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Schedule Your Demo. Start Your Free Trial. Understanding how color works isn't just for artists dipping their hands into paint and pigments all day long. Anyone in marketing needs to understand the basics of color theory because no matter what you are using color in your content. Primary colors are the three colors that make all other colors. They are red , blue , and yellow.

These three colors can be used to create the next level of colors, called the secondary colors. Secondary colors are purple , green , and orange. They are created using the primary colors. If you look on the color wheel, you'll find the secondary colors in between two primary colors. They are the "two-name" colors, such as red-purple , red-orange , yellow-green , etc. They are created by adding more of one primary color than the other creating not a true secondary color.

It ends up being closer to the primary color.


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Primary , secondary , and tertiary colors , without the addition of white, black, or a third color, are pure or saturated colors. They are intense, bright, cheery, and untainted colors. When white is added to a pure color, you get a tint. Some people refer to these as pastel colors. They are lighter and paler than a pure color, and not as intense.

When black is added to a pure color, you create a shade. These darken and dull the brightness of pure colors, and range from slightly darker to almost black. You often hear people saying that a color needs to be "toned down", meaning it's too intense and they want to drop the level of intensity. So there we have it: a complete color wheel with primary , secondary , and tertiary colors , plus their tints , shades , and tones.

You can see how it all fits together on the color wheel below. Cool colors are all on the left side of the wheel, in the blues and greens. The warm colors are all on the right side of the wheel, in the yellows and reds. Now that you understand color theory and the color wheel, you can start to use color purposefully in your content marketing. When it comes to color techniques, the use of contrast is particularly important, and it's probably the one that will lead you to butt heads with your designer the most.

NCS Colourpin SE

Contrast is how one color stands apart from another. It's what makes text or objects distinguishable from the background. High contrast is when colors easily stand apart from each other. Low contrast is when they don't.

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Often, people assume a difference in color is what creates contrast, but that's not true. To test out your colors contrast, turn them into grayscale and review their contrast. Yellow is bright , for example, while blue is darker.

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It isn't enough to simply pick two different colors when making decisions about contrast. Generally, high contrast is the best choice for important content, because it is most easily seen. Dark on light or light on dark—it's the easiest to read. It might not be exciting, but it is readable. Designers often prefer low contrast techniques. They like to make things look beautiful, but beautiful isn't always the best for readability.

Tone-on-tone similar colored combinations are very popular and while their subtlety is quite attractive, they are also difficult for people to read. In order to use similar colors, while getting the contrast you desire, create a color scheme with both complementary and analogous colors.


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  • What's that? Let's keep reading! The color wheel can help you choose great color combinations for your call to action button, your infographics, and your lead collection pop-up. People like simplicity; it makes your content easier to understand if they don't have to interpret it through many colors. Too many colors make for a confusing message. So how do you choose those 2 or 3 colors? The color wheel can help. Back to the Top. Complementary colors are "opposite" colors. They are opposite of each other on the color wheel, meaning the one color they lack is that one opposite of them. They are geographically and color-wise the opposite, and provide a kind of visual tension because they are so opposed to each other.

    From football to hockey, opposite colors are used for some great color combinations. When the human eye sees a painting full of different kinds of greens, any bit of red is going to stand out amazingly well. Because red is the opposite color of green.

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    When the eye has been looking at a lot of the same color, it wants to see the opposite for a visual break. Using complementary colors is the easiest way to get something to stand out. Use them with caution to keep your content from being too visually jarring. Let's look at the CoSchedule homepage as an example. What colors do you see? We also ensured that the orange button contrasted from the dark blue to make it even more visually present. Colors with heavy amounts of red and green in them get bungled up, too. Did you know that Facebook is blue because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colorblind?

    He sees blues the best.

    The above example shows the three types of color blindness: Deuteranope, protanope, and tritanope. Similar to Mark who sees blue best, it's no wonder why blue is one of the more popular colors as it stretches even beyond color blindness. Try to never use a color solely as the information source. Include text in graphs and infographics whenever possible as well. If you want to use three colors instead of just two, using split complementary color schemes is a way to capitalize on the power of complementary colors but add a third color to your palette.

    To use it, you'll choose one color as your base color, and then the two colors adjacent to its opposite. A split complementary color scheme doesn't have quite the same level of tension that a complementary color scheme does, but it's still visually exciting for your eye. It also adds a level of variety to your color scheme that can be used in a very dynamic, meaningful way.

    Analogous colors sit next to each other on the color wheel. They are "related", a kind of family of colors that creates pleasing and relaxed visuals. They aren't jarring, opposite, or clashing. They also don't stand out from one another. Monochromatic colors are a single color, with its tints, shades, and tones. They are even more soft and subtle than analogous colors since it's a color palette based on one single color. Monochromatic colors work great when paired with a single complementary color.

    Use the Color Guide panel as a tool for color inspiration while you create your artwork. The Color Guide panel suggests harmonious colors based on the current color in the Tools panel. You can manipulate the colors that the Color Guide panel generates in several ways, including changing the harmony rule, or adjusting the variation type such as tints and shades or vivid and muted , and the number of variation colors that appear. Note : If you have artwork selected, clicking a color variation changes the color of the selected artwork, just like clicking a swatch in the Swatches panel.

    Note: To edit the selected color group, make sure that no artwork is selected and click the Edit Colors button. To edit the selected color group and apply the edits to selected artwork, click the Edit Or Apply Colors button. For more information, see Edit colors in the Edit Colors dialog box.

    Decreases the saturation toward gray in variations on the left and increases saturation toward gray in variations on the right.

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    All other variations cause spot colors to be converted to process. Specify the number of colors you want to appear to the left and right of each color in the generated color group. For example, choose 6 if you want to see six shades darker and six shades lighter of each color. The original colors always appear down the center of the panel with a triangle directly above them, and the variations on those colors appear to the left and right of them.

    Color Managers

    Drag the Range slider to the left to decrease the variance range or drag to the right to increase the range. Regardless of which name appears at the top of the dialog box, the right side of it always displays the color groups for the current document, along with two default color groups: Print Color and Grayscale. You can select and use these color groups at anytime. The Recolor Art option at the bottom of the dialog box lets you preview colors on selected artwork, and specifies whether artwork is recolored when you close the dialog box.

    Use the Edit tab to create new color groups or edit existing color groups.