5 colour tips that only graphic designers know

Colour can immediately evoke very specific reactions, associations and emotions, greatly influencing an audience’s perception of the design itself and the brand it is representing. In fact, studies have shown that colour can boost brand recognition, memorability, comprehension and engagement by as much as 80%. So, as colour can very easily make or break a design, working with the right designer for every project is crucial.

Colour choices were once limited to a small collection of natural pigments, but the invention of synthetic pigments and innovative technologies have expanded the colour palettes that graphic designers now have at their disposal. Although this has enhanced the possibilities of design, so much choice also brings complexities. As the number of possible hexadecimal colour combinations sits at more than 16 million, identifying the right palette for each project can be difficult.

To make life easier, here are five colour-related tips and tricks that graphic designers use every day.

Catalogue inspiration every day

Whenever you stumble across something with an aesthetically pleasing colour palette, make sure to snap a picture. As you will easily be able to sample the colours within those images in both Illustrator and Photoshop, building a comprehensive catalogue of images that will pay off in the long term. If you’re faced with a project that is missing its colour palette, flipping through your image catalogue will help you to identify the most appropriate palette to convey a specific mood, feeling or message.

Know the colour wheel

Analogous colours sit side by side on the colour wheel and complementary colours sit directly opposite each other. Analogous colours are an excellent way to add shadows to a design, and they usually blend seamlessly together precisely because they are so closely related. So, if your colour palette needs more depth, matching each shade with a neighbouring tone will easily create aesthetically pleasing combinations.

Take tips from interior design

Many fields of design share similar colour-related challenges. Notably, interior designers are required to use colour and texture to create spaces that feel cohesive and harmonious. To do this successfully, interior designers follow the 60/30/10 colour rule that is also applicable to graphic design. Your dominant colour should account for 60% of your overall colour palette, with your secondary and accent colours accounting for 30% and 10% respectively.

Make a note of what works

From junk mail to leaflets, magazines and movie posters, inspiration can be found anywhere and everywhere. Whether you particularly like the overall composition of a piece or individual elements such as the typography or colour combinations, save it to a specific ‘inspiration’ folder on your phone or computer, or “pin” it to a dedicated board on Pinterest. It is important that you consistently look in a variety of different places for inspiration to ensure that your colour choices are creative and innovative.

Hello Pantone

Stepping away from the screen and rifling through physical colour swatches can be extremely inspirational, so consider keeping a Pantone set within easy reach. As well as being incredibly tactile, this method of colour selection can also be enormously helpful if you need to know precisely how your project will look once it is printed. The printing process can be stressful enough at the best of times, but this can save on frustration, time and money.

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