done the work of figuring out a nice theme and keywording it.

So now that you have five shiny new colours that look beautiful together why shouldn’t you try using them all in your logo?

When we are designing logos we have to take numerous things into account. Two of those things that can often conflict are how it looks and usability.

In general, whenever you get to 4 colours or more you are looking at what we call full colour. When printing on paper this is not a huge deal because laser (digital) printers have gotten so good at reproducing all colours.

Unless you plan to print 10 000 flyers, cost wise that’s not a problem either. Where you will run into problems first will be when you have signage created, embroidered or printed uniforms, or any specialty items that might require screen printing.

This is because when it comes to anything other than the basics, you have to pay per colour. This can drive your cost up significantly. Not to mention that often these processes are limited in their abilities to reproduce your logo when it is so complex with multiple colours.

That means avoid gradients if possible. You can think of gradients as hundreds of colours. Otherwise you are going to have to have alternate versions of your logo that are just one or two colours. It’s best to just start there.

To be safe, three colours maximum should be in your logo design (and don’t forget black counts as one).

What about your awesome colours that Adobe Color gave you? There’s no reason those can’t be useful. You can use them to theme your space. These colours could be great for table linens, your walls and general decor. Splashes of these other colours in a menu could really bring it to life.

Now go—create something Kule!

January 26, 2017
Posted on 
Author photo in a circle
Kyle Lincoln

Kyle is a logo crafter, avid reader, and writer. His experience expands across a wide spectrum of clients such as Nandos, Shaw Business, and Destination Canada. Growing up, it didn’t take him long to go from doodles to design. Kyle’s previous work in identities for conferences and events left him longing for something more enduring. He’s got a vested interest in helping businesses thrive and an eye for brand incongruences. In Vancouver he can be found scoping out his client’s location and/or the nearest gelateria and is always up to discuss your project or favourite flavour.

Colour has the amazing potential to change our mood, make us hungry, and inspire us. While colour theory is in every designers’ back pocket, understandably you might not have space for it in yours right now.

Figuring out what colours are going to work with your logo, or in your logo, can be a challenge. Our post on colour, Get More Bites Using Colour, will get you pretty far down that road.

But I get it.

You may not have the time to invest fully in understanding colour theory beyond the general direction you’re headed. You just want to know what will look good together.

For that you need to check a designer’s other back pocket. In it you’ll find a little secret called Adobe Color.

At one time it was called Kuler. I’m not entirely sure if it is because the tool is so dang cool or if it really just sounded like a fun way to say colour. Maybe in the same way the US drops the “U”, Adobe drops the “O”.

The point is, you can use Adobe Color to find useable colour themes that actually look good very easily. Best of all it’s free.

The themes you create or find on Color all come with five swatches. For the most part this won’t be the ideal number of colours for your logo design’s reproduction’s sake. These colours can be useful for other things though.

Let’s dig into the tool first and come back to that in a bit.

The first screen you are presented with will look a little like this:

Try playing with the colour wheel by dragging colours around.

You are in the “Create” menu. This is where you will want to be since you have a good idea of where to start with your colours (based on our previous colour post).

“Color Rule”, the sidebar on the left side, is where the magic happens. You see, Adobe has provided you with 6 preset colour rules. These rules restrict how colours will relate to each other in the palette you create.

The rules are Analogous, Monochromatic, Triad, Complementary, Compound (aka Split Complementary), and Shades. These schemes are wholly based in colour theory. This is great because we know they will work and we don’t necessarily need to know how they work (even better if you do though!).

The last option is “Custom”. That’s just there if you want to get crazy. It’s best for tweaking a colour scheme after you’ve played with the standard schemes. For now I suggest sticking with the tried and true schemes.

Pull out the swatch or whatever you have that you are thinking about as your main colour. In the tool there will be one colour that has a white arrow on it. This is your base colour. By pushing and pulling the sliders or the colours on the wheel you can change your base colour to match the swatch of your main colour. If you have RGB values already, have at it and put those directly into Adobe Color.

Once you’ve got that dialed in, you're set. You can quickly and easily flip through the six different colour schemes to find the colours that will match yours splendidly.

Really, it’s that easy.

One thing to keep in mind is these colours are all RGB—colours for screens. In order to print them you will need to convert them to CMYK (easily done in Adobe programs) or find swatches in a Pantone book that closely match (also fairly easily done in Adobe programs).

On another note, don't try combining colour themes. Stick to one rule with one set of 5 colours. Different rules do not necessarily work together in harmony.

There is one other feature of Adobe Color I like to check out on occasion. That is “Explore”. It sits on the top menu.

This option is great if you don’t have a colour to start with or are simply painting your dining room and need some ideas.

These themes are created by other users of Adobe Color. That means, just like Wikipedia, not everything will be perfect but there will be a lot of beautiful options to find.

To use it simply type in the Search bar a keyword. For instance, by typing in “Easter” you get a whole slew of pastels that feel very Eastery. Someone has already done the work of figuring out a nice theme and keywording it.

So now that you have five shiny new colours that look beautiful together why shouldn’t you try using them all in your logo?

When we are designing logos we have to take numerous things into account. Two of those things that can often conflict are how it looks and usability.

In general, whenever you get to 4 colours or more you are looking at what we call full colour. When printing on paper this is not a huge deal because laser (digital) printers have gotten so good at reproducing all colours.

Unless you plan to print 10 000 flyers, cost wise that’s not a problem either. Where you will run into problems first will be when you have signage created, embroidered or printed uniforms, or any specialty items that might require screen printing.

This is because when it comes to anything other than the basics, you have to pay per colour. This can drive your cost up significantly. Not to mention that often these processes are limited in their abilities to reproduce your logo when it is so complex with multiple colours.

That means avoid gradients if possible. You can think of gradients as hundreds of colours. Otherwise you are going to have to have alternate versions of your logo that are just one or two colours. It’s best to just start there.

To be safe, three colours maximum should be in your logo design (and don’t forget black counts as one).

What about your awesome colours that Adobe Color gave you? There’s no reason those can’t be useful. You can use them to theme your space. These colours could be great for table linens, your walls and general decor. Splashes of these other colours in a menu could really bring it to life.

Now go—create something Kule!

January 26, 2017
Posted on 
Author photo in a circle
Kyle Lincoln

Kyle is a logo crafter, avid reader, and writer. His experience expands across a wide spectrum of clients such as Nandos, Shaw Business, and Destination Canada. Growing up, it didn’t take him long to go from doodles to design. Kyle’s previous work in identities for conferences and events left him longing for something more enduring. He’s got a vested interest in helping businesses thrive and an eye for brand incongruences. In Vancouver he can be found scoping out his client’s location and/or the nearest gelateria and is always up to discuss your project or favourite flavour.

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